What’s the Connection between Battlefields and Turnarounds?
Despite their extensive training, combat soldiers will tell you that the actual battlefield presents a completely different picture. While planning is important and valuable, no plan survives the first contact. Soldiers have to be ready for constant change. They have to be aware of the fact that it is not possible to model and prepare for every possible situation in training and planning. They are in a persistent state of VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

Why, you may well ask, is this relevant to STOs (Shutdowns, Turnarounds, Outages)? Because turnarounds are mission-critical events and also high-VUCA environments. Just consider the following points that describe persistent VUCA environments - they are equally applicable to understanding both battlefields and turnarounds alike!

VOLATILITY: The speed, frequency and increasing number of attacks in the battlefield and breakdowns/failures in turnarounds. High velocity change results in greater damage and more cascading failures, as each incident triggers additional incidents.

UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty exists when previously predictable behaviour is no longer present, e.g., action A is not going to lead to outcome B, and you can't figure out why. This situation, where the link between cause and effect is unknown, is because previously relied-on intel, data or knowledge is either inadequate, poor, flawed, compromised or just too slow. And without an understanding of cause and effect, it’s not possible to forecast the future.

COMPLEXITY: Without linear cause of effect, systems are complex. They require the correct management of a range of interlocking systems that have a direct effect on each other (think budget, timetable, resources, manpower, equipment, downtime, people everywhere using different intel/data). Add to this the constant integration of advanced technologies, and we are faced with a situation that can only be penetrated/managed with a new skill set.

AMBIGUITY: Volatility, uncertainty and complexity result in ambiguity - we just don’t know what decisions to make. Although ambiguity can be resolved over time, turnarounds do not have the luxury to wait to reach decisions. But conflicting views based on radically different information seen by different people typically lead to group thinking (especially in large organizations), procrastination, or failure to ask the right questions. We don’t make decisions because we are either afraid or don’t think we will be heard, i.e., the culture is too rigid and inflexible, paralyzed within ambiguity.


How Can VUCA Challenges be Addressed?
Basically, we have to create a fundamental change in management, which requires:

  • Unlocking data in siloed systems
  • Utilizing a standardized approach, checklists and SOPs to generate a structure that can breed creativity
  • Shifting strategy from training to practice
  • Developing entirely new procedures and ways of operating as an organization
  • Becoming much more fluid, much more flexible, and much more autonomous
  • Ensuring that ground level truth can be acted upon immediately and is data-driven and measurable
  • Controlling and predicting each VUCA element


“Technology enables us to make the right decisions based on real data analysis, and not on gut feelings or intuition. This can also be achieved by analyzing VUCA - measuring the level of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity - and applying an algorithm to enable us to understand what is our VUCA level, what is its effect on us, what do we do to reduce the VUCA.”
Yaron Eppel, Co-Founder & CEO, Mobideo


Can VUCA Be an Opportunity?
Definitely YES. Just consider using the following alignment of the VUCA concept – based on the principles of Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility – and it can become an opportunity!


“In a high VUCA situation, such as a turnaround, you must stop thinking in terms of planning and then executing, and embrace a new way to solve the situation…. you need to constantly orient yourself and get your concept or premise well established. And this concept is the heart of our operating system, which is not just technology, but also methodology and a management playbook.”
Paul Muir, President & CRO, Mobideo North America


VISION: Ensure that everyone in the organization understands why they are there, and that they have a clear vision of the outcome. In STOs, that means seeing automatically-generated digital BI reports that compare data from separate systems; display where different systems and tasks interconnect, the location of critical nodes, and the points of highest risk; and provide alerts concerning variables outside your integrity operating windows. It’s a shared vision that is clear to everyone, enabling mapping of progress and understanding of changes necessary to achieve goals.

UNDERSTANDING: Understand by asking more and better questions based on data collected in real time, learning from constant inquiry, and continually challenging the status quo. By ensuring that all voices are heard – during planning, in briefs, during execution and in debriefs - you will achieve a 100%, quantitative shared consciousness that can be accessed by anyone at any time.

CLARITY: Clarity comes from ensuring that you achieve your end goal. But with failures, for example, we often try to solve the problem all at once in order to save time, even though it might make more sense to break it down to several tasks in order to ensure success. Clarity is achieved through structure, which in-turn breeds creativity – releasing people from decision-making on a standard process frees them to think more critically about actual problems. Such clarity is obtained through real-time, data-driven intel - trustworthy intel on what’s happening in your systems. And it is achieved through the availability of mission-critical information.

AGILE ADAPTATION: Dealing with VUCA requires the ability to measure at all times. In turnaround management terms, this relates to the need for agile adaptation in all execution. It’s about quick and relevant decision-making based on:

  • Collecting data and understanding the situation
  • Figuring out where you are in relation to your destination or goal
  • Running through your options and deciding how to gain the best advantage of the situation
  • Executing the decision you just made and communicating your actions to all team members.

Can Addressing VUCA Positively Impact Turnarounds?
Agile adaptation based on dynamic decision-making creates teams with a shared consciousness and empowered execution. Everyone is engaged and using the same trustworthy, data-driven information. The turnaround execution organization becomes almost autonomous; much more flexible and adaptable, it acts independently and is able to respond at a moment's notice to any opportunity, crisis or failure.
In the high-VUCA environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, it is possible to develop a mindset of vision, understanding, clarity, and agile execution skills. Based on data-driven intel, data gathering, and constantly showing the whole picture, it is going to have a profound impact on any STO.


“We are truly passionate and committed to supporting the turnaround industry. That's why we’ve stepped up and built a framework that ensures proper execution of the most strategic event in the life of any client.”
Yaron Eppel, Co-Founder & CEO, Mobideo


Learn more about Mobideo’s completely different approach to full lifecycle management of highly dynamic and complex STO environments. Schedule a demo to understand how the first Digital STO Operating System intelligently integrates with your existing systems to deliver complete management of STO preparation, execution & analysis.