What does VUCA mean to you?

I have just completed some training for a large group of staff going through a period of change in their workplace and providing them with some tools to assist build their resilience and mental toughness. One of the comments I heard most often during the initial debriefing session was… “when are things going to get back to normal?” At this point, I had to address the hard truth that maybe the better question was “will things ever get back to normal?”

VUCA is an acronym which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. First used by the U.S. military, it was soon adopted by occupational leadership to deal with post globalisation challenges, different environmental contexts and arising financial instability.

We recognise that if we are going to manage in a VUCA landscape, resilience and even more specifically, Mental Toughness is crucial.

Mental Toughness and VUCA combined provide powerful insights into how individuals and organisations can turn opportunities and threats into successes.

From the landscape of war, to its adoption by organisations and leadership, we recognise that we are now required to urgently re-calibrate and deploy a different skill-set and approach to maintainsustainable success both as organisations and as individuals in a VUCA world.

The answer lies in developing your Mental Toughness.

Mental Toughness is a personality trait which determines, in some part, how individuals perform when exposed to stressors, pressure and challenge… irrespective of the prevailing situation. (Clough & Strycharczyk 2011)


Here is how Mental Toughness and its 4Cs defined as Challenge, Commitment, Control and Confidence are aligned with the 4 VUCA dimensions as considered by Naim Safi (2016).

VUCA Model for Mental Toughness

VUCA Model for Mental Toughness



Change is a constant in our world and the key to success lies in our ability to adapt to challenges to build a more agile/resilient workforce and organisations. Challenge is best described as our inner-driveIt describes to what extent you see challenges, change, adversity and variety as opportunities not threats. It helps us nurture a flexible mindset and better manage the fear of the unknown through visualisation, reflection and continuous development.


Operating in high risk-based environments where possible solutions are presented and high levels of uncertainty are pervasive, Commitment is paramount to remaining focused by leveraging on available resources to achieve milestones and doing what it takes to reach your final target avoiding stalemate states and idleness.


Interdependence and the non-linear interactions within more complex organisations require a degree of Control over our emotions and our ability to still achieve. Increasing self-awareness, learning how to better deal with stressors and the use of positive thinking applications will ensure we maintain a balance of peak performance and wellbeing.


Cause and effect analysis no longer prevail as many interpretations appear to be valid in the “unknown of unknowns’ field. Solving this issue requires interpersonal Confidence as many perspectives will be needed to present ideas and act towards a solution. Confidence in your own abilities will also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and “have a go” to achieve your personal best and gain confidence in maximising your potential and assist your organisation work toward its full potential.


Mental Toughness is assessed using the MTQ48 psychometric tool and developed through a series of development and coaching interventions.

Mental Toughness and VUCA together with MTQ48 form a powerful tool for individuals, organisations and coaches to harness and develop control, commitment, challenge and confidence while navigating a VUCA world.


Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or michelle@bakjacconsulting.com