“Lookin’ back on how it was in years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad, so much has changed.
It was songs of love that I would sing to then
And I’d memorize each word
Those old melodies still sound so good to me
As they melt the years away”
(From ‘Yesterday Once More’ by The Carpenters)
For many years, both here at a&dc and in many of the organisations for whom and with whom we work, there has been a need to keep at the forefront of our agendas our response to a world that’s changing at a pace and with a complexity that we can scarcely keep up with. The acronym VUCA, originally coined by the US military, prompts us to anticipate and plan as best we can for environments of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. And just within the last week it seems as if the reality of VUCA has hit us all, with the UK electorate deciding to leave the EU, politicians resigning left, right and centre and economic markets plunging into freefall. Justifiably, the newspapers and general public are calling for immediate action for a new solution – but is there a risk in acting too quickly and is the answer necessarily something new? In the words of the classic Carpenters song, can’t some of the ‘oldies’ be ‘goodies’?
You won’t be surprised to know that as a long-time coach and consultant I have my favourite ‘go-to’ models that inform my own practice and work– I use them because I know they work, time and time again – for me, us as individual managers and leaders, for the teams we lead and for the organisations to which we belong. One of these is the very well-known Kubler-Ross Change Curve – originally conceived in the world of bereavement, but quickly applied to all situations of change. I’ve seen and indeed experienced at first hand, the journey through denial, anger and exploration and eventually into acceptance of a new normal – until that is, in our VUCA world, the game changes all over again, so perhaps the Change Curve is more aptly entitled the Change Cycle?
What I hadn’t observed – at least until this week – is how we can also see these stages evidenced in a whole nation – take a step back for yourself, look and listen… do you see what I see? The stunned response to the Referendum results has already given way to public outbursts of anger – anger against politicians from both sides for the way they conducted the campaign and now, even more worryingly, against neighbours, friends and colleagues who may be ‘different’ from us in some way.
So what now should be our leaders’ response? Kubler-Ross observed that the transition to acceptance is not necessarily a sequential and smooth journey – to help us through denial we need access to information, through anger we need support, through exploration the need is for direction and to ensure acceptance, encouragement. Whilst most of us have no ambition to be the next Prime Minister, it’s important that whatever the sphere of our own leadership responsibility, we consider how needs of this kind can be met and take action accordingly – but, action of the right kind and at the appropriate time, otherwise we risk sliding back down to the potentially damaging stages of the curve.
And reflecting further – this time on Monday night’s defeat of the England football team – maybe this is learning that not only the next occupant of Number 10 Downing Street can benefit from….?
Author: Karen West