VUCA & Trust

Increasingly Unstable Environment

Technological progress and global networking scale the opportunities and the speed of change up. Accordingly, the complexity and dynamics in the world are growing. The business world is most affected, because networking and technologies have the most significant impact here. What used to be constant and familiar is becoming increasingly unstable.[1]

VUCA powernavi e

Therefore, common problem-solving approaches have reached their peak and even may prove counterproductive above a certain degree of instability: More standardization and efficiency in processes and structures reduce flexibility. More detailed planning and forecasting provide a false sense of security in the face of unpredictable effects and repercussions. More information and data for decision makers do not lead to faster and better decisions if the sensors measure the wrong indicators, or the information is already out of date.[2]

Trust: Precondition for Success in a VUCA World

If you want to manage successfully in complexity and uncertainty, you need an organization able to adapt to the changing environment in time. Powerful navigation is the key, culture is the engine, and trust is the fuel. In this context, trust involves the reciprocal reliance on character and competence between people. This interpersonal trust is first and foremost the result (outcome) of good leadership: 1) detoxifying the work environment where necessary, and 2) establishing deliberately a culture of trust. Trust then favors the speed of adaptation in the following ways:

  1. faster: trust accelerates the flow of information.[3]
  2. easier: trust facilitates leadership and collaboration.[4]
  3. safer: trust enhances the psychological safety[5] – a trusting and empathetic atmosphere in which employees dare to address mistakes and learn together.
  4. more productive: trust inspires joy and boosts engagement.[6]

Moreover, trust has a positive impact on key indicators: higher staff coverage, lower sick leave, optimized staff turnover rates, higher employee productivity, and better employer attractiveness (reputation). Accordingly, trust is a precondition for success in a complex and dynamic world.

Powerful navigation is the key, culture is the engine, and trust is the fuel
(Marco S. Maffei)


[1] Cf. Kruse, P. (2015): Erfolgreiches Management von Instabilität – Veränderung durch Vernetzung. Gabal: Offenbach. P. 15.
[2] Cf. Höfler, M.; Bodingbauer, D.; Dolleschall, H.; Schwarenthorer, F.; u.a. (2018): Abenteuer Change-Management. Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch: Frankfurt am Main. P. 17.
[3] Cf. Covey, S. (2008): The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything. Free Press: New York. P. 19.
[4] Cf. Luhmann, N. (2014): Vertrauen – Ein Mechanismus der Reduktion sozialer Komplexität. UVK: Konstanz. P. 18-20, 24, 126.
[5] Cf. Goller, I.; Laufer T. (2018): Psychologische Sicherheit in Unternehmen: Wie Hochleistungsteams wirklich funktionieren. Springer Gabler: Wiesbaden. P. 4.
[6] Cf. Zak, P. (2017): The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review, January-February 2017 Issue.