Adaptive Organization Model
Organizations don’t always bring out the best in people. In fact, unless we work at it intelligently, they often bring out the worst in us. The pressure of incessant change these days makes it even more critical that we learn how change can bring out the best in us, and how to build organizations that allow us to be healthy, effective human beings. The goal of this work is to create adaptive organizations that can learn and change and stay healthy in the face of an increasingly dynamic environment.
You can recognize an adaptive organization by how the people in that organization pay attention. Do they seem to be lost in their own cloud of distractions, or are they “on their game”? Do they make eye contact, do they listen and hear? Do they look for ways to get the job done, or do they sink into the quicksand of “why we can’t”? People in an adaptive organization understand their business, their role, and are motivated to stay engaged. For normal human beings, work needs to be something they care about. Most people want to feel they are part of something greater than themselves, and that their work is going toward something meaningful and noble.
There are of course exceptions. There are people who just want to serve their personal ego needs and agenda, and there are businesses that can be built around those motivations, but, in my experience, those organizations are not adaptive. They stay trapped in the clutches of serving the ego needs of a few people who master that game, which is usually a predatory game (meaning something is taken from others without a fair value exchange). The Turning Point Method is about building organizations that bring out the best in people, and the ego is not the best that is in us.
An adaptive organization must fulfill a need that its members perceive as valid and useful and in alignment with their personal values and interests. I have worked with many organizations that were once clearly in service to human beings, but which have lost their way, and others who are in service, but which have not clearly articulated for their employees what the service is, and why it is important. This first step is very important, especially in an era in which organizations must find ways to engage the millennial generation, which tends to be more clearly motivated toward civic responsibility and service. This requires that they understand the organization, how it works, and that it is truly in service to build a better world. The one they will inherit.
In an adaptive organization, people understand the strategy and culture that is required for success. Simply stated, strategy is “how we win”, and culture is a definition of “how we need to think, behave and relate to each other to succeed”. This sounds very simple, but in practice, it is very common for most of the members of the organization to be unaware of what the strategy is as it applies to them, or what cultural norms are expected of them. It is common for an organization to lack a strategy altogether. People just do what they have always done whether or not that behavior makes any sense.
It is a tall order to get a common understanding of strategy and culture that goes beyond the poster on the wall and the mission and values printed on the back of an entry card. There is also a strong tendency to make strategy far more complex than it needs to be. The Turning Point approach to this is to think of strategy as “how we win the game”. This begs the question “What is the game?” Here is a good experiment: try asking the people you work with what “the game” of your organization is. Can they explain it? Do they know what winning and losing is? Do they know how they contribute to winning and losing? If they are unable to make this connection, then you have a problem, because you have to tell them what to do at every juncture. If a person does not understand how your organization works, they will be unable to make effective decisions within their area of influence.
There are three primary requirements for an adaptive organization: coherent shared leadership, design for Flow, and evolving human beings.