VUCA Plus in Manipur

Akendra Sana *

VUCA has almost become a word in recent times. The acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity based on leadership theories espoused by American scholars was used as the response to the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s. It comes to indicate situations or conditions that are difficult to analyze, respond or plan in order to overcome them.

Simply put, it means what is to be done to face the UNKNOWN. Rapid changes, turbulence, disruptions, uncertainties, complexities, market fluctuations have made VUCA a per-manent topic for deliberations in business and academia.

Behaviours of individuals and groups that can lead to or-ganizational responses are determined by what is happening around us. Discussions often begin with looming failures because it is not simple to comprehend imponderables. Yet it is essential to recognize the Unknowns and the Unexpected to develop meaningful strategic leadership responses to succeed and continue to do what is required to achieve goals.

For anyone who has lived in Manipur through the past few decades it has been VUCA and more that have impacted the body politic and touched many lives directly because of prolonged wide spread violence. Many families have had to see loss and more dreadfully, missing of dear ones.

Disturbed its and order situation has also meant economic activities to suffer menacingly. Recall blockades of regular traffic at times for weeks at critical road systems and days and weeks of bandhs and curfews. This only means that there is always the need for more strategic thinking and sound leadership if the chal-lenges that continue to trouble the land have to be confronted to overcome them.

However, it can also be safely assumed that VUCA features had always been present because such conditions are implicit in the life of a civilization. For Manipur, there were innumerable instances of such conditions and challenges in its history. To survive and thrive as an ancient Asiatic king-dom for centuries meant wars and conflicts with several forces were common.

Its checkered relationship with Burmese powers in the past are well documented. It is now clear that at times of challenges to its existence, meaningful leadership arose that were skillful and strategically successful, many after prolonged hardships. In times of acute VUCA conditions, opportunities also appear for societies to grow.

An excellent example of display of peacetime strategic thinking and effective leadership is that of the introduction in 1110 AD of the `Loiyamba Shinyen', a royal edict regarding the distribution and ad-ministrative functions as proclaimed by King Loiyamba of Manipur.

Considered the first written Constitution of Manipur, 'Loiyamba Shinyen' definitely was a response to the challenges of the time for his people to forge ahead. Incidentally, to put in context of time, King John in England granted Magna Carta, Charter of English personal and political liberties in 1215 AD.

It is necessary to comprehend how we view the conditions under which decisions are arrived to plan, manage risks, introduce change and solve problems. For Government, military, education or business, VUCA is for awareness and preparedness that essentially involves intervention, anticipation of issues that shape challenges.

With efforts to understand the consequences of actions, interdependence of variables, interpret, and deal with op-portunities that challenges are tamed. When challenges seem insurmountable, strategic leadership thinking emerges to accentuate the belief that says - the more uncertain things are, the more leadership is required. Leadership in a VUCA world is all about challenges, expectations and pressures to succeed.

With superlative interpersonal skills, leaders are called upon to navigate with openness and transparency, be willing to accept change, adaptable, flexible, resilient and creative. In order to understand Manipur it is necessary to be conscious that it has had more than is share of VUCA for long. However, different periods in history clearly come with their own unique sets of VUCA conditions.

Presently, examples are not difficult to cite for one, situations manifested by violent recurrences for decades occupy mind spaces. In addition, relationships, cordial generally but not so at times among communities, including stress arising out of apparently tenuous narratives about identities amidst un-certainties of Climate Change demanding nuanced strategies to protect lives and properties that necessitates deployment of many resources have also come to define the present.

Lived experiences prompt us to believe that VUCA be-comes more pronounced in matters of its and order in the society because safeguarding lives is supreme. The past two years and more of the Covid pandemic have also clearly tested how such eventualities are handled in the battle to protect lives and educate the young adequately taking VUCA in the health and education sectors to unimaginable proportions.

Of course, economic activities continue to suf-fer because of the never-ending pandemic. The farm sector has to do more with the vagaries of nature, and thankfully, Manipur relatively suffered less in agriculture and allied activities during the pandemic. However, complacency must not be nursed because of the changes in rainfall patterns and rise in temperatures in re-cent times that are bound to severely affect this irreplaceable sector.

What we have witnessed in Noney district and the landslides and landslips in several parts of the State attrib-uted partly to Climate change and topography underscore the need to prepare for extreme uncertainties. Commerce, on the other band always tends to reflect the moral fabric of the society.

An innocuous scenario is - one need not be surprised if adulterated essential commodities including food items are freely circulated if those in authority man-dated to check and ensure safe supply of such items are perceived to be easily bribed to enable the wrongdoers to cover misdeeds.

Among several sectors affected by VUCA that require interventions of the highest order is in education, particu-larly Government school education in Manipur that has been festering for long, perhaps defying VUCA. The present situation admittedly is culmination of many past mistakes; however, it has to be tackled ASAP if we wish to see thousands of innocent young minds to flourish with-out further disturbance.

Targeting only the concerned schools is not enough, those who administer as custodians of public trust, meaning paymasters of the teachers are more answerable. The malady is far too serious now, a its hanging opportunity and has become a serious candidate for reforms that will essentially include hard decisions.

Scores of Government rim schools without a single successful student at the Manipur High School Leaving Certificate Examination in recent years is surely a clear recipe for serious analysis and intervention to be adopted in mission mode in order to avert further rot. This is exactly where clear strategic lead-ership has to rise. It is of course wise to be conscious that VUCA plus is not unique here.

The world is experiencing unimaginable extent of calamitous climatic changes, witness the never seen rise in temperatures in several parts of world, includ-ing Europe currently. In VUCA times, it is essential not to lose perspectives and to remember that there are no prec-ede., because ignoring the challenges only means self-sabotage.

A glimmer of sobering thought in Manipur is the long survival of its civilization and that Manipur was one of oldest surviving Asiatic kingdoms up to the time it was a proud kingdom before history changed course and the belief that there is still the tenacity, nature permitting, to strive on to continue to thrive.

It was possible in the past because facing severe VUCA had to be with dignity and valour because tackling such conditions is all about will and integrity.

Views are personal

* Akendra Sana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer Akendra Rajkumar is a former Regional Head of a Central PSU in the financial services sector.
This article was webcasted on July 28 2022.

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