The capacity of a business to adapt to change rests as much on its culture as it does on the technologies and systems it has in place. In other words, it is the attitude and abilities of the staff and managers in the business that make the critical difference. A business with an Adaptive culture is designed for continuous change and people have a positive outlook towards it. It also seeks out and understands opportunities. Finally, an Adaptive company is one that can communicate well and apply knowledge at all levels. All of this makes for an Adaptive culture.
At Lloyd Parry International, our goal is to help our customers get this Adaptive culture right. It’s something that any business can do without massive investments in technology or process re-engineering. However, it does require a moderate shakeup of working practices related to how you engage and learn from your customers. These learnings are then translated into improved products and services, while optimising your delivery chain.
Businesses have complex social and technical environments, and consequently how these social and technical aspects interact determines the level of adaptability any organisation can achieve. Hence, when working with our clients, we find it initially beneficial to concentrate on classifying the business issues you are trying to overcome and understanding the organisation's common purpose. We then move onto discussions about the People-Dynamics (i.e. cultures and behaviours) and then the System-Mechanics (i.e. the technologies, systems and processes people use to deliver work). Finally, we discuss how the organisation approaches collaboration.
Here are four essential components of an Adaptive culture to bear in mind:
1) Understand Your People Dynamics
No matter how driven and focused your employees are, it is important to remember that the people that constitute a business are individuals. Everyone has a personality, goals, strengths and weaknesses and will behave in a certain way in different circumstances. Understanding these dynamics, including the attitudes and motivations of your staff, will help you develop an approach for improving fundamental people skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. Also, taking time to understand if your current approach to team communication and direction setting is fostering an environment of learning and collaboration is extremely important, as well as endeavouring to establish a clear line of sight between all your staff and customer needs.
2) Establish A Common Purpose And Refresh Your Alignment
All businesses imperceptibly change over time and this often results in purpose drift. Different teams and areas of expertise emerge, all of which have an important role to play. The danger to adaptation comes when the common purpose becomes obscured by individual and team roles, risking miscommunication, conflicting priorities and discord between teams. It also inhibits the ability of a business to react to change. Without a common purpose, change will result in more fragmentation rather than cohesion and collaboration. Establishing or re-establishing a common purpose across your business and simplifying and clarifying the goals expected of each team and employee are crucial. Under the umbrella of a single, common purpose, these objectives should be categorised into customer purpose, employee purpose and business purpose.
3) Understand Your System Mechanics
The processes and organisational structures in a business play an essential role in maintaining a positive Adaptive culture. Current reporting systems, procedures for measurement, planning, visualisation, operational reviews, etc. should be noted and followed by the questions:
- How does each of these elements work towards enhancing delivery capabilities to customers?
- Are they all flexible enough to change direction when the customer requirements change?
- Do they prevent keeping up with customers’ demands?
- Do these elements meet the new or refreshed common purpose?
4) Consider Big-Picture Collaboration
The more minds an organisation brings together, the more significant its problem-solving power. Therefore, ask yourself, “How do we collaborate end-to-end horizontally and vertically?” and “How do we create the opportunities for communication and learning between departments (horizontally) and especially between layers of the hierarchy (vertically)?”
Most organisations recognise the need for collaboration and often point to examples where they do so. However, an Adaptive culture requires collaboration not just within and between teams; there must be a process of dialogue where people from different departments learn about each other’s critical challenges. Big-Picture collaboration looks less at how teams collaborate but more at how the business collaborates in a business context. Interdepartmental understanding, collaboration and problem-solving enables people to do their jobs in context and more effectively, and when something goes wrong, this gives them a network outside their area to contact immediately.
Create An Adaptive Organisation And Culture
Creating an Adaptive organisation and culture involves integrating a range of processes, structures and skills development to support staff and managers in driving Adaptive change. These include distinct strategies to encourage engagement for the adoption of new technologies and adaptation to emerging market conditions. The Guide to Creating Adaptive Organisations and Cultures, Lloyd Parry International’s new publication, presents a comprehensive framework for organisations, both large and small, to consider when setting out. How much of the framework you implement and in which sequence depend on your current business needs and competitive situation. To download your free copy now, click here.