Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

peter-cheese's picture

What’s so hard about managing change and becoming more agile?

By Peter Cheese on May 20, 2013

I don’t think any of us in the business world need to be persuaded of the importance of becoming more agile and adaptive. Fast-pace change, uncertainty, and volatility are the lexicon of our work lives.

I don’t think any of us in the business world need to be persuaded of the importance of becoming more agile and adaptive. Fast-pace change, uncertainty, and volatility are the lexicon of our work lives.

What most will acknowledge, though, is that change is hard. “We’re good at the smaller change, but we’re not good at the big strategic change,” or “we start change programs, but we never seem to finish them properly,” or even “we’ve got too many change initiatives but are still missing the point.” 

The evidence backs these perceptions. A 2008 study by IBM of more than 1,500 executives across 15 countries found that almost 60% failed on at least one major objective or failed entirely. More recent research by the University of Oxford reported that IT projects typically take longer than planned and cost more, with only 16% of projects hitting their targets.

As a driver of business change, M&A has also struggled to deliver value for shareholders. Most research since the 1980s suggests that as much as 70% of deals have destroyed rather than created value. A Cass Business School study, reported in CFO Magazine in June 2012, examined more than 3,000 UK acquisitions by UK companies between 1997 and 2010, and found that successful deals create more value than unsuccessful deals destroy, but still acknowledged that the failure rate was around 60%.

If managing successful change is at the heart of being adaptive, why are the failure rates apparently so high? And what are some of the barriers to creating truly flexible organizations -- organizations where change is not only welcomed but seen as energizing and engaging?

The typical culprits tend to fall in one of four categories:

  • Lack of vision and or changes in direction – blame leadership
  • Middle management permafrost – blame the rest
  • Lack of capability or understanding about change – blame the process
  • Lack of good measures or methods – blame the tools

Some of these may indeed be true, but there is something more fundamental that inhibits agility. Blaming these more tangible challenges has gotten us nowhere.

To truly embed innovation and agility, we have to be able to collaborate, work across boundaries within and between organizations, to bring together disparate experiences and perspectives, and to properly empower people to come up with ideas and make change happen. In other words, we have to build different corporate cultures and ways of working.

These elements are the “softer” side of agility. But they are also the most critical enablers of change and adaptation, and they are harder to understand and to put into effect, which is why they are so often underestimated or misunderstood.

Change Track Research in Australia has the biggest base of data I have seen on how change really works. They have tracked hundreds of change programs of all types over a wide range of companies for 10 years. This has provided great insights in to what really are the major influencers of change (summarized in the chart below).

The findings reinforce the point that it is the things like the lack of management commitment, passion and drive, feeling of involvement that are the greatest barriers to change. Much more so than the traditional focus of many change efforts on communication and training, or simply just trying to make people accountable and hope change happens that way.

So how do we create these kinds of environments and organizations that truly empower and engage, that build trust through consistent management commitment and demonstrate passion, as well as alignment to our more quantitative strategic goals?

First, we have to identify the real cultural norms of an enterprise. Are people really empowered or are they constrained by limited authority, degrees of freedom, and actually not trusted? Have we built processes of scheduling and managing work to try to manage complexity, but that are actually hugely disempowering?

Companies must build management commitment from the top, and that means building the trust from top down. Managers need to communicate the following message: “I trust you to do the right thing, to react to the situation, or develop the new idea, but I will also support you if mistakes happen.” All within reason, of course.

Managers must also reinforce these commitments and behaviors through the right processes and systems. These are, for the most part, done with the help of HR -- performance management, learning, leadership development, and so on.

Another approach is to start with experiments and projects—a form of “skunk works”—entities that are created outside the mainstream of the business where the rules are set aside in the interests of encouraging more radical thinking and innovation.

HR can play a major part in creating these kind of more systemically agile organizations. If, as some like to suggest, HR is the custodian of corporate culture, then HR should be helping to articulate and understand these “softer” enablers of change and agility, and bring them to life.

What do you think sets adaptable organizations apart from the rest? Please share your thoughts and help us hack HR by joining the "Building an Adaptability Advantage" hackathon, a joint production of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK and the MIX.

