Creating & Sustaining an Adaptive Design Mindset
With appropriate tools for rapid movement, proactively or reactively, alone or collaboratively
Being Action-Oriented is the capability most often associated with agility and resiliency. These concepts behind this capability imply action, but two others – Being Purposeful and Being Aware – strongly suggest that action must always be directed from a clear sense of purpose and an accurate assessment of what is happening in the environment.
Our research indicates that being open to change at all levels is essential for High AR. Just as clearly, it shows that higher performing organizations see change as posing opportunities and they instigate change to create advantage, as Figure 6.1 from Mastering Turbulence reveals.
Being Action-Oriented for High AR requires:
- Focusing and actively managing the organization’s culture by tightly aligning goals and strategies with it. Research is confirming the linkage between organization values, beliefs and strategy and the performance benefits of that linkage. Organizations that act in ways consistent with their sense of purpose and identity simply perform better. All employees are firmly committed because they have a context for action – they understand “why,” not just “how.” They also act with trust that others do so in the same consistent way.
- Supporting active learning and knowledge management that identifies major challenges. Engaging in the Five S’s of the Being Aware capability means being firmly committed to continuous learning and active knowledge management. Those efforts should produce a clear appreciation of the major knowledge challenges facing the organization. Assuming they do so, the goal from an action perspective is to acquire the essential knowledge, competencies and skills demanded, and then marshal and apply those resources.
- Fostering an aggressive goal orientation and opportunistic posture that meets those challenges. Being Action-Oriented means being “forward leaning” with a strong bias toward action that is reflective and thoughtful, not premature. It is not simply action to support strategy and accomplish business goals but to build capabilities.
- Adopting an adaptive design mindset which focuses on combining and recombining capabilities as conditions change. A critical aspect of Being Action-Oriented is an ability to view the world as “process,” not “structure” – as dynamic, not static – where relationships among things are dynamic over time and can be designed to adapt as conditions change. Similarly, the capabilities that count in a turbulent environment are the dynamic ones – those that can take on new forms and applications as conditions change. This adaptive mindset applies to everything from an individual’s job to global institutions. However, change is always grounded and guided by purpose.
- Strategically managing internal and external boundaries. If everything is a flow of processes, then how is structure, which is needed to support and sustain action, created? Structure is created through boundary management processes that initiate, support or end relationships (i.e., interdependencies) between elements of a situation, whether people, organizations, or industries. Boundary management is a fundamental cognitive process that all humans engage in as part of their normal sensemaking, and we advocate doing it more consciously and thoughtfully than is normally done. The number and kinds of interdependencies present in a situation directly impact turbulence – how rapid and disruptive change gets generated and transmitted through an environment to the systems in it. The goal is to realize the benefits of those relationships with others while managing any and all risks associated with them.