The Secret to Adaptive Cultures
Have you noticed this hypocrisy in yourself or people in your organization? Out of one side of our mouths we say, “We love new ideas.” Out of the other we say, “We hate change.”
New ideas change things.
Organizations tend to harden their methods, processes, and procedures as time passes; they resist change. New ideas disrupt.
A new kind of consistency:
Everyone needs points of consistency and stability. What if one point of consistency is trying one new idea every week, big or small? The secret to adaptive cultures is consistently changing something.
Could change for the sake of change be useful?
The tradition of change:
This Monday morning ask, “What could we change this week?” Perhaps you could change the way the phone is answered. Could you create a “no email” hour? How about, the new default length of meetings this week is 45 minutes; be brave, try 30.
- Change is difficult because we don’t practice it regularly.
- We usually think of change in big rather than small terms.
- We don’t celebrate small changes; they’re not important enough.
- We impose change rather than creating it together. Bottom-up is better than top-down.
Creating an adaptive culture can be fun if we:
- Learn as we go.
- Laugh at mistakes.
- Honor the spirit of trying new things.
How can leaders create adaptive cultures?
Great post, Dan. So often, that resistance to change is due to a dysfunctional belief, rooted in fear of failure (new idea, new process, risk, potential to fail at it).
The best way to overcome that fear (and as you put it: be adaptive), is to take small steps and do it scared. Wonderful examples of ways to get someone out of their comfort zone in resisting change!
By nature human being has inertia. This inertia stops and resists change. Our effort to overcome inertia determines our level of resistance to change. People doing change in day to day lives may like change. People who believe in stereotype or monotonous life may not like change. It depends upon mindset of people. It also depends upon orientation of the person. I agree that change for the sake of change is not good idea. In fact change should be for the sake of impact. It should yield better results. I appreciate that bottom up change is better than top down change. Top down change is more like imposed ideas if it does not involve bottom employees. It is very true that leaders should honor the spirit of new ideas. This is a good start.
I think leaders can create adaptive culture by being change agent. Leader should know others opinion and problems. He should create culture of confidence. He should also own responsibility in case of chaos. This creates the platform for adaptive culture.
Liked the presentation of your post today for bringing the adaptive culture to suit the organizing changing needs. Leaders can do this if they practice good professionalism at work.
The simplest solution is ‘Be open to new ideas and value those who work differently in the organization interest’.
Bosses at all levels should encourage the climate of change which would ensure better productivity. Reward those whose ideas get finally implemented. Give the public recognition and foster the climate of change with better ideas. These are the normal symptoms of successful & progressive firms. The onus of creating all positive things lie in the organization culture and HR interventions.
Insightful post, Dan! I’m researching on learning-based approaches to social media implementation and I think it’s really one of those changes that require openness, innovation and experimentation. Some companies will already have an adaptive culture while for others, cultural change is inevitable to succeed.
Thanks for this.
Great post! Not only for business but I see the benefits for marriage and parenting.
There is a certain group of people that like change, for the most part, it’s kids. They are always up for a break from the ‘hum-drum’ of stagnation, and the next adventure, whether it’s great or small.
They are fearless. They don’t think, “How will this change affect ME?” Or, “What will I lose, or have to give up?”
They naturally live in the spirit of ‘learning as they go’ and are able to ‘laugh at their mistakes.’
Thanks for the fresh new ideas Dan!
Dan, I like your post….simple and succinct as usual!
However, I would suggest that you have a system that “make a change to improve things this week!” rather than just a change for change sake.
Secondly, that which gets measured, gets done..
Build in a system of measurement and reward that which is positive!
Change change. Set your team a daily challenge of finding one established thing that is under-appreciated and sitting in the attic ready for regeneration/reprofiling for a new generation. You know the “trunk in the attic” feeling; the feeling children get when the go up there and rootle through the secret valuables of past generations. It can lead to new genius: like retro-fitting a hybrid-electric engine into a classic car; or like taking those old Star Wars toys out for the grand-children. When staff turnover and/or recruitment is high, it’s worth remembering that what’s old and familiar and established to you might be new and exciting and innovative to the “children” of your team: the “newbies”.
Change w/out an end goal is disruptive. This includes leadership that doesn’t explain the reason. Or desired outcome. Senior mngmnt positions must understand that people react differently to change & must be coached accordingly. People want to have a sense of control in their lives, so try to deliver change messages accordingly.
Adaptive companies was the central theme of Gary Hamel’s last book, The Future of Management. He did a great job looking back through the centuries, discovering among other things that the most adaptable organization he could find was the church–the more people tried to kill it, the more it went underground and came back as something different with similar values. Fascinating study. But how do make this daily and practical–Dan I love your suggestions! They help me make this a practical subject for me.
Leaders trying to get people to change also need to reward for it. Reward those trying and implementing new things. Not rewarding those who do what you talk up is feeding the hypocrisy.
You said, “Bottom-up is better than top-down.”
I have learned that this is not necessarily true. I love consensus and believe in buy-in, but I also know if I want to change the organizational culture, that change must start with me modeling it. Part of being a leader often times means beginning or “leading” the change.
One small change my organization made was to allow people to go to flexible work schedules as long as they were accountable. In practical terms that meant staff had to email everyone else a detailed schedule each week of what they would be doing, where and when.
I found as I started to do this I had a lot of internal resistance because it took a lot of the spontaneity out of my day. And yet, if I wanted everyone to do this, I certainly had to do so myself – top down, so the speak. I did, they did, and it has been working beautifully for years now.
Change is great. I think people’s dislike of change simply stems from a fear of the unknown. But you are absolutely right, if things were shaken up more often there would be nothing to fear and it would just be par for the course.
We are either:
1 – part of the change or
2 – the change is being pushed on us.
Acceptance is heightened for number 1 because there is a sense of control. Acceptance for number 2 is more difficult. It requires that there is a level of trust for the ‘change agent’. When this trust is not yet established, smaller, successful changes should be instituted to build trust and momentum.
Dan this one worries me. People need stability today’s fast paced work environment. We need a level of focus, predictability and confidence. Having said that, people refusing to change will get changed -that is the way of the world- especially today. Stand still and others will surely pass you by.
Having said this I recommend the creation of innovation forums where new ideas can openly be shared and where appropriate acted on. Change management is a complicated process and done poorly can cause severe damage to leader credibility, organizational focus and customer relationships.
I once worked in an organization where we had the “flavor of the month” and nothing got completed. Lots of great ideas killed off one by one by the next great idea -haste makes waste!
People love change, what they don’t like is the unknowns change creates. Solve for the unknowns and you can make the change. One of the most successful retail stories was built upon a clean store, everyday low prices and a simple return policy. After that the consumer accepted many of the changes that came along. What are the three essential components in your business that will open the doors to change?