Dealing with Emotional Ambivalence

Wordcloud for Ambivalence

Ambivalence, the A in VUCA, is a concept that quality professionals struggle with. We often call it “navigating the gray” or something similar. It is a skill we need to grow into, and definitely an area that should be central to your development program.

There is a great article in Harvard Business Review on “Embracing the Power of Ambivalence” that I strongly recommend folks read. This article focuses on emotional ambivalence, the feeling of being “torn” and discusses the return to the office. I’m not focusing on that topic (though like everyone I have strong opinions), instead I think the practices described there are great to think about as we develop a culture of quality.

ISPE’s cultural excellence model

Ambiguity

Ambiguity is present in virtually all real-life situations and are those ‘situations in which we do not have sufficient information to quantify the stochastic nature of the problem. It is a lack of knowledge as
to the ‘basic rules of the game’ where cause-and-effect are not understood and there is no precedent for
making predictions as to what to expect

Ambiguity is often used, especially in the context of VUCA, to cover situations in situations that have:

  • Doubt about the nature of cause and effect
  • Little to no historical information to predict the outcome
  • Difficult to forecast or plan for

It is important to answer whether there are risks of lack of experience and predictability that might affect the situation, and interrogate our unknown unknowns.

People are ambiguity averse in that they prefer situations in which probabilities are perfectly known to situations in which they are unknown.

Ambiguity is best resolved by experimentation.

VUCA – Accented Just Right It is a Profanity

Talk about strategy, risk management or change and it is inevitable that the acronym VUCA — short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—will come up. VUCA is basically a catchall for “Hey, it’s crazy out there!” And like many catch-all’s it is misleading, VUCA conflates four distinct types of challenges that demand four distinct types of responses. VUCA can quickly become a crutch, a way to throw off the hard work of strategy and planning—after all, you can’t prepare for a VUCA world, right?

The mistake folks often make here is treating these four traits as a single idea, which leads to poorer decision making.

VUCA really isn’t a tool. It’s a checklist of four things that hopefully your system is paying attention to. All four represent distinct elements that make our environment and organization harder to grasp and control.