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VUCA and

Adaptive Change Design

The US Army War College used the VUCA acronym, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Military strategists recognised that a radically different and unfamiliar international security environment that had emerged. They used VUCA to describe it.


VUCA stands for:

  • Volatility – change is rapid and unpredictable in its nature and scope.

  • Uncertainty – numerous unknowns and an uncertain future.

  • Complexity – many & various, interconnected factors and reliances. 

  • Ambiguity – there's a lack of clarity or awareness about situations.

Bob Johansen, of the Institute for the Future, adapted VUCA for the business world in his 2009 book, Leaders Make the Future. He used it to reflect the turbulent and unpredictable forces of change that would affect organisations, and he argued that new skills, approaches and behaviours were needed to manage the four VUCA threats.


VUCA represents a new set of challenges that individuals, teams, managers, and organisations in affected industries all need to face. Individually, these challenges are often significant, but they can be formidable in combination.

Adaptive Change Design is a set of tools that are specifically designed to address VUCA threats. In a turbulent environment, concise, inclusive, and flexible ways-of-working are required.

Organisations are realising they need a Digital Strategy to help them survive the stormy seas of continuous change. Promising technologies such as Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning coupled with the Internet of Things and Big Data are becoming mainstream. However, implementation is non-trivial. Moreover,  the continuous adaption of the business environment and, the digital technology that serves it, requires a permanent change to the organisation; culture, values, structure,  skill-sets, processes, information, and technology. The Adaptive Change Design toolkit is focused on tackling VUCA threats and realising strategic objectives turbulent times. 

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