We’re in a Transition Phase

Patrick Hollingworth
August 17, 2015

As the transition to the VUCA world really starts to gain pace, something to think about is how you are going to manage this transition.

There are a few things to think of here.

Know that the transition will not be finite. It’s going to be ongoing. It’s not going to be a process with a definitive end date. Just like when you decide to start an exercise program to get fit, if you’re actually serious about it you know that in theory it is a commitment for life, not just the next few months. What’s the point in going through all that pain and getting fit only to lose it a few months later?

Part of the problem with the majority of change initiatives rolled out in the corporate world is that they have just that: a start date and an end date. If John Kotter, supposedly the world’s leading change expert, reckons that most of his client’s change programs fail, what hope is there?

Well actually there’s lots of hope.

View this time as a transitional period from the Old World (the world of stability, certainty, simplicity and clarity) to the New World (the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) much like you would when trekking into base camp at the foot of the mountain before your climb. This period of transition will give you the time you need to be able to acclimatise to this new world, both physically and mentally.

Life on the trail: very relaxing, and lot’s of fun.

When you arrive in the Himalayas and start the transition from everyday life back at home, where for the most part everything seems pretty stable and certain, to life in the mountains, where things can get pretty uncertain and volatile, you have to start by embracing the differences you see around you. You certainly don’t try and fight it.

You also need to take your time, and you need to be patient. When trekking at altitude, as a rule of thumb, we don’t exceed anymore than 300-400m of altitude on any given day. This ensures that we won’t climb too high too fast, which will lead to altitude illness and all sorts of misery (trust me). Rather, be patient, allow time for your body’s red blood cell count to increase, and your body will naturally adapt to the low levels of oxygen and atmospheric pressure around you.

The added benefit of this slow transition is that it enables you time to mentally prepare yourself for the challenges ahead of life on the mountain. Things might get heavy up there, and you need to be prepared!

This is what the transition looks like when trekking in to climb a mountain in Nepal, over a period of about ten days (the action starts at about 00:50). Note the relaxed, steady progress. Not too fast, not too quick. Once we’re up on the mountain, that’s where we’ll need to be quick.

The video is from a mountaineering simulation that I recently built. I use it as a powerful and engaging tool to help teams get a feeling for what the VUCA world is going to be like. Filmed from about 5 different camera angles, it’s awesome as both a stand-alone tool and when integrated into a larger organisational leadership program, where we use it to unpack a whole bunch of VUCA-ready tools. It’s also great for team-building, and it’s way better than mini golf! Check out this link here if you’d like to see a bit more