How Coaching can facilitate business transformation in a VUCA world – A practical guide

Meet VUCA, the new normal

VUCA (pronounced voo–ka) is an acronym for:

Volatility – things are changing quickly but not in any predictable way

Uncertainty – past experience is not a relevant indication of likely future events so planning for the future is extremely difficult

Complexity – there are countless causes to a problem, and they are all difficult to understand

Ambiguity – the causes of the events at hand are unclear and hard to establish


Whilst the original use of the acronym can be traced back to the US Army War College in the 1980s, the term was plucked from the archives by Judith Stiehm and Nicholas Townsend and is now in everyday usage to describe the more complex and uncertain, post 9/11 environment. Since then, the term has made its way into the corporate world as a catch-all for the ever-changing world around us.

Despite this, we still witness executives stroking their chins and talking about getting back to ‘normal’ when a particular event has passed.

Spoiler alert – there is no ‘normal’ anymore. VUCA is the status quo.

But why does change strike fear into so many of us, or why do we want to bury our heads in the sand at the very thought of change? If we revisit the definitions, they go hand in hand with a lack of control, anxiety and even fear. So even though some of us regard ambiguity, change and uncertainty as an opportunity, many people struggle to function at all.

Let’s consider how the challenges of VUCA have been successfully addressed. At an organisational level, using a coaching approach is increasingly proven to be an effective way, not simply to cope with VUCA, but actually help people perform and thrive through change.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a person-centred, outcome focused approach aiming to bridge the gap between where an individual is now and where they want to be. Focusing on a goal or desired outcome, the coach supports the individual to identify the root cause of their limiting belief (e.g. Change). The role of the coach is to listen without intervening by giving advice and suggestions. The coach will listen intently and will ask incisive and sometimes challenging questions to help the coachee to arrive at their own solution. If this sounds familiar, that’s because many (good) leaders and managers instinctively deploy similar tools, without necessarily being qualified coaches.  Organisations are now training and developing their managers in how to use a coaching and mentoring style and approach to move away from the ‘command and control’ style of autocratic manager to the more engaging ‘person-centred’ style of leadership.

With the recognition that VUCA is the status quo, the need to continually support individuals within the organisation has even more importance and relevance. Managing teams in this complex arena is not easy and this is where coaching can play a big part. Having the skill to ‘be present’ with the individual, to listen with intent, asking questions which focus on the future not on the problem, showing empathy and understanding, will go a long way to building trust, rapport and resilience.

How can Searchlight support this learning? 

We offer short virtual live courses on Manager and Leader as Coach (sometimes called Coaching Conversations) and Mentoring skills.  These will give managers an underpinning knowledge and skills in how to use both coaching and mentoring skills within their day-to-day management and leadership roles to support their teams through change and develop their teams to maximise performance, engagement and motivation.  Coaching truly does work. Try it and see.

Speak to the Searchlight team today to find out more.



Meet the Authors: Sue Noble has been working with Searchlight Insurance Training since 2007 delivering ILM management and leadership programmes. When she is not training, Sue will inevitably be coaching executives and senior managers or providing short ‘Manager and Leader as Coach’ and Mentoring skills courses. Sue also delivers Internal Accredited Coaching Programmes through Chartered Management Institute to embed transformational organisational change. Sue has teamed up with Amy Tarrant, a change practitioner within the insurance sector and has delivered many business transformation programmes. Amy is convinced of the benefits of marrying tried and tested change management techniques with coaching skills for optimum outcome.  This paper is a preview for their forthcoming book on Coaching Organisations Through Change (a practical guide on tools and techniques for non-coaches) due out in  2021


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