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Swirling in ambiguity? Some thoughts to move you forward.

I’m not a predictor; a futurist.

I’m a trigger for movement; a catalyst.

When it comes to the Future of Work (FOW), I’m grateful for the trendwatchers and makers out there. I consume and celebrate their wisdom.

And yet, their predictions are just that. Predictions. They are not facts. They offer a sense of direction, but no roadmap.

We know, courtesy of said futurists, things like workplace flexibility, geographic agnosticism, and a redefined employee experience will be top of mind moving forward. Business processes will need to be refreshed, Inclusion will be further embedded in strategy, and employee wellness will stay hot. And many more trends…

But what do these trends look like in practice? What shapes will their endstates take? And how, leaders are asking, are we to lead our teams toward a future we can’t quite see?

It’s an overwhelming conundrum. We need to be building the path while heading down it. The good old changing the tires on the moving bus analogy.

But as we advise clients on how to wade through the muck of ambiguity, we’re leaning gently on some VUCA-like principles to guide the journey.

Here are just a few we’re finding to be of service in driving momentum above spin.

1. Prioritize clarity over certainty.

Certainty, for us, is about the detail – the individual plot points on the roadmap forward. But clarity is a vivid picture of the destination.

None of us has certainty around the future. And waiting for it will keep us frozen. So we focus instead on clarity. What do we want our FOW to look and feel like? How will we show up – for our customers and for each other? What principles must guide our decisions? What do we need to prioritize (i.e., wellness), and what can sit on the back burner for now (i.e., new collaboration technology)?

These are the questions that help inform not the whole journey, but the next step forward.

2. Choose complexity over chaos.

Organizations are systems with many moving parts. And our counsel here is to consider each piece in relation to the others (complexity)…without becoming overwhelmed by all the balls in the air (chaos).

Instead, for example, of trying to define every possible flexible working rule, policy, or arrangement (chaos), consider the system in which work needs to be done, and establish a set of guidelines and parameters that allow employees to make informed choices (complexity).

You can begin to move forward before you’ve figured it all out.

3. Focus on enabling conditions.

Your organization is prioritizing employee health and wellness, as evidenced by a robust benefits package. It’s committed to building diverse pipelines and has the recruitment strategy to prove it.

Whether the outcome you seek is wellness, inclusion, or something else, ask yourself what conditions are required to support that outcome?

For your team, it might be regular exercises in re (and de-)prioritizing work, or just doing regular check-ins with team members who live alone. It might mean celebrating a leader known for embodying respect, or considering a broader swath of perspectives when important decisions are made.

Ultimately, we’re all walking down a path that’s lit only an inch or two ahead of us. Have patience and offer grace. Make the best decisions you can, and know that as long as you operate with integrity and respect, nearly anything is undoable.