Friday, October 29, 2010

"Winning During the Slog. Part 3 - 'Adapt' is New Thinking"

(from Issues for Growth Vol. 19, No. 15)

This is the third of a series of articles about how companies and individuals are winning during the “The Long, Slow, Hard Economic Slog” that we are in (Issues for Growth Vol. 19, No.13). This article is written by Chris Carosella who works with The Mead Consulting Group. –DPM

" Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative" - H.G. Wells

“Learning how to adapt is the #1 reason I had a successful career,” was the response from a CEO to a question about achievement. The CEO’s early career included eleven years with a Fortune 100 company where she had a rapid ascent from a sales account executive to a senior vice president. Every promotion brought relocation to a new city, huge challenges in functional areas where she had little or no experience, more skeptical people to manage who didn’t want to change the way they were doing their work, and the opportunity to prove that success was about a focus on achieving results.

What do you mean by “adapt?”

The follow up question of “what do you mean by adapt?” led to a detailed explanation. “I was recruited to a company that had just been acquired by a global powerhouse with a demand of each business being a top market share company with 20% growth every year. That meant the company needed to change just about everything they had been doing including how they gain the right customers, how fast they could go from #7 in market share to #1 or #2, how processes could be improved, how employees were compensated, and how talent was recruited and retained. Since they had been through change leadership programs countless times, the last thing they needed was another one. No one wants to change because it implies they are currently wrong in some way.”

“How is ‘adapt’ different from ‘change?”

“Employees responded to adapting because it was continuous as opposed to annual change programs led by ‘special’ change leaders. You can debate the semantics but the actions are different. Everyone was taught how to adapt to possible scenarios and to make decisions, improve processes, and collaborate across functional lines to achieve results that kept the company ahead of the competition while serving their customers. An adaptive environment means all employees are accountable in a culture of achievement.”

Adapting encourages a sense of freedom.

“Adapting, continued the CEO, “is that it encourages a sense of freedom as opposed to change constraints. When it’s continuous and part of the culture, adapting means employees innovate more, make faster decisions, and focus on key metrics tied to company success.”

We need to change the way we think about our own businesses.

Changing the way we think about business is the lesson to be learned from this CEO. The CEO understood that the business would only achieve desired results if people embrace the freedom of adapting versus the fear of changing. Using her own experience of always facing new people, new duties and new challenges, the CEO was able to identify critical success factors:

· Start assessing the situation immediately. Don’t just wait to see what happens.

· Ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to learn.

· Trust your instincts. Support them through unsolicited feedback.

· Don’t talk about the need to change everything. If you do, be prepared for fear to set in.

· Do talk about how companies evolve, innovate, and adapt.

· Solicit feedback for new ideas.

· Be clear about what you want.

· Define “adapting” for your company. Communicate and teach.

· Build a culture of “do it now” with an appropriate sense of urgency in getting things done.

· Create an attitude of achievement throughout the company.

· Don’t manage. Lead.

· Execute. Measure. Reward. Repeat.

The nature of work today can be desperate.

The nature of work today can be desperate – on the negative side there are layoffs, recession, companies closing, banks failing; on the positive side opportunities are available for a much shorter time. There’s no time to wait! We must learn how to adapt to this new economy. That means changing the way you think about your own company. The old way is to wait for something negative to happen and then decide to implement a change program. The new way is to create an adaptive culture so that all employees are continuously adapting their strategies and tactics to every possible challenge.

Your success depends on results!

Your success depends on achieving the desired results for your company. Companies are recognizing that, in order to succeed during “the slog,” the current and future economic environment calls for a dramatic difference. RapidAdaptÔ is the recommendation for your success. Adapt means to Accelerate Decisions Attitudes and Processes in Time so that you can stay ahead of competitive, client, and company challenges. The purpose of RapidAdaptÔ is to help you develop the ability to constantly adapt strategies and tactics in order to create a sustainable company. It’s not just a strategy process because it teaches employees how to create an adapting culture with a sense of urgency instead of complacency. That, in turn, creates a continuous learning culture with accountability at all levels of the company.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.”

Some companies are experiencing significant “new thinking” results. What are you doing to change how you think about your business and create a culture of adaptability? Post or email us your comments

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