Blog No.6 – Adaptability
Adaptability has surely become one of the most pertinent words in everyone’s professional and personal lives over the last two months. What’s more, I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that it will remain a by-word for many of us well into the future. Clearly, we’re still living through extraordinary times. Yet the relevance and importance of adaptability is a fundamental component of surviving and indeed thriving. Whether you’re a living organism, or (dare I say it) a virus, or indeed any form of business or organisation.
It’s no accident that adaptability is the first of the three pillars of leadership, climate and performance that Performance Climate System (PCS) measures, under the ‘Transformational’ hemisphere of its model. Last week, we finished looking at the ‘Transactional’ hemisphere – those structural and organisational legs to the stool. Under the Transformational heading, we evaluate climate from a more behavioural and emotional perspective. We’ll follow Adaptability by looking at (the equally pertinent factors right now) Connection and Resilience in the next couple of blogs after this one.
Adaptability: the ability to sustainably address constant change and innovation
Here, amidst the extreme ramifications of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, it’s truer than ever that teams must be agile and flexible in order to meet the demands of the everchanging environment in which we work today and will work in tomorrow. How the leader manages changing objectives, role changes and restructures, and how open the team is to changing sub-optimal processes or procedures, are all measures of adaptability. How well innovation is encouraged and pursued also defines a team’s ability to sustain high levels of adaptability over time. If a team has no capacity for innovation, it is not changing. Forward thinking, horizon scanning, and innovation are all critical to high performance and are therefore essential leadership activities.
Performance Climate System measures a team and its leader’s Adaptability under three microscopes:
Openness to change: Here we consider the flexibility and agility of the team in response to changes to requirements. In exploring this critical characteristic, PCS questions rigidity, alongside the capacity to recognise the need for change, and then how that is communicated. We also test how change-oriented the leader is and whether change is always appropriate and required? But when change is the right path, are processes in place to review it and what is the rationale for ongoing change and how is it updated? Equally, how open are discussions around change opportunities?
Innovation: This gauges how well the team is encouraged to try new and novel ways of working. How are innovative ideas listened to in the team and organisation and is there evidence of active listening? Is there a process to discuss new ways of working? Is there a feeling of “that’s not the way we do things around here” or does the leader encourage discussion of new ideas and ‘out of the box thinking’? Are there processes in place to challenge current ways of working? Does everyone feel responsible for innovation? Is innovation part of normal business rather than a planned or occasional activity?
Sustainability of change: Lastly, PCS determines how change is embedded and reinforced. It tests the presence of a change mentality and communication about the future. PCS also establishes whether the impact of change is not only analysed in an organisation, but also that its impact is well communicated and understood by all. Having validated change programmes and actions, PCS questions how the leader, team and organisation embed change and are able to sustain it collectively.
No one can escape the quantum scale of adaptability the world has served up this year. Has the nature of it been a vast unwanted challenge? Absolutely. Do the necessities and opportunities presented by the world we live in right now point to huge change in so many fields? Of course they do. And scoring highly on ‘Adaptability’ can only help any organisation, supported by its siblings ‘Connection’ and ‘Resilience’, which I’ll come on two over the next two weeks.
Toby Ellison, May 2020