In the old days things were simple and straightforward (at least if the rose tinting of your glasses is strong enough). An organisation could decide what it did and form itself around getting good at doing that thing. Organisations that did best were the ones that delivered better or more efficiently than their rivals.
Today the pace of change is faster, largely driven by the Megatrends of digitisation, decarbonisation and ageing, but also driven by regulation and social factors.
Today it is rare that we have enough time to actually get good at something before we have to move on to the next thing. Adaptiveness has become more important than deep expertise.
So, what are the key components that allow an organisation to become adaptive, here are my top five suggestions:
Innovation – The ability to understand the changing context and to identify new and different solutions. We need to be able to accurately interpret changes in the market and reliably respond to it, differently from before. This requires a significant degree of external focus, data capture, understanding and communication, so that those who need to know are continually up to date with what is going on inside and outside the organisation.
Team forming – The ability to form highly effective teams very quickly. Highly effective teams combine diversity of thought, background, skills and approach with the facility for robust debate that arrives at an aligned position. In spite of their diversity they are highly directionally aligned, interested in what each other is doing and willing to support each other. Teams are not a fixed thing, we are all members of multiple and often overlapping teams and coalitions . We need to be able to form the right team for the task and make it effective within just a few days each time.
Inspiration – Whatever our role in the team we need the ability to inspire our colleagues, customers and other stakeholders with our solution or approach. It is not just about being able to make the rational business case for a change, but the inspirational, ideological, emotional connection to it. This often requires us to get better at understanding and regulating our own emotion and the emotions of others.
Trust – In a stable situation it is probably practical to get away with a minimal level of transactional trust. “I trust that I will get paid at the end of the week”. Simple reliability is enough to build transactional trust and we will need that anyway. For an organisation to be adaptive we need a much deeper level of authentic trust in our organisation, our leaders and our colleagues. This requires knowing each other well enough to understand each others underlying motivations and belief systems in order to interpret each others decisions and communications adequately.
Purpose – Humans are remarkably adaptive and willing to change, when there is a purpose we believe in. If the purpose is simply to make someone else richer or to redistribute wealth (without us being beneficiaries), there is very little incentive for us to change. If we can see that the purpose will serve some cause that we believe in strongly we can be inspired to jump through hoops. This is not to say that every organisation has to be entirely altruistic, but that it has to be able to be seen to serve some higher purpose than just making the shareholders and executives richer. This could be as simple as making customer’s lives easier.
What do you think makes for an adaptive organisation? – please comment below.
Helping organisations to become sustainably successful through understanding the future , creating their vision for success and adjusting the culture and processes to make it happen is precisely what Holos does.
Holos has a vision to contribute to making holistic leadership ubiquitous in our society within 175 years. We want to see this kind of leadership taught in schools and deployed for the good of society in business, politics and the public sector.
Holos believes that “Change is Easy” or at least it can be when it is done well. Holos has the resources and the skill to help organisations of any size to flourish in the future.
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