To have team members that can continually adapt to a constantly changing world, they first need to have an adaptive manager. Learn how to be flexible and design work that can adapt to change.
- In a rapidly changing world, work is increasingly becoming organized into projects, and those projects are increasingly designed with shorter and shorter time frames to allow teams to become more agile. In a slower-moving time, with greater visibility about the future, it might have been possible to determine a set of projects goals and then take months or years to complete it. Of course, there are big projects that do require years and years to complete. But adaptive managers need to work with their teams to figure out how to break even long-term initiatives into a series of shorter, more focused projects.
This increases the team's ability to continually respond to new information and to reliably deliver what customers and other stakeholders need. Turns out, we can learn a lot from software developers, who have used a set of practices known as agile development. Developers treat long initiatives as a series of mini projects, sometimes lasting as short as a week, which allows them to rapidly adjust to a variety of changes. In the past, software was developed using what is now called the Waterfall method.
Software designers would go off into a room, decide what they thought customers wanted and would take half a year or a year, even two years, to actually ship a product, much like the long path of a waterfall falling off a cliff. That entire time, they would rarely ask customers for any updates about their needs, because any changes in midstream meant potentially huge costs. Of course, after a year or two, would customer needs have changed? Well, you bet they did. So the software that arrived was usually incomplete at best and unusable at worst.
But agile projects are organized into phases known as sprints, which can last as short as a week or as long as a month. At the start of every sprint, team members have the opportunity to agree on the deliverables for the next phase. Throughout that sprint, brief check-in meetings, sometimes even daily, are held to discuss any roadblocks, especially if one team member falls behind in a specific deliverable. These aren't blaming sessions, these are problem-solving meetings, often done standing up and using collaborative teamwork to resolve any issues and move forward.
The result is that software projects are designed to continually incorporate new information, new technologies, and new techniques that can enter at any time, especially when unpredictable changes in requirements occur. In fact, it's possible to run an entire company using this approach. Asana software in San Francisco uses what are called chapters, which are four-month planning periods in which the whole organization participates three times a year. That means the entire company takes a week to recalibrate all their major plans and projects to ensure the organization is delivering on its strategic goals and everything is interconnected.
Now, that may sound like a lot of planning overhead, but it ensures that months and months don't go by without everyone in the company resynchronizing their efforts so they're all in step. As an adaptive manager, you don't need to follow agile practices exactly. In fact, agile's going to inevitably be replaced by other methods. What's most important about the agile approach is that it changes the mindset of running projects, breaking them down into these smaller chunks with continual reviews to ensure the team is on track for its goals.
Being adaptive requires a completely different mentality for big initiatives and ongoing deliverables that completely never stop, but this flexible approach allows you to reshape a project's goals and tasks in the midst of change, change that is going to inevitably occur.
- Dealing with disruptive change and the new rules of work
- Establishing a new contract with workers
- Rethinking job qualifications
- Hiring for diversity and inclusion
- Identifying key skills for adaptive workers
- Helping your team become lifelong learners
- Leveraging automation for your team
- Becoming an adaptive manager
- Making human resources a partner
- Recognizing when your adaptive strategy is working