Early in my career, a mentor warned me, “Be cautious when you see the light at the end of a tunnel – it might be an oncoming train!” Recently the International Monetary Fund issued their 5-year outlook on global economic growth. It was the starkest in more than 30 years. Just when we were starting to think we might be bottoming out on current economic woes, we can see that the future for business is riskier than it has been for most people’s entire careers.
During COVID, we experienced an acceleration in the development and application of AI, IoT, and big data to work. While work changed at an accelerating pace, COVID also disrupted and reshaped the workplace. Today many companies struggle to convince their workforce to come back to work; others have accepted that their workplace has been forever altered. COVID also amplified the impact of workforce demographic and psychographic changes underway for over a decade - an aging population, a multi-generational workforce, and rising turnover.
Already a 5th industrial revolution is underway with “sustainability,” “human-centeredness,” and “concern for the environment” of central importance. In the past 6 months, advancements in generative AI, robotics, and process automation have quickened the pace yet again. The alarm bells for employee mental health and well-being that were magnified during COVID, play more loudly than ever.
Constant and accelerating change has left many of us struggling to cope. Employees are overwhelmed by external changes and never-ending initiatives intended to improve competitive positioning: new business models, product innovations, and culture change, along with massive efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adopt more environmentally sustainable practices. Large corporations struggle to go fast enough in spite of an abundance of resources; smaller businesses struggle to keep going fast in spite of constrained resources.
In spite of education, expertise, and countless solutions emerging in HRTech, EdTech, and Worktech, the rate of business failure remains as high as it has ever been, employee disengagement is at an all-time high, and more experienced workers are opting out of the employee-employer contract. While businesses collectively spend nearly ½ a trillion dollars a year to train and develop employees, gaps in skills remain. Most surveys identify concerns over gaps in leadership skills as a top priority for CEOs globally.
Now is the time for us to accept that the current state of leadership and organization effectiveness services is inadequate in today's rapidly changing business landscape. The tools, programs, and interventions available are too slow, too individualistic, too expensive, too siloed, and too ineffective. It is time for a revolution in how we approach organizational success, and the solution lies in becoming an adaptive organization.
Adaptation is more than just resilience; it requires a dynamic culture that is continuously adjusting - both proactively and reactively - to internal and external changes. This agility must happen at a faster pace than the change itself, and it must involve individuals, teams, and the entire organization. The key to successful adaptation is a culture that fosters psychological safety and high performance where mistakes are viewed as an opportunity to learn, and leaders feel empowered to proactively manage change. It also requires the collective ability to rest and recharge.
To keep pace with changing roles in a rapidly growing business, an adaptive organization ensures that its people outpace the evolving roles. This requires effective leadership and operating routines that conserve energy while simultaneously building capabilities to solve bigger problems. In an adaptive organization, every manager and team leader is enabled to enhance productivity, embed sustainable practices, and build capacity among team members while also reducing the risk of burnout.
Two key capabilities are essential for exponential change in an adaptive organization. The first is effective decision-making at all levels of the business. This requires access to good data, defined authority, and effective collaboration. While technology can facilitate better decision-making, humans are still needed to work together and act upon these decisions. It is important to view decision-making as a skill that needs to be strengthened rather than a means of control.
The second key capability is the ability to accelerate leadership effectiveness systemically. This requires more than just micro-learning or coaching; it involves treating every challenging work experience as a learning opportunity. In an adaptive organization, technology is used to scale systemic leadership effectiveness, enabling employees to develop greater problem-solving capabilities over time.
In today's exponential and uncertain world, an adaptive organization is essential for achieving sustained business performance and growth that is good for people and the planet. Organizations that embrace a fluid, dynamic approach are more likely to survive, emerge stronger, and become more innovative. It is time to shed outdated practices and become an adaptive organization that scales mindsets, capabilities, and cultures to achieve lasting success.
This article was written by Dr. Alison Eyring, Founder & CEO of Produgie.
Produgie is software with embedded, proven IP and predictive intelligence that enables Adaptive Organizations. This article was inspired by the “Set Expectations” Sprint in Produgie. Produgie’s Sprint Engine enables leadership performance and development at every level of the organization. Try it for free: www.produgie.com or ask us for a demo.