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marc-west's picture

Hi Peter, great to connect with you again, I think we were discussing these ideas of change back in the multi polarization days, in fact I think we even had this discussion lol. With regard to your comment there is no doubts here that change will happen the key is that this is a holistic and integrity change from conventionalism to post-conventionalism and this is like waiting for that seventh wave, its always the big one, and so it has a deep and broad causal implications.

peter-cheese's picture

I can see lots of concern and doubt about understanding and will of need for change. Whether it be the current system alignment to preserve existing thinking, reward systems, or market systems that continue to encourage short termism etc. Interesting analogies being drawn as well and I have always tried to make the comparison to Evolution where real change happens because of large external stimuli. I think the current state of economy/social trends/technology innovation/business change can be those large external stimuli that require real change in thinking and action - as Darwin said, it's not the fittest that survive, it's the most adaptable... We've got to believe that change can happen and we are all part of making that happen.

bruce-lewin's picture

Hi Peter,

Agreed - my own 2 pence here. All the functions within business have been transformed by new processes, technologies and methods over the last 30 or so years and in some cases, longer.

Here's a few examples:

Admin: the Personal Computer
Business Processes: ERP
Finance: Derivatives and Invoice Factoring
Internal Communications: Email
IT and Information Systems: The Web
Logistics: Containerisation
Manufacturing: Henry Ford's Production Line and more recently, Six Sigma
Marketing: CRM
Sales: Mobile Phones

There are more examples, but 2 things are missing from the list 1. HR and 2. General/Change Management.

The implications of this are 2 fold. Firstly, HR suffers from the lack of consensus around a mental model amongst practitioners that has successfully transformed the function (Ulrich had promise, but didn't deliver). This then goes a long way to explaining the fact that HR is often criticised for following the latest fad or fashion (coaching, engagement, emotional intelligence, metrics amongst others) rather than being seen and treated as a valued contributor to the business, as opposed to just 'admin'.

Secondly, looking at the examples above, history suggests that in order to create sustained and meaningful change within a function, a new process, method, tool or system is needed in order to catalyse this. Motorola's Six Sigma is one example of how this has been done and the history of the Balanced Scorecard isn't that much different either. Kodak also invented digital cameras but for some of the reason's you mention, they failed to capitalise on their own invention. Even CERN developed the internet in-house and chose to release it to the wider world!

A couple of recent examples, although they are IT centric, rather than HR unfortunately include the big data engine Hadoop being open-sourced from Yahoo and NASA and Rackspace collaborating to release OpenStack for cloud computing.

Perhaps HR needs a supportive set of HRD's and accompanying organisations to develop their own HR Hack Skunkworks for some of the more radical or innovative outcomes from the Hack?

aldo-montefiore's picture

Fiona, thanks for the more than interesting links you've sent. It seems we're all endeavouring to stimulate more generous approaches by organizational leaders. Are we currently starting to understand that "openness" forced and endured by Internet has just started moving the basements of command and control structures, and so enduring a new or permanent transition?

marc-west's picture

I believe we are like those early explorers, realizing the world is round versus flat.

It’s this mindset shift that is critical to creating change adaptability. The world is no longer a flatland and yet our mindset perceives human evolution and change to be flat.

What I believe is required is an overhaul of this perception, education that we are living in a multi developmental consciousness heading towards not only a singularity in technology but also in human consciousness and awareness.

It took human kind 45K years to build agrarian societies, within the next 10K years we moved from tribal to economic societies, it took till the classic Greeks to understand that our ability to transcend and move beyond the physical world required a shift in a mindset this was a fundamental shift from a pre conventional to conventional this was again reflected in the renaissance period.

With a shift from Feudalism to Democracy, the birth of the industrial revolution, nuclear age, computer age we have been constantly been evolving and adapting our environment and awareness.
However now like no other time we are now shifting the meaning we create of the world, we are transcending the literal thought to the meaning and context of thought.

Over the last 150 Years we have adapted more than in all of the previous 65K years, it said that in the first 14 years of the 21C we developed more advanced ideas and technology than in the previous 100 years, which is reducing exponentially closer towards the human singularity.

What does this human singularity mean and how are we prepared to meet it?

With each paradigm shift from one meme to another we are evolving not only in how we create meaning, how we cope and adapt by using new technology, new ideas, new ways of doing business, we are on the brink of a new era, a shift from the conventional to the post conventional. A shift created through bifurcation from previous memes to a new ways of being, doing, and the awareness we have to what it means to be human, in an ever complex and changing world that we create.

We are the feedback loop of our own thoughts and creations, we say it is complex, or chaotic because simply we haven’t caught up with our initial concepts and ideas that created the perceived complexity.

