Book of the Month Review: “VUCA Tools for a VUCA World” by Ann V. Deaton


26 August 2019

VUCA is an acronym originally created by students of the U.S. Army War College to refer to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of world issues that became apparent following the Cold War. The effects of enmity between Russia and the U.S. impacted many areas of American life: schoolchildren practiced bomb drills and high-profile individuals were prosecuted as suspected communist sympathizers. The international race to accumulate nuclear arsenals and conquer space both instilled fear and captured the imagination of people around the globe.  

It’s been almost three decades since the Cold War came to an end, but technological advances have ensured the world continues to experience relentless change. The concept of VUCA has since been adopted by business and educational fields to encourage awareness and preparedness for the new normal of constant disruption. 

All leaders have experienced VUCA in some form. No matter how strong a leader or healthy a team we may be, threatening situations are bound to erupt from time to time. How do we ensure we are prepared to navigate the crises that we will inevitably encounter? What skills do we need to equip ourselves to take on the complex problems that extend beyond the normal scope of our daily business?

In VUCA Tools for a VUCA World, author Ann E. Deaton offers a collection of powerful tools to help leaders counteract VUCA and enable them to thrive in even the most turbulent environment. Ann’s book is an engaging business fable that draws us into the organizational life of a team of senior leaders in pursuit of sustainable success. 

The book’s storytelling style makes it easy to digest the many valuable principles and strategies presented. Ann’s many years of experience in leadership coaching provide a rich treasury of wisdom with which she is able to help teams navigate various internal and external threats to success.

The book presents a powerful counter to the challenges of VUCA through the use of key indicators: values, us, curiosity and aspirations. Each indicator has many examples and exercises to enable readers to easily apply them.  

VUCA Tools for a VUCA World encourages readers to constantly explore new learning options as we continue our leadership journeys. Ann offers a glimpse of the diverse tools available to a team interested in evolving their skills. Chapters include fascinating examples of polarity management, alternative options like equine coaching and a glimpse of how the intersect of VUCA with neuroscience can help enhance our growth.  

I especially enjoyed the way the book emphasized the need for vulnerability, nurturing and a value-centered approach to leadership. Ann further addresses issues of bullying, control and intimidation in the workplace, highlighting the importance of accountability as we seek to implement changed behaviors.

If you have any doubts about the reality of VUCA in our contemporary world, they can be swiftly dismissed by tuning into a news broadcast. The world is just as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous as it was during the Cold War. The good news is that we are constantly gaining insight and wisdom on how to leverage our strengths and collaborate as teams, leaving us well-equipped to meet any challenge VUCA throws at us.


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