Adaptive Culture and change agility – Part 1

Adaptive organizational change is an exciting opportunity and is best accomplished in six interconnected stages. But before truly undertaking change, it’s a good idea to understand and to be able to evaluate “change readiness” and “change agility” within the organization.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

— Peter Drucker



What is the difference between change readiness and change agility?
Organizations that recognize the need to transform their systems, structures, and business operations in order to enable change will take an honest diagnostic perspective in order to evaluate what is working and what must go. This is called “change readiness”. When we look at change readiness, we are diagnosing how ready the organization is and how ready the people are to drive the change. It also involves a holistic evaluation of the capacity of the people and the organization to navigate a change project or deliver change objectives.

“Change agility” refers to the resiliency of the systems in place that will predispose an organization to successfully identify and seize opportunities in the environment. Change agility is a capacity present within the DNA of the organization that brings competitive advantage; from this perspective, change is proactive (planned) and not reactive (unplanned). Change agility involves a deep, sustainable organization-wide change capacity. “Change agility” requires a growth mindset and a learning culture with an external focus that keeps the customer front and center. In agile organizations, the people and systems continuously address the ongoing and emerging needs of customers. They also drive innovation and respond proactively (at least) to mega-trends and developments taking place in the external market. In today’s digital environment this transformation involves integrating digital technology, embedding a culture of collaboration, ensuring and supporting agile working practices. Autonomous teams must be enabled and encouraged to build trust across flat hierarchies, as well as to take ownership for their results.

“Leadership is about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.”

— John P. Kotter

How to make change readiness and change agility work for you

Once an organization has evaluated their change readiness and embraced the cultural evolution necessary to facilitate change agility, it will be prepared to embark on the six stages of an adaptive culture framework.

Stage one: Create awareness

Stage one involves creating awareness of the need for continuous adaptation in response to customer needs and potential or emerging developments in the external market. This awareness to continuously adapt should be embedded across the entire organization as well as into the ecosystem in which the organization operates, including vendors and partners of the organization.

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future”

— Walt Disney

Stage two: Determine your future-fit culture

Stage two is an exciting opportunity for you to determine the path of the organization. Leaders need to identify which culture will best enable the organization to realize its purpose and strategy, as well as to choose how it will adapt to challenges and seize opportunities in the marketplace. Stage two will embrace working principles of innovation, appropriate digital technology, data analytics and metrics, agile working principles, and the end-to-end customer value streams, to name a few.

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the change game. It is the game.”

Stage three: Explore your existing culture

During stage three, you get to explore the existing culture and strive to understand the mindset, beliefs, values, and change readiness. It’s a chance to understand where the organization is now by understanding what strengths and development opportunities are in place to meet the organization’s purpose and strategic objectives.

Stage four: Map the pathway to change

In the journey to an adaptive culture, you must map out the change. This is stage four. Change facilitation today is no longer a static project with a beginning and an end. The change pathway must be an adaptive framework that will be navigated in iterative deliverables based on feedback and adaptive responses to emerging needs.

“We can’t change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails to reach our destination.”

— Jimmy Dean

Stage five: Develop new capabilities

Stage five is where leaders and teams focus on developing new capabilities and capacities within the organization. New mindsets, new beliefs, and new working practices are established and expanded based on the internal capacity of the organization, which is directly related to the current capability and capacity of the people and their values and beliefs. The external capacity of the organization, which includes the organizational systems and structures need to be reorganized to enable change and evolution.

Stage six: Embed the new mindsets and working practices

In stage six, it’s time to embed the mindsets, behaviors, and working practices in the adaptive organizational culture. Stage six happens when the organizational culture allows ongoing learning, reflection, reappraisal, and adaptation to the external forces and emerging customer needs.

“Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.”

— Jack Ma