This integrated view and shift is from the flatland mind to a multi-dimensional mind, body, world and to experience it as it unfolds is truly remarkable and an exciting period in human development.

Never in the whole history of mankind have we seen 3-5 meme developmental levels within one epoch.

The new world is a world where we truly understand, that we are the creators of our epistemologies, whether, psychologically, scientifically, philosophically, sociologically, we truly do make our reality based upon our thoughts, conversations, instruments, and behavior.

aldo-montefiore's picture

Very true Marc !! What shall we do in our everyday tasks and decisions? Is this enlarged and overwhelming responsibility manageable? It seemos we're quicly going from one end to the other, from 100% "you can do it" to 0% "what can I do about it".
VALUES & BELIEFS, INTENTIONS, EXPECTATIONS, PROMISES and ACTIONS and the unaccountable environment is a tough mix to be understood. As maps don't reflect reality, it seems we can keep moving with serious experimentation spirit, and so keeb installing and building healthier values somehow.

marc-west's picture

Thank you Aldo, I agree. 2mins before Roger Bannister ran the 4 minute mile they said it wasn't possible, with in days 100's sports persons around the world had also beat the 4 mins.

So I believe today's paradigm for what is responsibility, appears to make it unmanageable because we are not conscious and in integrity with what is required to be responsible, once we have transcended our current limited beliefs and mindset, and what it means, it will be a paradigm shift.

Copernicus shifted the paradigm that the world isnt flat through his concept of heliocentricity, it wasn't a technology change it was our mindset shift, once this happened, it gave birth to whole new way that we understand and look at things, for example, it gave birth to Galileo mechanics, Kepler motion, Newtonian physics, Einsteins relativity, all of this has lead to huge advances in technology and mindset shift, and technology and mindset shift etc etc.

This shift is spreading not because their are laws that govern it like motion, it is speeding up because our awareness and behavior are adapting faster.

fiona-savage's picture

Hi Johnny I would totally agree, W L Gore has been working in a different way and highly successful for 40 years. Ricardo Semler of Semco he has been breaking traditional business rules for 25 years.

The Harvest Business Review said in 1999 “Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil's Semco S.A., one of the world's most respected champions of organizational change.”

Ricardo Semler has literally turned our current understanding of management on its head. He has taken the philosophies of Deming ("management is the problem") and Drucker ("dedicated employees are the key to success of any corporation") seriously and implemented them in a way that no one dreamed possible.

Fun quote:
"Semco has no official structure. It has no organizational chart. There's no business plan or company strategy, no two-year or five-year plan, no goal or mission statement, no long-term budget. The company often does not have a fixed CEO. There are no vice presidents or chief officers for information technology or operations. There are no standards or practices. There's no human resources department. There are no career plans, no job descriptions or employee contracts. No one approves reports or expense accounts. Supervision or monitoring of workers is rare indeed... Most important, success is not measured only in profit and growth." - Ricardo Semler.

I am a member of a group called the Unreasonable Learners, a group who share and learning about systems thinkers. We support the thinking of Edward Deming, John Seddon, Peter Senge and many many others. We have been petitioning the Scottish Parliament to reduce Failure Demand which would save £100 of millions of pounds, however although MSP see the sense in reducing failure demand, the civil servants are the stumbling block and MSP cant tell them what to do!!

The Unreasonable Learners www.unreasonable-learners.com/
Lifting the human spirit by exploring new ways of working together within organisations

So why when there is so many great example of companies working effectively and with, happy engaged employs are other companies not taking on these success methods?

I suggest there are several reasons the first summed-up in the quote I have all read given

1. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair,

2. The Shareholder Myth - Prof Lynn Stout great video Corporate Governance - What do shareholders really value?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Eoy988728

3. Success is measured only in monetary terms!

4. , Who owns us? when you follow the money of all corporation you can trace the money back to a few banking family’s who own nearly all the big corporation, and banks including the shares in the Federal Reserve Bank .

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild.

