Saturday, 10 September 2016

When Caregiving Feels Like War: Learn From the Military

The other day, I was listening to a banker talking about the volatility of financial markets.  She used a term I hadn't heard before - VUCA.  It's a military term used by forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and it stands for 'Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous'.  "Wow", I thought, "that sure sounds like my life!"
So, I googled VUCA and found a website about using military lessons learned for corporate leadership.  And my intuition didn't steer me wrong - these lessons really are absolutely relevant to caregivers.  Because our world is always volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

  • Always retain a clear vision against which judgements can be made, with agility to flex and respond appropriately to rapidly unfolding situations. (Yes, we do that every day.)

  • Provide clear direction and consistent messaging against a backdrop of continually shifting priorities, supported with the use of new virtual modes of communication where necessary. (We practice this with our paid helpers, with doctors and with members of our extended families. And we use technology to help us communicate our changing needs.)
  • Anticipate risks but don’t invest too much time in long-term strategic plans. Don’t automatically rely on past solutions and instead place increased value on new, temporary solutions, in response to such an unpredictable climate. (This is an interesting one and difficult to achieve. Again, it's about agility, employing the benefit of our experience, and always looking for something new that responds to the NOW.)
  • Think big picture. Make decisions based as much on intuition as analysis. (Caregivers could give the course on this!)
  • Capitalise on complexity. If your talent management strategy is working, then you should be confident that you have the right people in the right place. This will enable you to rapidly break down any challenge into bite size pieces and trust in the specialist expertise and judgement of those around you. (Easy to say, hard to achieve. The caregivers we most admire do this well. They take complex situations and break them down, then work efficiently within a team.)
  • Be curious. Uncertain times bring opportunities for bold moves. Seize the chance to innovate. (Imagination and the drive to get things done quickly and easily makes caregivers natural innovators.)
  • Encourage networks rather than hierarchies – as we reach new levels of interconnection and interdependency collaboration yields more than competition. (Absolutely! We are all interdependent and never more so than in caregiving families.)
  • Leverage diversity – as our networks of stakeholders increase in complexity and size, be sure to draw on the multiple points of view and experience they offer. Doing so will help you expect the unexpected. (I love this one! In my family, we have all been so enriched by relationships we've had with our paid help from different cultures. Even ageing and disability as examples of diversity in my family have enabled us to explore new territory of human experience.)
  • Never lose focus on employee engagement. Provide strategic direction, whilst allowing people the freedom they need to innovate new processes, products and services. (This goes for working with members of extended family and with helping friends, too.)
  • Get used to being uncomfortable. Resist the temptation to cling on to outdated, inadequate processes and behaviours. Take leaps of faith and enjoy the adventure. (This is the zinger. What a nugget of good advice for caregivers!)

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