The business environment is more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) than ever. Across every industry, leaders struggle to navigate this gaping complexity chasm with many plunging perilously in the face of catastrophic unanticipated outcomes. Leaders attempting to maintain control in this operating context are often derailed by over-analyzing, placing too much stock in the advice of subject-matter experts and falling victim to their own biases. This exacerbates their ability to effectively and efficiently deliver against a given expected outcome.
To navigate this gaping complexity chasm, leaders must identify which side of the complexity chasm they are currently operating in. They must then immediately apply the leadership response required to navigate that operating context. This involves in-depth analysis of known possible outcomes to determine the optimal course of action, identifying risks to this path and isolating trigger points that would invoke contingency plans to minimize these risks.
A key to success in this operating sunny puri context is the ability to flexibly and quickly build new capacity within the organization. This capability requires a shift in mindset from a focus on execution and efficiency to one of learning and improvisation. For example, 3DHQ a company that primarily focused on printing figurines, shifted its strategies during the pandemic to produce and sell personal protective equipment such as masks with filters.
There are two fatal errors that leaders commonly commit when navigating back and forth across the complexity chasm. First, they misdiagnose their operating context as complicated when it is in fact complex. Second, they misapply a complicated leadership response in the complex operating context, which exacerbates their ability to effectively and efficiently operate in this operating context. To avoid peril in traversing the complexity chasm, leaders must learn to overcome these leadership errors by reframing what they see, rewiring how they think and reconfiguring how they do.