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” – Thomas Jefferson

marc-west's picture

Totally agree Fiona please see my article on the need for co capitalism.

johnny-h-ryser's picture

Hi Fiona - and all the others - I just read an interesting article by Mark van Vugt, who states that it is not surprising that companies like W.L. Gore and Whole Foods have success, with core values in the system as proximity and equality. However he don´t think its is something revolutionary - it is more or less core values that villages in the stone age build upon. But it is also credit - because these are values having extremely high importance to humans.

miguel-sacramento_1's picture

Since the beginning of Humanity the main driver to man’s adaptability were the adaptative pressures (hunger, thirst, hot and cold weather, wind, rain, storm, animals, growing population ...) coming from unavoidable environmental changes threatening human survival.
Basically to protect himself from environment threats man had to learn how to collect vegetables and hunt animals, sew and wear clothes, find or build shelters, developed agriculture, the wheel, roads, industries and so on. History shows that mankind is essentially lazy. No threat, no change!
The threat humanity is currently facing is not understood by most people. People are living an abundance period after a scarcity one. Most people will react only after losing their jobs and finding no place to go.
Introducing scenario building as a permanent, relevant and collective activity and spreading its results allover the company may increase adaptability since the fear of what the future is bringing would wake up the remaining sleepy and lazy collaborators.

paul-cesare_1's picture

When we talk about "change and adaptability, we're talking about a level of human capability and systemic capability that is rarely taught, nourished and embraced. Most top-down orgs are about "control." Most MBA managers were taught their primary function is to "control" and to maintain and as Gary Hamel says to "perpetuate" the status quo, as opposed to generate "innovation." Points are not awarded to those who are adaptable or innovative. Most managers in organizations are threatened by innovative, maverick direct reports.
I believe when we begin a discussion on change we need to first ask the question...Who has the most to loose from the anticipated change outcome? Since we are in a top-down system, "change" has everything to do with top management's beliefs on power, comfort zones, careers, risk-taking outcomes (What hills are managers willing to die on?), political persuasions, and other managerial diminishing characteristics that I am unable to supply at this moment.
If I may use an agrarian metaphor, "change" has more to do with a farmer's (manager's) cultivation capabilities than it does with a seed's (direct report's) growth capabilities. Even though both loose in the end, I would argue that the farmer has more to loose than the seed. In this analogy, the farmer has to be willing to change its cultivation techniques in order for the seed to grow to its potential.

fiona-savage's picture

Hi Paul, A great quote which is in line with what you are saying is:

With regard to banks and many other organisations I think this is a great quote as to why change is so challenging.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

― Upton Sinclair

aaron-anderson's picture

Part of the problem is that people who are "leading" change, are not cognizant (be s/he blissfully unaware or simply ignoring that one's actions has an effect on what others do next) of the basic double interact (Wieck) and how their actions effect the behavior of those whose behavior they are trying to change. Perhaps some of my research may aid in this effort: http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=16531

When you exhibit "leadership" behaviors that are in turn interpreted by the employee as negative, you are liable to have a "negative bounce" as a result, even if the resistance behaviors this person exhibits could be construed as positive (and may well save your efforts altogether). Your job is to pay attention to positive resistance, augment your plans accordingly, and mitigate negative resistance, There are a handful of strategies that work over time that when deployed appropriately to accomplish this, but much too long for a post in the comment to a blog entry.

johnny-h-ryser's picture

hi Fiona - I would like to extent Your arguments with some facts:
A study showed that when You triple a companies number of employees the productivity drops to 50% - but if we take cities as living organisms as another example they are extremely effective, when You double the working population in a city, productivity goes up by 20%!
Source: http://designmind.frogdesign.com/articles/the-connected-company.html

fiona-savage's picture

Interesting articular Johnny, I think I have seen this study before, so thanks for posting it here. I would agree that we need to manage business as CAS; nature is the best CAS around as a model.

My caution would be the studies by the Federal Reserve Bank, what is the assumption made if productivity (the rate of invention) goes up by 20 %?
Is the assumption that this results in financial growth? Or is it some other outcome?

My concern is as their Federal Reserve Bank is not an impartial source, it is private bank owed by a few who control the artificial growth of the economy in many ways including printing valueless money! A study that shows a 20% rate of growth is good business for banks, however, growth is not sustainable, and the policy of doubling in size has already see banks are too big to fail! This is a lesson we need to learn from, we do not wish cities to become too big to fail. Many cities are all read failing those who live there, with the increase of poverty and violence etc. Strangely, I was at a meeting last night “Just Banking” I can’t say I understood all that was said, but I did grasp some of the fundamentals and intend to go to more of these meeting as they focus is on learning and demystifying banks.

If I understood correctly we are in a bubble created by factual banking that cannot be sustains and the Federal Reserve Bank has been fundamental in creating this bubble!

