First things first. Adaptability is a top down necessity. If companies follow these 5 building blocks to adaptability, they will see major progress throughout the company, top to bottom. Each block is important as a stand-alone but is a must to effectively adapt.
Adaptability: the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions.
Adaptability in the workplace: the quality of being able to adjust to the ever-changing work environment.
Adaptive focuses can vary from the product and service provided, to the policies and procedures in place, and even into organizational structure and culture. The trick for leadership is possessing the ability to implement an adaptive culture in every facet of the organization.
What are the building blocks to ensure adaptability within the organization?
- Open Mindedness
- Imagine the future
- Remove “this is the way we do things” from your vocabulary
- Accept Risk vs. Reward
- Hire the right people
Everyone knows of the stereotypical “bad manager” who doesn’t listen to suggestions and has a “my way or the highway” mindset. These people affect the entire company. As one domino falls, it then puts pressure on the next domino to fall and the cycle begins.
How can we eliminate this thinking in the organization?
As it is either an entirely new process or it is a change in the process, consistency is the key. This change can’t occur in one week. Asking opinions and taking into consideration these opinions is a major first step. But the most important step is consistently asking, but also asking why they think this will work. The more consistently we can do this, the better we get at listening. In an open-minded atmosphere, the employees feel empowered to express ideas on their own, without being asked. There are employees in every industry and in every organization that (at the very least) have an idea for a better process than the current one in place. When these employees aren’t empowered, the entire company loses as these ideas are never expressed.
Imagine the Future
We all know successful and unsuccessful predictions from flying cars by 2015 and maybe the less known Edward Bellamy. The science fiction author who predicted debit and credit cards back in 1888. What these two have in common is the ability to not see or predict the future but imagine the future.
“Look outside the box of what is currently possible and theorizing what could be.”
Imagine where Apple would be if it wasn’t for the creative genius of Steve Jobs. Too many organizations focus on the right now. Who would have ever thought big box stores like Best Buy would be losing market share like crazy to stores thousands of miles away from people’s homes? Or Amazon going from selling books and being Barnes & Noble’s biggest competition to taking over majority market share in several industries in such a short time?
Remove “this is the way we do things” from your vocabulary
This one line has ruined many companies throughout the history of time. Imagine how many employees become discouraged when they come up with a game changing idea only to be met with “no, this is not how we do things” from their supervisor.
What if this happened to Steve Jobs and his team. No iPod, iPhone, iPad etc. (for a while at least). It is safe to say Apple would not have the same market share it possesses today. Same with Amazon, what if their team was met with that response when they came up with the idea of expanding outside of books and into other retail markets. There is nothing wrong with looking at what makes other companies successful. Same industry or not, similarities exist.
Accept Risk vs. Reward
Any decision comes with a built-in consequence. This consequence could be beneficial or detrimental to the organization and should be looked at with a risk vs. reward mindset.
There is a reason when the lower a credit score is, the higher the auto loan interest rate will be. This person is less of a “sure thing” than the person with great credit, creating a riskier loan for the bank. But the bank is rewarded when the person pays off the car as they were paid in full plus the higher interest rate throughout the life of the loan.
Business decisions need to have a similar thought process. Typically speaking, the “sure thing” isn’t going to make a major impact in the market but could still be a great implementation. If it fails, the company’s loss is on the low end. The more “outside of the box” ideas carry a greater risk. If it is a new product in an unknown or new market, it carries a greater risk. We don’t know how the product will perform as it hasn’t been done before. These companies must be willing to lose everything but be prepared to give it their all to ensure they don’t. If they come out on top, they can be heavily rewarded as Amazon has been.
Hire the right people
This seems to be the easiest of the building blocks, but it isn’t. In a perfect world, every person hired would already follow these building blocks. The perfect world doesn’t exist. Hire the best person you can for your budget. If you can hire a great person for a little more money than a good person, and keep it in your budget, do it! Hiring is the last place you want to look to cut corners.
Most importantly might be understanding when you need to hire someone else. If your company is expanding and expansion isn’t your strong suite, hire a consultant to focus on this expansion. If your company is struggling with culture or job performance, hire a culture and training executive.
The best employees can handle multiple roles without the blink of an eye as they are adaptable. But don’t stretch them too thin. Hire out a specialist on a contract. In the short term, it is a little extra money. But in the long term, you will be happy you did.