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The Adaptable Organization
Harnessing a networked enterprise of human resilience
The Adaptable Organization is a fundamental shift in operating and management philosophy that enables large-scale global organizations to operate with a start-up mindset and drive modern people practices that enable enterprise agility through empowered networks of teams.
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The Adaptable Organization
The world around us is moving at an unprecedented pace, but there is also an innate feeling that we have been here before.
In times of disruption, we can sometimes look to the past for inspiration. Put yourself in the shoes of a business leader in the early 19th century. In the span of two decades, people and businesses had to adapt to the world being turned upside down with the advent of flight, the lightbulb, telephone and automobile. But in the midst of this radical change, some businesses not only survived but thrived, leading to the rise of new industries in banking, transportation, telecommunications and energy.
More than a century later those businesses are now all in the cross‑hairs of large scale disruption, add to that record (and continuously dropping) levels of engagement and you have a perfect storm of externally imposed change and often a lack of internal readiness to deal with it. Pick up a front‑page cover in the popular business press, or view the landing pages of consultancies, universities or industry associations, and one sees the same set of issues being debated. Whether it’s about enterprise agility, customer connection, being purpose driven or simply breaking out of old hierarchical patterns, global businesses are triangulating around a common target, which is ultimately about increasing their relevance to both their employees and their customers.
Historically, in stable times, organizations derived competitive advantage through progressive attempts to be more standardized, efficient and better at doing what ‘they had been doing’ for a long time. In unpredictable times, organizational survival requires the understanding that organizations exist within a broader external ecosystem, united by a specific, customer-centric purpose that is constantly evolving to remain relevant.
Operating environments will only continue to become more complex. We help clients interpret their strategies and position in the ecosystem into customer-focused missions that energize the culture and organization. This is a departure from only using industry benchmarks or popular organizational models - it’s about intimate customization to the changing needs of customers and stakeholders.
When change is predictable, stable organizational hierarchies can support order, clear decision-making, and functional silos to ensure maximum efficiency. However, in an era of exponential change, traditional organization models cannot keep up. Static organization charts are becoming an artifact of the past. We use advanced analytics to visualize the formal (hierarchy) and informal organizations (interactions) to uncover how people actually work. New designs are emerging that embrace natural connections and organize multi-disciplinary teams to deliver value more effectively. Traditional approaches often force the organization to work purely functionally or in a matrix environment without understanding the impact to human networks.
Conventional wisdom believes that high-performing individuals deliver organizational performance. Adaptable Organizations place greater emphasis on the team and unlock individual performance through team composition and new ways of working.
We act as coaches for our clients and help them learn how to place greater emphasis on teams and unlock individual performance through team diversity, environment, and new ways of working using agile approaches. In understanding that agile methodology is not just for technology or product functions, we help teams accelerate on execution and become more flexible. We believe that high performing teams enabled to achieve organizational missions deliver more value than individuals focused on individual goals.
As organizations pivot and adapt to shifting contexts, the adaptability of leaders becomes essential. Leaders must be able to energize, empower, and connect people across the ecosystem and lead any team in any context. Leadership in the Adaptable Organization is a departure from the traditional, role-based view of leadership.
Identifying, developing, and retaining strong leadership is integral to any organization’s success, and the bar for leadership effectiveness is constantly being raised. We help our clients build effective leadership pipelines and programs that meet their strategic needs and which ensure they can navigate into the long-term.
The traditional view of the employee assumes people inherently resist change and talent programs provide stability. In Adaptable Organizations, resiliency and accepting change becomes part of the organization's DNA and talent programs exist to enable that resilience.
Helping people embrace change and continuous learning is difficult. To truly be adaptable, we believe that organizations need to enable individual resilience through flexible talent programs. We help clients design and adopt leading edge talent approaches to elevate a shifting and diverse workforce that includes both humans and machines.
How can we prepare organizations for adaptability?
To design for adaptability we need to have a better understanding of how people want to work and be able to detect the informal systems that create value for the customer. Today, we have no way to understand how these informal ways of working compare to the formal organizations that make up an organizations’ human architecture and, if they can not be seen, their potential can not be harnessed.
For more information about HR Transformation and the Adaptable Organization please contact Amir Rahnema, Tessa van den Berg or Ardie van Berkel via the contact details below.
The Global Adaptable Organization