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The Adaptable Organization
Harnessing a networked enterprise of human resilience
The Adaptable Organization is a fundamental shift in operating
and management philosophy
that enables large-scale global organizations to operate with a
start-up mindset and drive modern people practices that enable
enterprise agility through empowered networks of teams
A journey through the adaptable organization
Historically, in stable times, organizations derived
advantage through progressive attempts to be more
efficient and better at doing what ‘they had been doing’
a long time. In unpredictable times, organizational
requires the understanding that organizations exist within
broader external ecosystem, united by a specific,
purpose that is constantly evolving to remain relevant.
we have learned from clients who are embracing an ecosystem
Organizations that view themselves within an
compete better in today’s business
When they leverage external communities,
and alliances, they have greater visibility
the needs and behaviours of their customers.
Organizations are able to quickly detect shifts
the external environment, and flex
In spite of constant iteration and adaption,
purpose is the glue that anchors an
It defines success for the organization through
the eyes of customers, stakeholders, and
society. In turn, employees, motivated
by meaningful work, are driven towards the
desired by the organization.
A bold organizational purpose cascades
organization using customer-focused
Teams work effectively towards their
missions without impeding on each other, but
united by an enduring organizational purpose.
Operating environments will only continue to become
complex. We help clients interpret their strategies
position in the ecosystem into customer-focused
that energize the culture and organization. This is
departure from only using industry benchmarks or
organizational models - it’s about intimate
to the changing needs of customers and
When change is predictable, stable organizational
support order, clear decision-making, and functional silos
ensure maximum efficiency. However, in an era of
change, traditional organization models cannot keep up.
we are starting to see when it comes to structure and
of Adaptable Organizations:
Organizations must align both formal and
structures to customer-focused missions.
Traditional approaches often force the
organization to work purely functionally or in
a matrix environment without understanding
the impact to human networks. Instead,
must uncover how teams naturally interact with
other and with the customer, and then build the
teams, communities, reporting relationships,
communication channels that support these human
Adaptable Organizations simultaneously
adaptability and scaled efficiency.
They recognize that both are necessary, and
achieve an effective balance through the use of
functional and cross-functional,
centralized and decentralized teams.
To enable an Adaptable Organization,
models are necessary. Governance
adaptable work when bureaucracy is limited,
are transparent, and individuals are empowered.
A test-and-learn approach to implementation
The roadmap to becoming an Adaptable
Organization is a series of small, incremental
changes, rather than a big bang. Organizations
must decide how much autonomy, flexibility, and
is required for their particular strategy.
Static organization charts are becoming an artifact
past. We use advanced analytics to visualize the
(hierarchy) and informal organizations
to uncover how people actually work. New designs
emerging that embrace natural connections and
multi-disciplinary teams to deliver value more
Traditional approaches often force the organization
work purely functionally or in a matrix environment
understanding the impact to human networks.
Conventional wisdom believes that high-performing
organizational performance. Adaptable Organizations place
emphasis on the team and unlock individual performance
team composition and new ways of working. What effective
development looks like in an Adaptable Organization:
The understanding that individual
intrinsically linked to team composition.
Only when the diverse perspectives, unique
skillsets, and broad experiences of individuals
are brought together do individuals
A clear focus that unites the team to the
Each team has its own mission or focus
which it can direct its efforts and motivate
members; however, all of the teams within an
are ultimately aligned to its purpose.
Iterative and empowered execution by teams.
must adopt an agile, “fail fast” mentality
frequent touchpoints, iteration reviews, and
planning enable them to respond swiftly to
customer demands. This is made possible only
decision-making rights are transparent, and
are given flexibility and autonomy.
A safe place for collaboration and connected
of working. This is achieved through
communication, connecting on a human level, and
under the broader organization’s mission. True
can unlock latent productivity and inclusion,
order to realize greater agility.
We act as coaches for our clients and help them
to place greater emphasis on teams and unlock
performance through team diversity, environment,
new ways of working using agile approaches. In
that agile methodology is not just for technology
product functions, we help teams accelerate on
and become more flexible. We believe that high
teams enabled to achieve organizational missions
more value than individuals focused on individual
As organizations pivot and adapt to shifting contexts, the
of leaders becomes essential. Leaders must be able to
empower, and connect people across the ecosystem and lead
team in any context. Leadership in the Adaptable
is a departure from the traditional, role-based view of
Leaders exist at all levels of the
Leaders are now multi-function and
multi-context, across all disciplines. More so
than traditional organizations, Adaptable
Organizations require a strong pipeline of
therefore, candidates must be identified and
skills developed at every level.
Leaders are inclusive orchestrators, not
They lead not because of position, tenure, or
expertise, but because of their vision and
ability to connect individuals across
the organization. In an Adaptable Organization,
paramount leadership capabilities that emerge
the ability to energize, empower, and connect.
capabilities points to raw leadership potential
of technical expertise.
Leaders must embrace vulnerability and
In order to enable a culture of failing
and taking risks, it is integral that leaders
a safe space where ideas can be shared and
of thought thrives. They do so through
and encouraging vulnerability, authenticity,
Complexity and ambiguity demand versatility.
Leaders in the Adaptable Organization must
constantly navigate change and uncertainty. In
order to lead effectively, they
must empower everyone in the organization,
those closest to the customer, to make
and take ownership. The versatile leader can
effectively in any context, inside or outside
their traditional areas of expertise.
