My Business Diary: “The Day I woke up in a VUCA world"
Today I must attend an interview to get a mission as PMO for a M&A program. Even though I have a few years of experience with this kind of exercise, I’m still nervous. Meeting management people I don’t know, presenting in another language, getting involved in a new business field … it’s always a bit stressful of course.
The job description mentioned that the selected candidate will work in a “VUCA” environment with which I’m not so familiar. Of course, I took time to do some research:
Acronym standing for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
Originally a military term to describe the post-Cold War world.
Has since become a concept widely adopted by the business world to describe an increasingly interconnected and complex environment, especially in recent years due to the rapid pace of change, globalization and technological advancements.
My first feeling is that I should already have got more familiar with this concept some years ago … but then I remember that’s why I enjoy working as a consultant: to learn new things! And I prepared myself well so I’m still confident in my chances of success.
Interview day + 1 week
Great news: I’m in!
Everything went well. It seems like they appreciated my adaptation skills in new environments as I was able to give many concrete examples from my previous missions. Now I’m looking forward to start.
First day at the client’s premises. Good onboarding from my colleagues, nice entrepreneurial culture at first view … and cafeteria more than correct! I feel comfortable.
Just one thing: my client manager insisted once again on the fact that our team is evolving in a VUCA environment. He seems to be very enthusiastic about swimming in a chaotic world … I can see some irony in this situation so let’s be careful here! 🙂
It has not even been a week since I started my mission but I think that I already have a better understanding of why this is a VUCA environment.
I was quickly made aware that a M&A involving big companies in Europe is usually subject to a prior validation of the European Commission (EC) based on Antitrust investigation as it may result in a disruption of the market. It means that not all the cards are in the hands of the involved companies (Buyer and Seller) anymore, even though both parties already had a M&A agreement.
As a result, the Buyer and Seller can never be sure of when and what kind of information and/or solution they will have to provide the EC to support its investigation, without mentioning that it may even result in a strategic impact on their own business. They must be flexible enough and adapt quickly to any new element.
Of course, this dependency with the EC comes in addition of a M&A context that is already quite complex to manage for the involved companies (Buyer / Seller) entering a higher legal scope than their own. The M&A program involves all departments (Legal, HR, Sales, IT, Finance …) of the involved companies and all contacts between Buyer and Seller are very limited and strictly controlled.
As I was discussing with my client manager about the challenges inherent in a VUCA environment, he told me an anecdote about that:
Some time ago, the American Army planned a mission in a foreign country with specifically trained soldiers. Their firepower and preparation level far exceeded their opponent and every detail of the mission had been prepared meticulously.
Nothing could go wrong on paper.
But the Army Intelligence couldn’t predict that the enemy would react in such a non-conventional way by shooting rockets from the rooftops.
Then everything turned into chaos …
As it’s not possible to predict everything, it’s better to work with flexible people who can adapt and take quick and efficient decisions in any situation rather than trying to control everything. Therefore, it is important for a manager in charge of such an M&A program to build a strong independent team while maintaining a positive and resilient mindset in the face of adversity. Maintaining a sense of optimism, even in the face of setbacks and challenges, can help you stay motivated and focused on achieving the goals of the company, even in the most uncertain and volatile circumstances.