How does one go about building an adaptive firm?
Increase the Visibility of Opportunity
This can be accomplished through careful job design. Work should have defined objectives for which people will be responsible. Each organizational level should be kept informed of its role in producing the final output of product or service. (AKA stay close to the customer.) Another way of increasing the visibility of opportunity is through a careful coordination and integration of the functional areas which allows employees in different functional areas to work together as a cohesive team..
Institutionalize Change as the Organizational Goal
There should be a stated and visible preference for innovation and change rather than preservation of the status quo. If opportunity is to be perceived, the organization must not only encourage it but must also establish it as a goal. So a desire for opportunity can only exist if resources are made available and departmental barriers are reduced.
Instill the Desire to Be Innovative.
- A reward system. Explicit forms of recognition should be given to people who attempt innovation.
- An environment that allows for failure. The fear of failure must be minimized through the general recognition that often many attempts are needed before a success is achieved.
- Flexible operations. Flexibility creates the possibility of change taking place and having a positive effect. Not much is written ‘in stone.’
Your Organizational Culture
Organizational culture is your organizations’ value system. It flows from only one place — the top. Changing a culture is an evolutionary process and not an event. Impatience will not serve anyone well. Stamina is a requirement. The corporate culture cannot change unless the person at the top of the organizational chart changes, or unless they delegate the authority to change and then stands aside and allows it to happen.
- What you say has nothing to do with creating the company’s culture. It is only what you do that matters.
- Culture starts to be created with your first day on the job, as employees observe the boss’s every move. Be aware of their ongoing and relentless scrutiny. Show that the messages you are sending are designed to encourage the culture you publicly espouse and will support.
- Just like skiing and gymnastics, you cannot learn and improve in an environment where you are not allowed to fall down. Encourage risk taking and allow first-time mistakes. Determine how much risk and failure can be tolerated, and focus on what is learned from attempts.
- Change is inevitable and every organizational culture will need changing from time to time. Take steps to inventory and alter the existing culture when it no longer represents what is best for the company. Don’t be afraid to ask:
“Why is it done this way?”
“Is this the best/more effective/more efficient?”
“Is there a better way?”
“If we were creating this today, how might it be different?“
- Do not underestimate the difficulty of changing a culture of an acquired organization, a merging of two organizations, or your own organization. The road to change will take twice as long as you think, and casualties will be twice as heavy. Be prepared to go slow. Have a plan based on data, not just hopes and dreams. Spend time doing a cultural audit to determine how big the gaps are and what may need to be done to eliminate or reduce them.
Maintaining an entrepreneurial frame of mind while making the necessary adjustments for dealing with growth means building an adaptive organization. As you build your firm, keep in mind the three critical responsibilities with which entrepreneurs need to be concerned.
- Increase the visibility of opportunity.
- Institutionalize change as the organization’s goals.
- Instill the desire to be innovative.
Not everyone has true entrepreneurial tendencies, but if you build into your culture the belief that chances for success exist, change is the norm and your people are expected and supported when using their ingenuity, you then can retain an entrepreneurial spirit and renew the excitement and energy that attracts great people in the first place and keep them. That is what makes a great company thrive!