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

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.