Identifying, developing, and retaining strong
is integral to any organization’s success, and the
for leadership effectiveness is constantly being
We help our clients build effective leadership
and programs that meet their strategic needs and
ensure they can navigate into the long-term.
The traditional view of the employee assumes people
change and talent programs provide stability. In Adaptable
resiliency and accepting change becomes part of the
DNA and talent programs exist to enable that resilience.
an individual is woven into the ecosystem of an Adaptable
Individuals must understand that adaptable
something you do, it is something you
Organizations must coach their people to
mindsets of growth, imagination, diversity, and
Only when such a mindset is adopted at the
level, will teams and organizations be able to
on adaptable work.
The focus is on people, not on job titles.
role-based job descriptions, recruitment
and orientation programs are no longer
Instead, talent management recognizes that
are fluid and skillsets are diverse.
and onboarding programs center around the
culture, and customers of the organization.
Growth, learning, and performance management
place on an ongoing basis. In order to
a rapidly-evolving external environment,
and performance management can no longer be
infrequent, and formal. Peer reviews and career
are frequent, agile touchpoints. Learning is
embedded into day-to-day work, and changes
on the needs of the individual.
Flexibility is a key feature of an
As opposed to the traditional view of
the hierarchal ladder in a fixed role,
recognize that career paths are becoming
complex, cross-functional, and latticed. They
their talent through horizontal job rotations,
work roles, and the activation of
Helping people embrace change and continuous
difficult. To truly be adaptable, we believe that
need to enable individual resilience through
talent programs. We help clients design and adopt
edge talent approaches to elevate a shifting and
workforce that includes both humans and machines.
In the new world of work, stability gives way to adaptability.
How adaptable is your organization today?
the slider closer to the side
that best represents your organization today.
Network of Teams
Ways of Working
Fits all Talent Management
Change and Learning
Your organization is
struggling with adaptability. The fundamental
management systems are probably outdated. A
clearer purpose and change mindset will help
launch the adaptable journey.
Your organization is
doing a good job of reacting to shifting
strategies, but the effort to do so probably
feels like a constant transformation. Focus on
building adaptable characteristics that are
Your organization is
on the right path to being adaptable. Don’t be
over confident. Be aware and intentional about
sustaining the organization’s adaptable
What have others learned on the adaptable journey?
Retailers are facing significant demands from digital
revolutions and consumer preferences. Many organizations
are reimagining their physical store ecosystem to increased
autonomy for store and local customer support. Our clients
are exploring adaptability to break down silos between core
commercial functions (e.g., merchandising, marketing,
e-commerce, store development). Whether in the pursuit of
‘omni-channel’ or simply removing the barriers between
functions that serve customers, retailors are experimenting
with multi-disciplinary “mission-based teams”, that are
enabled to make decisions and work agile. Some of these
teams are market facing, but others are also shared
services to internal customers.
Financial services need to shift from product to customer
focus, embrace fintech and prioritize technology
investments to remain competitive. To increase time to
market and remove bureaucracy banks are making the radical
shift to implement cross functional, customer obsessed
teams and agile ways of working and focused on serving
customers through life stages (e.g, help me save for my
future, help me manage my lending accounts) instead of
through their own products and channel structures. Early,
and well publicized, experimentation within the banks in
this space became a model for other industries to pursue
networks of teams, new structures and ways of work. With
the maturity and strength of agile capabilities within
banking and insurance, financial services will continue to
be a hotbed of experimentation around AO as technology,
product and business teams continue to merge.
Not-for-profit organizations are also seeing the benefits of
becoming more adaptable. These organization often have a
strong social purpose that is an essential building block
to a culture of resilience, failing fast and innovating
through autonomous networks of teams. Our not-for-profit
clients are leading the way in driving true “systems
thinking” which is essential when driving for adaptability.
Getting a systemic outcome for children, healthcare or
education requires many disciplines to work together.
Adaptable teams are essential to breaking down the silos
needed to drive complete solutions, and the smaller scale
of many not-for-profits allows for greater experimentation
and rapid decision making.
To remain competitive in an evolving market, manufacturers
need to be more customer obsessed than ever before. These
organizations are shifting away from command and control
process leaders to networks of teams organized around
actual customers, essentially established small scale
manufacturers within the organization with greater
transparency for the customers and teams. Our manufacturing
clients are challenging the traditional hand-offs (and
therefore waterfall production techniques) between sales,
design, engineering, production and shop-floor teams and
organizing around categories and b2b accounts. These teams
are making decisions live, working agile and have direct
access to the people they need to interact with on a daily
basis. Time to market, customer intimacy and scaling
benefits are being observed as a result.
The pace of business and technology disruption and changing
citizen expectations, requires governments to continuously
respond with new programs and policies by negotiating
across traditional ministerial and departmental silos.
Inspired by adaptable organizations, some governments are
exploring a truly people-centric approach by investigating
reorganizing around citizen focused missions that look to
realign the complex negotiations that must occur across
departments to increase collaboration. Innovative talent
models are also being tested to move people quickly to
shifts in public policy and citizen opinion.
Even supermarket chains are finding new ways to turn their
customers into genuine fans. To accomplish this every unit
in the organizations are focusing on contributing to
continuously optimizing the customer shopping experience
through an increasing variety of online platforms as well
as its mortar and brick stores. Teams are redesigned for
cross-functional collaboration between IT and the business,
in order to address rapidly changing customer needs faster.
Metrics have been defined to assess the improvements in
continuous customer value delivery and to be able to
continuously steer on better results.