In the House of Resiliency, the three pillars supporting strategy are the Customers, Systems, and Culture you have in place to enable decision-making in your organization. These are balanced by three similar pillars of Execution, which define the actions your organization takes based on decisions that have been made.
In previous posts, I covered the Strategy pillars for Customers and Systems that enable decision-making. As we continue to unpack the six traits of adaptive organizations, let’s take a closer look at Trait #3: Your Decision-Making Culture. In this post, I’ll dive deeper into the final pillar of adaptive decision-making strategy: Culture.
Adaptive Organizations have a decision-making culture that incorporates feed-forward and feedback relationships. There is a middle-up-down leadership structure for 360° decision-making.
Before we dig into what that means, let’s take a quick detour into what “culture” means as it applies to an Adaptive Organization.
At its most basic (and slightly pessimistic) level, culture is what an organization says it is. We’ve all worked for companies that have plenty of brightly-colored posters on the walls that speak to the type of culture you would hope to experience while working there. But after a while, you realize that underneath the happy hours, on-site barista, and hackathons, there’s the same threadbare “because-that’s-the-way-it’s-done” culture.
When an organization truly lives its culture, you quickly see that it goes well beyond well-stocked refrigerators and stylish desk chairs. In fact, I’ve observed that you can really see the impact of a company’s strong, positive culture on the people who no longer work there. Think about your colleagues who left a job with a strong culture: Hoping to make a positive impact, they typically work to bring the principles of their former company’s culture to their new job.
The difference between the that’s-the-way-it’s-done culture and a strong, positive culture is important as you create an adaptive culture of Strategy and Execution.
Companies that are rigid when it comes to their decision-making culture typically have a strong follow-the-rules decision-making culture. Pre-existing rules predetermine any decisions they make. These organizations are usually mired in bureaucracy, and people who work within the restrictions often feel that nothing really gets done—instead, they only check boxes. Innovation is tough in these environments, as even the brightest minds are dimmed by the onslaught of rules and requirements to color inside the box.
An Adaptive Decision-Making Culture
Sure, some organizations need a more follow-the-rules strategy—for instance, employees who make the rules as they go along could have big ramifications for heavily regulated organizations. However, even in the most regulated environments, those external drivers don’t need to stifle flexibility and innovation—it just needs to be done carefully.
If a heavily regulated company wants to move from Rigid to Flexible in the House of Resiliency, it can make small changes to introduce feedback loops into decision-making. Perhaps executives could take careful steps to look at the the-way-it’s-always-been-done playbook and seek opportunities to make it better.
In Adaptive Organizations, the decision-making culture is truly top-down, down-top, and side-side. That’s not to say that everyone does whatever they want, but that feedback loops provide a mechanism to people who find a better way to make decisions about strategic moves. The mechanism allows their ideas to be heard, thoroughly and honestly vetted, and put into practice if it makes sense for the organization.
This type of decision-making feedback loop gives the boots on the ground, as well as the CEO, a pathway for input on decisions. For example, if a store clerk discovers a way to improve customer service, she knows which route to take to get her ideas heard—and that she will get a response one way or the other.
It’s this culture that allows Adaptive Organizations to thrive and improve during times of disruption.
Next up, let’s take a look at Trait #4, the Systems for executing production.
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