So we must advance to embrace modern values, and we must respond constantly to changes in conditions that are imperfectly understood; we must be adaptable to survive. The organisations that succeed at this have a higher culture (the highest aspiration is called Teal) and a better way of working (those who look like magic are called a Unicorn).
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” – William Pollard
In order to achieve adaptability, we need two related capabilities: agility and resilience.
We see the resulting shifts in many areas of work. Stakeholder capitalism moves values from extractive to constructive. Agile has spilled out of IT into the enterprise. Complex systems theory is finally shifting how we think. Sinek talks of “the Infinite Game”. Safety Culture is revealing the value in failure. Open Management is flipping the hierarchy. As well there are ideas like servant manager, transformational leader, open space, invitational leadership, promise theory, sustainability, and more… They all aim for “better value sooner, safer, happier” as Jon Smart put it. The world seems to still lump it all under the term “Agile Enterprise”. We call it Open Work.
We try to embrace all the new concepts of Open Work in the umbrella term Human Systems Adaptability:
Human: people, values, humanity, teal, wholeness, culture, sharing, empathy, diversity, inclusiveness, egality, trust, integrity, authenticity, transparency, curiosity, learning, games, mastery, pride, empowerment, freedom, invitation, authorisation, servant manager, safety, wellbeing, nurturing, flourishing, health. [states]
Systems: customer, value, flow, feedback, quality, lean, streams, iteration, networks, complexity, chaos, emergence, antifragile, shift left, teams, organisation, collaboration, ritual, sharing, resilience, human error, holistic, data, science. [artefacts]
Adaptability: ambiguous, uncertain, iterate, increment, experiment, explore, observe, adjust, agile, fluid, organic, improve, curious, embrace failure, fail fast, small, granular, simplify, flexible, pragmatic, resilient. [actions/adjectives]
(from our book)
Building humanity at work, understanding systems, and adapting constantly to change are the strategies to make work better: better results, better lives at work, better society around us.
The low-risk way forward is to advance in increments, experimenting at every step, embracing failure, learning always.
Our clients have tested these ideas and enjoyed great success with them. They have tried tactics such as
- understanding value streams and identifying the main issue or constraint
- removing excessive approvals from processes
- empowering managers with discretionary budgets and distributed authority
- moving from big-bang to incremental opening of new services
- empowering young keen junior employees to have a voice and take responsibility
- building teamwork in leadership
- pursuing higher culture
- identifying waste and inefficiency
- building team identities
- visualisation of work
- changing reward systems to allow all to share in the success (creating more transparency and collaboration).
There is always a J-curve
when we change any work system. Our clients have soldiered through theirs, and enjoyed the fruits of their commitment to new ways of working and managing with happier clients, a healthier culture, and more reliable success.
Several groups exist to spread this message of better ways, including
Some of the bastions of capitalist media are strong proponents too:
- MIT Sloan Management Review
- Harvard Business Review
These ways are displacing the ideas of big-bang projects; zero risk; certainty and accuracy; plan once execute perfectly; failure is not an option. The move is towards “product over project”: managing work over the lifetime of a product not the duration of a project. At its heart, the agile way is about being able to adjust and change in a constantly changing world. Faster, more efficient, higher quality work is a by-product of agility, not the goal. The goal is to meet the changing needs of our organisation faster, though iteration, increment, experimentation, and exploration. We help you build this culture, through attention to leadership, happiness, space, empowerment, community, and communications.