Have you read Limits to Growth is a study about the future of our planet? A computing model took into account the relations between various global developments and produced computer simulations for alternative scenarios. Part of the modelling was different amounts of possibly available resources, different levels of agricultural productivity, birth control or environmental protection. Can growth really be endless?
I totally agree that companies need to be views as CAS but I would question the studies, having spent 25 years in pharmaceuticals industry I can be sceptical about such studies!

With regard to banks and many other organisations I think this is a great quote as to why change is so challenging.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
― Upton Sinclair

fiona-savage's picture

Thank you Johnny for changing your Blog to English, I really think what you say is key.

If we look at nature and Bruce Lipton new cell biology, nature adapts to its surrounding as do the cells in our body. Companies are fixated on continual growth, we do not see continual growth in nature, we see specie adapting, not growing bigger and bigger. When specie adapt, the do not all adapt in the same way as this would reduce resilience and increase their vulnerability.

This obsession for continual growth and factual banking has led to an unsustainable situation, and as history shows this bubble burst. Business needs a full reality check all business could be sustainable if they so wished. Take Semco in Brazil as an example if you have not already. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USC1RE8jE50

May be should be considering moving to “The Biology of Business” When organisations are viewed as a complex systems, the management can be defined as human action, that design, the system to facilitate the creation of sustainable outcomes that are agile and adaptable. Management does not need define the solution and tasks people need to undertake. This view opens the opportunity to 'manage' oneself, and the system rather than managing others.

A business is simply a cell that needs to adapt to its surrounding, at the moment business has a deadly disease similar to cancer that will not stop growth and eventually kill its host the patient. This belief in continual growth is driven by nothing more that outdated unrealistic beliefs and greed and not being in touch with nature and how the world works... Its time as Bruce and others say to focus on the purpose of survival as nature does.
Factual banking is like the pharmaceutical industry masking the symptoms of the disease and not managing the rout cause. Factual banking provides products and services similar to chemo therapy and some other drugs which more often than not kill the patient before the cancer does.

robin-stafford's picture

To offer a challenging thought, maybe its our assumptions about culture, leadership and vision that are fundamentally flawed. Historically, it may have been a reasonable assumption that organisations (both private and public) had relatively homogeneous cultures, were driven by shared visions and that people 'at the top' of those organisations played a key role in establishing and nurturing a shared vision and communicating it as part of their leadership role

We are now in a world where organisations are seen in much more instrumentalist terms, driven wholly by the aim of rewarding a small sub-set of stakeholders, namely a section of the financial community and the directors and a small set of senior managers of the organisation. Lip-service is paid to the wider group of stakeholders that we used to refer to, namely customers, employees and the wider community or society in which the organisation exists. Do I really need to provide evidence?!!

In that instrumentalist model, people within and external to the organisation are merely components in that (usually short-term) instrumentalist purpose. And concepts such as culture, vision and leadership are either irrelevant or at least radically changed.

Just a thought .... but if there is some truth in it, then our approaches to change need to be very different. Or perhaps we need to re-establish a rather different set of cultures and visions, and a different model of leadership. Starting with the financial sector whose influence on the behaviour of the wider corporate (and public sector) has been so insidious

robin-stafford's picture

To offer a challenging thought, maybe its our assumptions about culture, leadership and vision that are fundamentally flawed. Historically, it may have been a reasonable assumption that organisations (both private and public) had relatively homogeneous cultures, were driven by shared visions and that people 'at the top' of those organisations played a key role in establishing and nurturing a shared vision and communicating it as part of their leadership role

We are now in a world where organisations are seen in much more instrumentalist terms, driven wholly by the aim of rewarding a small sub-set of stakeholders, namely a section of the financial community and the directors and a small set of senior managers of the organisation. Lip-service is paid to the wider group of stakeholders that we used to refer to, namely customers, employees and the wider community or society in which the organisation exists. Do I really need to provide evidence?!!

In that instrumentalist model, people within and external to the organisation are merely components in that (usually short-term) instrumentalist purpose. And concepts such as culture, vision and leadership are either irrelevant or at least radically changed.

