Military Wire: Why ‘VUCA’ demands more attention than the virus

Mike Schindler

The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any other in recent times.

It is the greatest challenge that the United States has faced since World War II. It combines the economic impact of the Great Depression of the 1930’s with social turmoil of the 1960’s.

Even before the pandemic, uncertainty was pervasive: We faced rapid technological disruption, growing economic inequality, divisive political instability, racial tensions, climate change and destructive environmental forces.

But never before has uncertainty been so all-encompassing or the future so murky.

Day after day, the ebb and flow of bad news, pervasive uncertainty and confusion weighs heavy on our hearts, minds, emotions and mental health.

Uncertainty amplifies fear, anxiety, stress and paralysis. People cannot think with uncertainty, they can’t concentrate, can’t sleep. Can’t move.

It also impacts our families and loved ones who wonder if some semblance of “normalcy” will ever return. Our kids are stressed about school and their future. Parents are facing economic hardships, and many are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.

It is even worse for many people who struggle with mental health issues —  such that the Washington State Department of Health is projecting more than 2 million of our friends, family members, and neighbors will struggle with acute mental health issues in the days and weeks ahead.

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity is at the center of most family discussions, regardless of how they feel about the virus. This is VUCA – a term coined by the U.S. Army War College.

And VUCA is demanding real answers amongst families, communities and politicians on how we address the most vulnerable — and the everyday, middle class, hardworking family.

The antidote and answer are also: VUCA.

VUCA has a good side. It is also a strategic model for managing change and creating success in an uncertain world. It has since become a term used by leaders and management in the military, business, education and government and applies both to organizational and individual behavior.

Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Adaptability/Agility (VUCA) are critical to establishing a positive way forward in both our personal and professional lives.

The “good” VUCA requires work by those in leadership positions in order to better lead their communities. It requires work by those of us who are managing the home front and the workplace.

Most cognitive neuroscientists agree that we’ll work at making one VUCA more powerful than the other. The more we worry and fear something, the more likely something negative will come to be – we attract what we think – and if our thinking is all about worry, and uncertainty, we can do some serious damage to our brain and body.

Or…we can refocus our energies and efforts on a true vision for our family, seek to understand those around us and solutions to our situations, work towards clarity on differences and goals, and be adaptable to our ever-changing environment.

VUCA is here to stay. It has been a part of our society long before the coronavirus. The decision is yours – which VUCA will capture your attention and energy?

— This post was co-written by film producer Chris Nolan (90000feet productions) and Mike Schindler (Operation Military Family) – excerpt from upcoming summit and documentary VUCA meets VUCA: How Military Strategy Gives Us Vision for America in Crisis, Chaos and Confusion.

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Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares –– a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.



  1. Please stop calling it a pandemic. It doesn’t even come close to pandemic numbers as defined by WHO and the CDC. The economic impact has been applied only to certain states that have democratic governors that have shut down their states. Barely over 1/4 of 1% of the worlds population has been affected. But everyone in Washington has been because of Inslee. Other states are completely open. No masks and no covid. Does it not exist there?

    1. Joe, I appreciate your comment. We referenced COVID based on the governing bodies who classified it. One may or may not agree with the classification, but for editorial purposes we referenced COVID based on their classification.

      The intent of the article is to encourage individuals – regardless of where they stand – to embrace a solution for what they are experiencing. Circumstances don’t have to define us – but how we choose to execute through them sure can make a difference.

  2. Joe MacDonald,
    Interesting facts but for the people who have lost loved ones… It is still heart wrenching. Anyway to better handle this disease and I’m all for it. I think this was the purpose of this article. I have personally lost 6 people in my family to this disease and two very near and dear to my heart. I lost my daddy and my spiritual father. So, rather it’s democratic or republic political jargon… I’d would like to have a better solution to handle Covid-19. I would love to see across the world better leadership. I also would love to see people with the right intentions put in the right places for leadership and not so much schmoozing. Hmm, I guess in a utopian society.

  3. How dare anyone call Covid a pandemic if the highly unbiased Mr. MacDonald says it isn’t one. I’m currently hanging out in a mostly Republican and certainly un-Inslee type state where lots of old people go to avoid what’s happening right now (weather wise) in Edmonds and Inslee’s WA.

    Guess what, almost everyone here is masking up when they go indoors and are pretty good at staying at least six feet apart. I get my second shot Thursday in a drive thru system that works remarkably well for all concerned. Attitudes here about the virus, epidemic, pandemic (whatever you want to call it) are very positive from what I have observed. If we haven’t learned anything from the 2nd. Trump impeachment trial, we should have learned that our political bias’ have little to do with certain reality and everything to do with subjective perceptions and the Court of public opinion.

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