A VUCA World Demands Much More Of Bureaucrats

Bureaucrats need to deal better with today’s “turbulent (political) authority” and be more ingenious. And they must develop greater entrepreneurialism and awareness of the forces of innovation if they are to cope with today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world.

These findings have been captured in Associate Professor Zeger van der Wal’s new book The 21st Century Public Manager whose launched I attended at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.


Zeger’s research produces two broad findings. He outlines the new skills and values bureaucrats need today to be more effective.


The new skills include strong stakeholder analysis and networking abilities. New or increasingly needed values include greater courage and agility.

These changes are designed to help bureaucrats cope with the second broad finding: the seven demands Zeger says now face public servants. It’s the combination of all of these that he says is important to be completely effective.


Key among the demands are coping with increasingly turbulent political authority, managing the challenge millenials bring to the workforce and developing stronger cross sector collaboration with new partners and some old adversaries.

Zeger has taught in Singapore for several years but hails from the Netherlands, so the book has a global scope which is very useful.

It’s a thoughtful book which says bureucrats needed to be more adaptive and attuned to the dynamics of the early 21st century. But they also need to be specifically upskilled to fill both capability and values deficits.

This is principally a task for public sector chief executives but political governors need to be engaged. In a VUCA world, their future success will rely even more on the development of more well rounded 21st century advisers.

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    2 comments on “A VUCA World Demands Much More Of Bureaucrats

    1. Mark says:

      Appreciate the comment. Thanks.

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