Just a thought .... but if there is some truth in it, then our approaches to change need to be very different. Or perhaps we need to re-establish a rather different set of cultures and visions, and a different model of leadership. Starting with the financial sector whose influence on the behaviour of the wider corporate (and public sector) has been so insidious

bruce-lewin's picture

Hi Robin,

Yes, I agree, we've moved to a more short term, instrumentalist model - this was the core feature of my own barrier to adaptability post Addiction to Core Revenue Streams, Short Term Profits and Short Term Thinking.

Just a thought .... but if there is some truth in it, then our approaches to change need to be very different. Or perhaps we need to re-establish a rather different set of cultures and visions, and a different model of leadership.

Agreed - I think different approaches and models are the key here - as also echoed in these three comments on the site.

Have you any thoughts/ideas about how our approaches to change might differ, or what a different model of leadership/culture/values might look like?

robin-stafford's picture

I've been following this debate with great interest as there is much that I agree with and can relate to from my experience. The references (Deming et al) and the exemplars (Semco etc) are all familiar ones that I've followed. However, we find ourselves faced with real organisations and people running those organisations who have very different views, experiences and values. Led by people who are unlikely to read this blog and would indeed be put off by it! Unless we are to all sit on the sidelines, we either have to adapt to their world or, in the spirit of Bernard Shaw's unreasonable people (thank you Fiona - its long been my favourite quote and possibly my motto), find ways to change their views and perspectives - or just work with those few (and mostly smaller) organisations who are open to different models.

I tend to the view that there is no one right model and that each organisation has to work it out for itself - core to the change process. In practice that can mean finding a part of the larger organisation who can be a pilot for the approach and become a role model for the rest of the organisation - which also needs a strong local leader who is prepared to potentially protect the group from the wider organisation. Like any substantive project, 'piloting' makes sense anyway to learn what works and adapt and change. Working with people to help them become aware of both the options and alternatives that exist, and to surface why the status quo is not acceptable - in both business and social terms. And when they succeed, you have the platform to extend to the wider organisation

But thats just one approach - no doubt there are others. Its risky and there is no magic formula. The route and destination will undoubtedly change during the process. So leaders who like predictability and sticking to the known will never take on the challenge. The consolation is that in a changing world they and their businesses will die out!

bruce-lewin's picture

Hi Robin,

Or just work with those few (and mostly smaller) organisations who are open to different models... In practice that can mean finding a part of the larger organisation who can be a pilot for the approach and become a role model for the rest of the organisation - which also needs a strong local leader who is prepared to potentially protect the group from the wider organisation. And when they succeed, you have the platform to extend to the wider organisation..

Absolutely - something Perry Timms and I have discussed recently...

So leaders who like predictability and sticking to the known will never take on the challenge. The consolation is that in a changing world they and their businesses will die out!.

Agreed - although how long this will take is another question all together!

bruce-lewin's picture

Would it be fair to say that values/culture and relationships all serve as a good proxy or common denominator when thinking about the causes of change failure above, namely commitment, passion and drive, involvement, vision and direction, leadership and communication?

johnny-h-ryser's picture

I just changed the language on my blogger account, so it should be working now - thanks for Your tip it was very helpful Bruce :-)

johnny-h-ryser's picture

I wrote this (short) follow up blogpost on my Human Biology inspired organization: http://foquz.blogspot.com/2013/05/human-biology-inspired-project.html

bruce-lewin's picture

Nice post Johnny - I wanted to comment on your blog, but my Danish isn't great and all the button labels were in Danish (commenting on blogger sites is always a little tricky for me at least)

nazeer-sultan's picture

Yes folks...the job is far more complex than we are imagining.Need to focus on both inside and outside factors...the spirit and the eco-system.No meaningful change can stand any chance of success if we do not focus on the pyschological,spiritual, cognitive, culture and stories as well as issues as org design,policies,workfow and procedures.And yes a different kind of leadership possessed of a different 'state of mind' is a key driver.In short just 'be human'
N-j0y
nAz

robin-stafford's picture

After being both the subject and organiser of change over many years, I've often noted how rarely HR functions play any useful role in change programmes other than as 'disposers of the bodies'. This was not true when I first came into work 30 years ago but they have come to reflect a prevailing management culture in which people are merely commodities to be traded in and out of the organisation as needed, be it through outsources or just hire and fire.
There are great exceptions that serve to prove the rule.

