Future-proofing growth

Listening in a VUCA world

As a Non-Executive Director and coach, I work with diverse people across many industries. My role means I spend a lot of my time coaching, mentoring, and advising through what I believe is my unique skill set – a commercially driven lens. But I’ve found all the above pointless without listening to people. Really listening.

So, what have I been listening to? The business world experienced unprecedented disruption in the last few years, with some changes being irrevocable. VUCA which is short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, has been supercharged to challenge leadership more than any other time in history. In response, leaders have shifted focus in their organisations to short-term activities and tactics to regain stability and control. This has led to cutting jobs, people development, and brand-building to survive.

At an employee level, the pandemic has challenged why, and how people work. It is no longer millennials that talk about purpose in a workplace context. It seems everyone has woken up to the fact that work accounts for a third of our lives and it has to do more than pay bills but align with our values and more importantly, provide meaning. Hence new terms like The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffle.

All this can create a culture of discontent as organisations try to grow back revenues and profits while navigating more empowered employees who want to work to live rather than the other way around. 

Reframing the future

Listening to leaders wanting to rebuild in the aftermath of the pandemic, I believe those who take the opportunity to remake and rebuild their businesses through a consumer, customer, and people lens will future-proof themselves for growth.

Here are 5 ways to help kick-start change in your organisation.

  1. Reset the vision in the context of purpose

Short-term thinking has to be replaced by giving people in an organisation a more inspiring future to look forward to. It can’t be a rehash of the old vision. It has to include new perspectives and new opportunities for growth. With that comes new roles and the opportunity to develop new business models. This doesn’t have to happen at a corporate level alone (although this is a great place to start) but at a department or team level. Defining a new future opens up hearts and minds helping people look beyond the here and now.

  1. Define your hybrid

Senior leaders want to evolve ways of working but don’t know what the right hybrid model is for their business. They also have deep concerns that it will cause culture and productivity to suffer. Even before working from home became widespread, technology was changing how and where work was done. I believe we have to accept a hybrid way of working as the norm but ensure it aligns with each business model, is technology-enabled, and goes through a few iterations before it is optimal. The key is to develop your hybrid like prototyping a new product – research, trial, testing, measuring, and modifying – supported by clear communication to keep everyone in the organisation on the same page and moving forward together.

  1. Be truly consumer and customer-centric 

To future-proof growth, every organisation must be focused on delighting consumers and customers above all else. This is the reason an organisation exists in the first place and the constant that will never change even in an uncertain world. The danger is as organisations grow or become risk-averse, they begin to rely on processes and hierarchy to manage and predict outcomes creating an internal focus at the expense of a market focus. This might have worked historically but is disappearing in a VUCA-driven world. Bring your consumers, customers, and users to life at every touchpoint and use new tools of engagement to be as connected to them as possible. Fortune will favour consumer-centric companies that operate in flat decision-making structures.

  1. Value and reskill your people

“People are our most valuable asset.” I think I’ve heard a variation of this statement in every company I’ve worked in. But according to McKinsey’s Organising For the Future: Nine keys to becoming a future-ready company, we have to go to a new level of valuing people by treating them as scarcer than capital. The McKinsey report says people long to belong to something bigger than themselves and they will leave companies that don’t have a strong sense of identity and social cohesion. The Harvard Business Review in Future-Proofing Your Organisation goes on to point out that one of the ways we can give people meaning is by reskilling them. “More than 60% of a company’s roles can be filled by current employees, assuming that adequate programs are in place.” Smart companies build from within saving huge costs in recruitment and redundancies.

  1. Move from sustainability to rejuvenation thinking in your corporate and brand strategy

As stakeholders demand more environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts, consumers increasingly expect companies to take action. I believe it is both imperative and possible to integrate sustainability and create meaningful change that is good for business, society, and the planet.

It will take collaboration to reimagine how our economy can be transformed into one that benefits all stakeholders and create a world that is not only sustainable but rejuvenated for the future. 


Leadership has never been more challenged than in recent times. Some things have to evolve like ways of working and the move to flatter operational structures powered by technology. Business also has a powerful role in ensuring sustainability is not just a box-ticking exercise but core to long-term strategy and building a stronger economy for all.

Other things remain the same, being consumer, customer, and people-led. However, uncertain the world becomes the winners will be those that are focused on meeting the needs of consumers and customers while staying connected to company culture.

If you’re a leader looking to future-proof growth in your team or business, I’d genuinely love to hear from you.

Connect with me today on LinkedIn or book a consultation with me.

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