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DISRUPTION MANAGEMENT: A SIMPLE TECHNICAL NOTES

Subur*, Hajar Fatma Sari*, Rachma Wulansari*

*Program Master of Hospital Administration and Management

Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta

Abstract: We live in a complex and dynamic world where uncertainty fittingly

characterizes its intrinsic nature. In this world, change is constant and everything else is

variable. The marketplace in 21st century is technology-driven and very competitive. To

succeed or even just survive, it is essential to maintain commitment to effective and

scientific management of all available resources. Since our business environment is

evolving at a rapid pace, our decisions should also adapt to the change. Uncertainty is an

intrinsic and pervasive property that fittingly characterizes the very nature of the world we

live in. uncertainty exists everywhere and it poses tremendous challenges to human

decision makers, and hardly avoidable or preventable. Disruption era is characterized by

the term of VUCA, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Disruption

management is a methodology that copes with disruption in real time.

Keywords: disruption, VUCA, management

Traditionally, people emphasize planning -making detailed and complete blueprint

for actions to gain the highest value. Needless to say that planning is very important.

Making a sound plan before taking actions is a fundamental principal that guides peoples’

practices in various discipline. However, a good plan is only half of the process. No matter

how superior a plan is, in the execution phase, various unanticipated events will disrupt the

system and make the plane deviate from its intended course and even make it infeasible.1

The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the

more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, multilateral world which resulted from
the end of the Cold War. The acronym itself was not created until the late 1990s, and it

was not until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that notion and acronym really

took hold. VUCA was subsequently adopted by strategic business leaders to describe the

chaotic, turbulent, and rapidly changing business environment that has become the “new

normal.” The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) concurs. A recent BCG study concluded

that organizations today must shift their business models—and their leadership skills—to

become “adaptive firms.” Adaptive firms can adjust and learn better, faster, and more

economically than their peers, giving them an “adaptive advantage.” Adaptive firms, the

study notes, include Apple, Google, 3M, Target, and Amazon. 1 VUCA has always been a

part of life, beginning from the fact that we all have to die. Leaders have been challenged

by VUCA before – but never on the global scale that they will experience over the next

decade. In the future, disruption will become the norm for most people, as the scope,

frequency, nature, and impact of disruption explodes.2

The “V” in the VUCA acronym stands for volatility. It means the nature, speed,

volume, and magnitude of change that is not in a predictable pattern (Sullivan, 2012

January 16). Volatility is turbulence, a phenomenon that is occurring more frequently than

in the past. The BCG study found that half of the most turbulent financial quarters during

the past 30 years have occurred since 2002. The study also concluded that financial

turbulence has increased in intensity and persists longer than in the past. Other drivers of

turbulence in business today include digitization, connectivity, trade liberalization, global

competition, and business model innovation. The “U” in the VUCA acronym stands for

uncertainty, or the lack of predictability in issues and events.2 These volatile times make it

difficult for leaders to use past issues and events as predictors of future outcomes, making

forecasting extremely difficult and decision-making challenging.3 The “C” in VUCA

stands for complexity. As HR thought leader John Sullivan notes (2012 January 16), there
are often numerous and difficult-to-understand causes and mitigating factors (both inside

and outside the organization) involved in a problem. This layer of complexity, added to the

turbulence of change and the absence of past predictors, adds to the difficulty of decision

making. It also leads to confusion, which can cause ambiguity, the last letter in the

acronym. Ambiguity is the lack of clarity about the meaning of an event, or, the “causes

and the ‘who, what, where, how, and why’ behind the things that are happening (that) are

unclear and hard to ascertain”. Col. Eric G. Kail defines ambiguity in the VUCA model as

the “inability to accurately conceptualize threats and opportunities before they become

lethal.” (Kail, 2010 December 3). A symptom of organizational ambiguity, according to

Kail, is the frustration that results when compartmentalized accomplishments fail to add up

to a comprehensive or enduring success.5

The VUCA model identifies the internal and external conditions affecting

organizations today. The VUCA Prime was developed by Bob Johansen, distinguished

fellow at the Institute for the Future and the author of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New

Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World. Johansen proposes that the best VUCA leaders

are characterized by vision, understanding, clarity, and agility - the “flips” to the VUCA

model. The VUCA Prime can be seen as the continuum of skills leaders can develop to

help make sense of leading in a VUCA world. HR and talent management professionals

can use the VUCA Prime as a “skills and abilities” blueprint when creating leadership

development plans. In the VUCA Prime, volatility can be countered with vision because

vision is even more vital in turbulent times. Leaders with a clear vision of where they want

their organizations to be in three to five years can better weather volatile environmental

changes such as economic downturns or new competition in their markets, for example, by

making business decisions to counter the turbulence while keeping the organization’s

vision in mind. Uncertainty can be countered with understanding, the ability of a leader to
stop, look, and listen. To be effective in a VUCA environment, leaders must learn to look

and listen beyond their functional areas of expertise to make sense of the volatility and to

lead with vision. This requires leaders to communicate with all levels of employees in their

organization, and to develop and demonstrate teamwork and collaboration skills.

