Culture: Adaptability

by Ron Potter

The next quadrant of the Denison Culture Survey we’re going to explore is Adaptability.

Photo credit: Denison Consulting

This quadrant is divided into the three sections of:

  • Organizational Learning
  • Customer Focus
  • Creating Change

You can easily see how an attitude of learning, customer focus and one of creating change will certainly make an organization adaptable.

What are some signs that we are NOT an adaptable organization?  I’m sure you can come up with a lot more examples than I could ever possibly list but here are a few that I’ve seen through the years.

  • There’s a belief in the organization that we’ve been successful for 100 years.  If we just keep doing things the same way, we’re sure we’ll pull out of this slump.
  • The industry is producing products that make our product look old.  But, we’ve gone through an extensive competitive bidding program and the cheapest supplier we’ve chosen is not capable of providing the new look.
  • Our customer feedback has dried up because we never seem to respond to the customer stated needs.  It’s just too expensive for us to manufacture it that way.
  • Everyone is doing a great job but the feedback from the customer never makes it out of the customer service department.
  • We tried to make a change but were punished for “making a mistake.”  We’ll never try that again.
  • The leadership team seemed to be focused on that issue, they just neglected to inform the rest of us.

As I said, you can probably come up with many more reasons for not being adaptable.  Those are just a few of the many that I’ve experienced with my consulting clients through the years.

It’s easy to say we’re adaptable.  We might even make an attempt at being adaptable.  But do our actions support change and innovation?  Or do people feel like they get punished or labeled for being a trouble maker if they try to make changes?  Adaptability requires organization and cultural support.

I believe it was Alan Deutschman who coined the phrase, change or die.  When the environment is changing faster than we can blink (my grandkids don’t remember a world without an iPad) that saying was never truer.  Just ask the people who ran and worked for many of the largest corporations in the world that are now nothing be memories.

The average life-span of Fortune 500 companies in the 1950s was over 60 years.  The average life-span of the companies on that list today is less than 20 years.

Change or die!

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