When there is less and less we can count with any certainty these days, we must be able to count more and more on our organizational agility to cope, no matter what. That’s how we future proof our organization. We have seen plenty of examples in recent times of organizations which were not sufficiently future proofed, so what are some ways in which you can be? Here are three:
- Expecting and Managing the Unexpected
- Strategic Pre-Adaptation
- Being Productively Paranoid
1. Expecting and Managing the Unexpected
The systems, structures and processes in your business are probably mostly about managing expected events (which you have therefore been able to systemize with procedures, processes and software) not unexpected events. Yet, in their book, “Managing the Unexpected – Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty”, Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe explain that, “Most organizations experience unexpected events all the time. These dynamic and uncertain times raise the questions of how and why some organizations are much more capable than others of maintaining function and structure in the face of drastic change and of bouncing back in a stronger position to tackle future challenges”. Think about the management mechanisms you need to improve in your business to be Expecting and Managing the Unexpected, not just the expected. Future proofing your organization depends upon it.
2. Strategic Pre-adaptation
We might think that agility is a binary kind of thing and we are either adaptive or we aren’t. Actually, we as we always have to adapt eventually, one way or the other, and it’s just a case of how long it takes us begrudgingly to come around to it. So there are actually three modalities of agility, depending upon whether we are adapting behind the curve, on the curve, or ahead of the curve:
- Post-Adaptive (being reactive and behind the curve)
- Adaptive (reacting a lot quicker, being more proactive to keep up, being on the curve, real-time)
- Pre-adaptive (being ahead of the curve and ahead of real-time). Huh? How’s that possible, to be ahead of real-time? In his book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel explains it this way:
“Evolution occasionally equips organisms with apparently superfluous, reproductively neutral features that turn out, quite by accident, to be highly useful when conditions change. This is known as pre-adaptation. To be resilient, a company needs a lot of lightly scripted pre-adaptation – policies that give associates the chance to pre-adapt rather than react. Too much of what gets done in most companies is in response to some already pressing issue; there’s no slack, no space for improvisation, and no way to defend projects that aren’t immediately useful. That’s why so many companies end up on the wrong side of the change curve. Your job as a management innovator is to make sure that the management systems in your company encourage strategic pre-adaptation.” Where Does Agility Come From?
3. Being Productively Paranoid
Only the paranoid survive! I want you to be productively paranoid, not unproductively so as that would be analysis-paralysis. Here are five questions to travel with which will help you to be productively paranoid, expecting the unexpected and in a mode of pre-adaptive agility.
Being In the Driving Seat of your agility as an organization is essential to be future proofing your organization.