Complexity can be countered with clarity, the deliberative process to make sense of the

chaos. In a VUCA world, chaos comes swift and hard. Leaders, who can quickly and

clearly tune into all of the minutiae associated with the chaos, can make better, more

informed business decisions. Finally, ambiguity can be countered with agility, the ability

to communicate across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions.3 Vision,

understanding, clarity, and agility are not mutually exclusive in the VUCA prime. Rather,

they are intertwined elements that help managers become stronger VUCA leaders. 5

During the past decade, we have seen a flourish of research and applications in the

area of disruption management. The initial value was achieved in the airline industry. The

successful implementation an usage of decision support system for disruption management

saved several major airlines in the United States tens of millions of dollars annually

together with improved on-time performance and better customer services. The studies

have demonstrated that:

1. Disruption management has a broad range of applications;

2. Disruption management problems can be effectively modelled and solved; and

3. Disruption management can create remarkable values and impact. 1

The first thing that we should do to face disruption is looking backward from the

future, which is about learning how to go out to the future (usually ten years ot) and then

work your way back. It will help you to see the direction of change so that you can avoid

the noise of the present and develop your clarity. To lead, you will need to be clear about

direction but flexible about execution. The second one is voluntary fear engagement,
which is about gamefully engaging with your fears in low-risk simulated worlds. Because

next generation disruption will be so dangerous and difficult to understand, safe zones will

be needed where you can immerse yourself in fear and figure out how to succeed. Practice

and learn with others, the way the military conducts war gaming. Then come back better

prepared for the real thing. The third ones is leadership for shape-shifting organization.

Learn how to thrive in distributed organizations that have no center, grow from the edges,

and cannot be controlled. Hierarchies will come and go as needs arise and the environment

shifts. The next generation of technology will provide the connective cord for distributed

organizations so you can share risk and develop new opportunities. Since reciprocity will

be the currency of this new world -not just traditional transactions- you will have to

practice mutual-benefit partnering. Authority will be increasingly distributed. The fourth

ones is being there when you are not there. Although you may currently lead beast in

person, shape-shifting organizations will require you to be many places at once. Leaders

will have to engage with people who are geographically, organizationally, and temporally

distributed. In-person meetings will still be best for some things, but you will need to

decide which medium is good for what, with which people, at what time. The last is

greating and sustaining positive energy. You must regulate your personal energy so you

have focuse, stamina, and resilience when you need it. The VUCA world will be

exhausting for everyone – but especially for leaders. You will have to be extremely fit,

physically and psychologically – much more so than leaders in the past. And you will need

spiritual (though not necessarily religious) grounding and a sense of meaning in the midst

of extreme disruption.2

REFERENCES
1. Gang Yu and Xiangtong Qi, Disruption Management: Framework, Models and

Applications (World Scientific, 2004).

2. Bob Johansen, The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme

Disruption and Distributed Everything (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017).

3. Kingsinger, P. & Walch, K. (2012 July 9). Living and leading in a VUCA world.

Thunderbird University. Retrieved from

http://knowledgenetwork.thunderbird.edu/research/2012/07/09/kinsinger-walch-

vuca/.

4. Sullivan, J. (2012 October 22). Talent strategies for a turbulent VUCA world—

shifting to an adaptive approach. Ere.net. Retrieved from

http://www.ere.net/2012/10/22/talent-strategies-for-a-turbulentvuca-world-shifting-

to-an-adaptive-approach.

5. “Lawrence - 2013 - Developing Leaders in a VUCA Environment.Pdf,” accessed

November 3, 2019, http://laszlo-zsolnai.net/sites/default/files/3/ documents/

Reading%203%20 Developing-leaders-in-a-vuca-environment.pdf.

6. Kail, E. (2011 January 6). Leading effectively in a VUCA environment: A is for

ambiguity. HBR Blog Network. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/frontline-

leadership/2011/01/leading-effectively-in-avuca-1.html.