Staying agile in an uncertain world

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We are living in a world of change and uncertainty. In 2014, Harvard Business Review published research that showed that uncertainty has increased in the last 50 years, and that some industries are more affected by it. Of the top ten industries facing the most uncertainty, eight are manufacturing industries.

There is a military term now used by business to characterize the challenges of change – VUCA – which was discussed in a previous blog post. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Another acronym (also originating from the military) provides guidance on how to deal with a VUCA world. 

Dealing with the new VUCA world of business requires agility. An approach that emphasizes agility is the OODA loop, a concept coined by Colonel John Boyd of the US Air Force. According to Boyd, decision making and managing occurs in a cycle of Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It’s not quite as simple as a circle, but it shows that success in a dynamic environment depends on how quickly people and organizations can observe, react and adapt to the environment as it changes – think Apple versus Nokia.


OODA principles can be applied in business today. The ability to observe events i

s now very different to what it was only a few years ago. With wireless networks and mobile connectivity, businesses can get information from further away and more quickly; for example, orders from a salesperson on the road, or production reports from an offsite factory. Using a technology like SYSPRO Espresso, a company can have a more accurate and detailed picture of the environment than a competitor.

When it comes to competing, a key focus should be on orientation, which encompasses the aspects of culture and learning. Success in a rapidly changing environment depends on how well people learn new things, and unlearn old things. It has been pointed out in several posts in this blog platform how important ongoing education and training is. Do you keep abreast of SYSPRO’s training and certification offerings to ensure that staff can not only meet unexpected and changing situations, but can also apply their skills and knowledge to new circumstances?

Assuming you have accurate information and the right attitudes, what do you u

se to assess and guide your decisions? With the appropriate use of SYSPRO’s various reporting and analytics capabilities, you can use the data to take action, get feedback on the action, and then use that information to improve your ability and understanding of what to do next.

In the October issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal, the most serious issue for manufacturers was stated as being the pace of change. The way to handle that will be learning how to be agile when it comes to problems, people and change.

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