21st Century Consultancies in a VUCA World

This week, one client held my hands tightly and told me hows CPS has saved her company and changed her life.

The same day,  a prospective client told me that he doesn’t get CPS’s “know it all, do it all” 21st century brand.

This highlights a common problem for 21st consultancies that tackle the complexity of our VUCA world. VUCA, of course, means volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The problem:

  1. How does one brand VUCA-world services and capacities, which must be extensive, flexible and complex (yet often exist within small innovative organizations)?
  2. How can VUCA-world companies show cost-effective value, reliability and guarenteed results, when working with traditional organizations that often consider small businesses to be “one trick ponies?”

Look at the team that came together as CPS: We all began the 21st century  in demanding, international industries. We were all were sure that the new world would be about complexity.  Graduate degrees? Okay, got that, but really we share:

  • endless, rapid learning of new topics, technologies and industries
  • fast engagement with complexity and innovation,
  • huge people networks, maintained with technology,
  • persistence and trustworthiness, backed by good project and time management skills,
  • the ability to turn on a dime to deliver measurable results.

The 21st century organization in a VUCA world:

Most organizations are changing on a regular basis, reorganizing, repositioning. Their executives and managers are crazy-busy, partly the result of years of doing more with less, and partly owing to the rise of the “operating manager.”

Operating managers spend more time doing operational work than management work, partly because there is no one else to do the work. Sometimes managers has not been trained to manage, but it’s a common situation.

Consultant-trainers are now versatile all-rounders, ready to fit into any opportunity that will impact the bottom line of the organization in a sustainable way.

Business professionals and corporate cultures are often still freeing themselves from elements of 20th century thinking, management practices and processes. The result is a mixed bag of challenges: changing skills and attitudes, individualized concerns and knowledge gaps..

The VUCA-world consultant has to have answers for everyone. For instance, imagine that a company:

  • Wants to align their thinking with the company core mission. The project owner (senior manager) is into Sensemaking and brand consolidation.
  • Wants to work on greater awareness of its corporate and industry culture, its customers, and to embrace inclusion and multi-culturism with a view to greater innovation.


  • Executive A writes harsh, abrupt emails, struggles to network,and hates the CRM system. He also wants some work on international networking, and is putting off a task because he wants to discuss some cost-benefit analyses and needs a template for a weighted decision-making process.
  • Manager B has a multi-cultural team with some old conflicts, and problems with her budgeting process. She’d also like to coach her team on critical analysis and project thinking.
  • Engineer C has been doing some social networking, but now has time management problems because of it. He’d also like help with his  conflict management skills. He’s an Analytical Perceiver who avoids any conflict or analyses it to exhaustion.
  • Business Professional D want a more collaborative management style with her self-directed Millenial-generation team, and wants them to track their continuous process improvement. She thinks there is a staff retention and engagement problem. She thinks that the new core mission work could help to engage them more with the direction of the company, but wants a flatter, peer-to-peer approach.
  • In a VUCA world, all this can be done.

At CPS, we sometimes go in and work alongside clients. We might facilitate strategy, model problem solving and innovation, or help troubleshoot processes. We want people to see it, do it and be able to do it again. This low-key, low-visibility process is always guided by the client’s instructions.

Multi-skilled consultants coach and model skills or supply knowledge and resources.

Multi-skilled consultants coach and model skills, train problem-solving, supply knowledge and information options.

We might help with hiring in a small business, or set up databases. We might write model newsletters and monitor them until they are established. We might complete a company’s minority certifications or help build their supplier diversity base.

Do they want help to choose and use software or do they need training on their in-house programs? (Yes Bobbie is amazing.) Do they need sales leads, or sales training and monitoring? Would they like us to train networking, even accompanying them to events, or simply be to there whenever there is a problem?  We might obtain grants to pay ourselves, and often hire (and pay) specialists for things that we don’t train, such as accounting software.

Question: Can one expect a consultancy to coach sales and marketing, hiring, soft skills and EQ, organizational structure and culture, process improvement, product development and innovation, lead-finding and minority business leverage, IT and social media? Oh – and ask them to put the company in touch with people in 100 countries or companies, and with the right contacts in the US government?

In a VUCA world, this will be the new norm. The company that cannot deliver range and complexity, quickly and affordably, will go the way of the drive-in movie theater, the valve-based radio and the doctor who made house-calls.

The new challenge is to brand these highly-creative, multi-skilled, 21st century companies. Larger mainstream organizations are still struggling to accept what these gazelles can do, and to see how their organizations can benefit from a walk on the wild side of the new economy.

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