As I’ve said in previous posts, the House of Resiliency has two sides: Strategy and Execution. Propping up each side are three pillars: Customers, Systems and Culture.
The two sides mirror each other in how you decide and then how you execute your decisions. Strategy, on the left, is supported by three pillars that enable effective decision-making, providing the “why” behind actions. On the right is Execution, supported by three pillars that define the “how”, the actions your organization takes based on the decisions it has made.
In my previous three posts, I covered Strategies for Customers, Systems and Culture that enable adaptive decision-making. As we continue to unpack the six traits of adaptive organizations, let’s move to the Execution side of the House of Resiliency and take a closer look at Trait #4: What You Produce for Your Customers:
Trait #4 (RESILIENT): Adaptive Organizations dynamically adjust to customer/market needs, since adjustments come naturally to them.
Before I talk about being Resilient, let’s look at Execution in Rigid organizations, since we find that many organizations are at that stage.
Can an Organization Be Rigid and Survive?
- “I feel like I work on an assembly line. Work comes across my desk without explanation, I do my part, and it moves along.”
- “The work I do seems disconnected from what customers want, and I see our competitors making their customers happy by doing things we aren’t even thinking about doing.”
- “In my experience, if something disrupts the flow at any moment, we don’t have a way to move forward.”
- “Every time I try to suggest a different way to approach my work, I’m ignored. Leadership doesn’t want to hear about trying new things.”
My guess is that many of you have heard colleagues make similar observations—or that you have made them yourself. The Rigid approach isn’t always bad: Some companies, especially those in highly regulated industries, find that a Rigid approach to executing work is the right way to go.
But a Rigid way of working has consequences, and understanding and accepting the consequences gives a Rigid company the best chance of survival. It’s important to note, however, that in our experience, companies with Rigid execution that have no desire to become more Flexible tend to sustain their business only through limited periods of change. When you throw in a year like 2020, when change was so extreme and pervasive, it’s highly unlikely that a Rigid organization will survive.
Becoming Adaptive in a Highly Regulated Environment
Although we work with companies that are Rigid because they believe it’s necessary due to government regulations, that doesn’t always need to be the case. It’s possible to become more flexible in work execution without compromising governance obligations.
In one of the quotes above, the speaker said that suggestions for improving processes fall on deaf ears. In essence, people in organizations like this are being told, “This is just the way it’s done, it’s the way it will always be done, and if you don’t like it, you can leave.” But even in the most regulated environments there is room for flexibility of execution. Let’s take a look.
Flexible Execution Begins with Leadership
In the House of Resiliency, moving from Rigid to Flexible makes room for adjustments in execution—you just need time to plan. The key to graduating to Flexible begins with leadership. When your leaders open their ears to suggestions for improvements and provide opportunities for small tests, the resulting trust and collaboration begin to loosen the tight reins and expand creative problem-solving.
Leaders need to remember that they hired the best and brightest because they wanted them to do good work. Too often, Rigid organizations squash the desire to think out of the box, stifling innovation and sending good employees running to the competition—another consequence of Rigidity.
Execution in an Adaptive Organization
In a truly innovative, adaptive execution environment, adjustments are natural and commonplace. That certainly doesn’t mean that the organization changes for the sake of change, but that it has put constant feedback loops in place that allow it to gather and analyze data, and determine how and when to act. In this adaptive culture of production, everyone is comfortable with pivots—both small and large.
A dynamic approach to executing work, based on feedback from customers, competitors and the market, allows an organization to be truly Adaptive.
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