The acronym VUCA has gained modern popularity, and there’s little mystery as to why: has there been a time in recent history when Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity were in such abundance?

Considering that this acronym was coined as recently as 1987 – drawing on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus and then picked up by the Army War College, Cornell University and many other education establishments – I’m not sure whether to call it retro or a resurgence … but it is definitely something.

In my last blog post, I wrote about complexity. I heard from many readers on that topic, which inspired me to write about Ambiguity.

Several years ago when I was at a career crossroads, my now-business partner Cindy Masingill was my coach; I was already a client and starting to make my plans for the next chapter in my professional life of becoming a full-time coach. However, I could not see the future clearly … as if we ever can. It seemed much murkier to me as I navigated through significant changes, both personal and professional; I was and remain fortunate to have a very supportive wife and family. But even with a strong network of friends, family and mentors, ambiguity can visit any one of us and make things feel less secure and clear.

Cindy made two important connections for me in my personal time of ambiguity, and I want to pass those along to you all now.

The first was a book recommendation: “Transitions” by William Bridges. While this blog post is not a book review, this book is a must-read for anyone who has been, is being or will be affected by change – and if you know anyone immune to change, please introduce us!

The second connection was a poem. We don’t know to whom to attribute this poem, but it’s powerful if you let it in. I hope it serves you well, too:

Learn to live with ambiguity

Sometimes, the picture isn’t finished yet. Ideas, possibilities, hopes, dreams float around, circling us like asteroids around a planet. We may think events in our lives are happening aimlessly, without purpose. All we see are disconnected floating blobs. We reach for them, try to grab them in our hands so we can connect to them, force them into a whole, force them into a picture we can see, something that makes sense.

Let the pieces be. Let yourself be. Let life be. Sometimes chaos needs to precede order. The pieces will come together in a picture that makes sense, in a beautiful work of art that pleases.

You don’t have to force the pieces to fit together if it’s not time. You don’t have to know. There is power sometimes in not knowing. There is power in letting go. Power in waiting. Power in stillness. Power in trust. There is power in letting the disconnected pieces be until they settle into a whole. The action you are to take will appear. Timely. Clearly. What you’re to do will become clear.

Let the pieces be, and they’ll take shape. Soon you’ll see the picture.

Cindy, thank you for being an awesome coach! I am fortunate to work with several awesome coaches; if you would like to work with such a coach, please reach out. Ralph, Cathy, Cindy and I would cherish the opportunity to work with you, your leaders and your teams!

Posted in

1 Comment

  1. Dan Andress on May 13, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Great stuff, Bill, and very timely. Tony Pompo is constantly preaching the need for SRC’s IT team to embrace ambiguity, so this resonates. As the saying goes, ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’

    I’ll share a VUCA antonym/acronym you may not have encountered: CAVU. Used by military folks to advise pilots that flying conditions are ideal. It stands for Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited.

    Take care! -Dan

Leave a Comment