Meanwhile projects and change programmes fail much as they have done for many years and the same old diagnoses and possible solutions are trotted out. Review the literature - its depressingly unchanged! Much the same ideas being re-cycled. The Mix needs to look deeper for the both the causes and some answers. My hunch would be that Fiona is on a good track - organisations are much more complex and systemic than we want to believe. Unsurprisingly as they are made up of those complex and systemic components called human beings! Which perhaps explains the efforts to simplify them (Taylor) or get rid of them altogether (outsource)....

bruce-lewin's picture

Morning Robin,

Review the literature - its depressingly unchanged! Much the same ideas being re-cycled. The Mix needs to look deeper for the both the causes and some answers.

I completely agree - it'll be interesting to see how 'deep' the Mix gets!

fiona-savage's picture

I full concur Johnny, I trained as a nurse and nature can teach us much. Management is a manmade structure, We live in a complex adaptive system nature understand the theory of variation and systems thing. Its time as the Mix tag line says to rethink management. Nature never manages by objectives, targets and the rest and has survives far longer than any management theory!

johnny-h-ryser's picture

I think we could get inspired just by looking at our own body, our own brain. It is extremely sensitive towards change. E.g. If You go for a run one day, Your body will start up immediately strengthening the muscles, the bones, the nerves etc, and If You stop doing a specific task, Your body will stop maintaining the functions belonging to this, preserving energy. So basically we are extremely adaptive, maybe we should try to build organizations inspired by our own biology?

jo-anne-watermeyer's picture

Johnny - spot on. I think this is a really interesting point you have made.

vasudevan-alasingachar's picture

Another approach is to start with experiments and projects—a form of “skunk works”—entities that are created outside the mainstream of the business where the rules are set aside in the interests of encouraging more radical thinking and innovation.
I have tried this in my consulting for leading change and the magic is like a nursery in the midst of a huge field of crop, the new learning gives confidence to replicate and scale up change with total willingness and ownership.

helen-snape's picture

Aldo, so true re: seeing the Other as an Opportunity. Indeed, I have seen a company's management recruit its worst critics, an active demonstration of embracing diversity and welcoming challenge and change.

aldo-montefiore's picture

Adding to the command and control idea and, change being more of a generative process without complete control, trust in the other and holding firm to generous and including goals reinforces generation.
Adaptability has to do with relationships within the organization. Therefore and, thinking in terms of SWOT analysis, the rule is seeing the OTHER as an OPPORTUNITY and each person is reinforced in hers/his STRENGTHS, adaptability flows.
On the other extreme, the other as a threat and everybody is more concerned in covering or sheltering their weaknesses, rigidity is the natural outcome. In this case, to move someone out of the comfort zone, the stick and/or carrot appears to be the only options

fiona-savage's picture

To enable agility and emergence we must all become comfortable being in the chordic space. The world out with the organisation system has peak and a new system is being born. Change is moving at exponential pace in the world, leaving the command and control and traditional liner thinkers behind. Maybe it’s time to have courage and step into the chordic space and allow the emergence, and value fuzzy logic, which is after all the way the human brain functions. http://vimeo.com/17907928?goback=%2Eanp_1328087_1369419372609_1%2Egna_13...

malcolm-oneal's picture

Fiona, I very much concur with your insights. The chaos and stress are the new normal, or perhaps they all were there but the speed has changed. Adpaptabiliy occurs from the stress, it (the stress, change, etc) is the stimulus for growth. And more importantly to your point, repeated energy investments stimulate neurological change and growth. The growth is the key to adapability.

All training is essentially the intentional laying down of energy deposits consistent with the desired outcome. Energy investment can be made by doing, writing, modeling, talking, visualizing, reading, or thinking. Organizations that master energy investment, master adaptability.

miguel-sacramento_1's picture

When environment is changing at exponential speeds, time spent on controlling activities may be stealling time that should be invested in adaptability.

aldo-montefiore's picture

To generate and to control are in opposition and contradict each other. When your energy is generating change things get out of control. You`ve started moving the system to a new shape or level and "cooking and spicing it adequately" is the challenge, focusing on having the right feedback from the main players with timely alarms to foster quick trial and error. This when making big chances.

For smaller changes is more, negotiating and getting the "let's try it" attitude maybe enough considering risks are smaller, and maybe a good training for rigid mindsets

miguel-sacramento_1's picture

Building an Adaptability Advantage must be based on Knowledge, Hability, Attitude, Values and Enthusiasm.

miguel-sacramento_1's picture

Only wet babies like change!

andy-gilbert's picture

People like change when they are in control - ask any D. I. Y. expert