Culture: Involvement – Adaptability

by Ron Potter

Adaptability and Involvement

Adaptability and Involvement are the two quadrants that make up the left side of the Denison Culture Chart.  This side of the chart identifies “Flexible” cultures.  Cultures that adapt well.  Cultures that respond quickly to customers and markets.  In today’s fast-paced environment, flexibility is a requirement.  (Just as a heads-up, we’re going to talk in a couple of weeks about Stability being a required element as well.  Makes your head hurt doesn’t it?  That’s just one of the reasons that Leadership is hard.  It doesn’t just come with the title.

External Focus

So now we’ve seen that Mission and Adaptability (top of the chart) indicates an External Focus for the companies.  Companies strong in these two areas tend to sustain growth and are constantly listening to and looking at the marketplace.  They’re good at spotting the next big thing in the market place and making decisions that help them take advantage of those coming changes.


The Flexible Cultures (Adaptability and Involvement noted above) indicated companies that are constantly changing.  Or maybe it indicates that the companies are good at working in ever-changing markets.

One company had a culture score that was lowest in the Vision and Strategic Direction and Intent areas while being quite strong in all of the Flexible areas on the left side of the chart.  We asked about the low scores in the Mission quadrant, wondering how they kept going without much vision or strategic thinking for the future.  They indicated that their market was changing so rapidly that figuring out a vision and direction was almost useless.  If they didn’t keep up with the rapid changes in the marketplace, they weren’t going to be around to worry about long-term (even 24 months) vision.  They were right.


In general, it’s always good to expand the Culture Survey as much as possible in every direction.  However, there are “seasons of life” and moments of focus that may require expansion in a particular area.

Maybe you’re in need of growth which will require an external focus.  You may need to expand some or all of the Vision and Adaptability quadrants.

Maybe you’re in the need to keep up with or get ahead of a rapidly changing market or a disruptive competitor.  You may need to focus on the Adaptability and Involvement quadrants (Flexible).

Be aware of your surroundings, history, and future.  Which quadrant needs the most attention at the moment?

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