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Building a Culture of Adaptation and Resiliency

What is Adaptation-Driven Organization?

Building a Culture of Adaptation and Resiliency

With the turn of the 20th century (Industrial Age) industries came to the realization that employees’ satisfaction, productivity, and creativity were (and still are) crucial in the success of any industry or organization. In the late 1800's, Harvard graduate Frederick Taylor turned engineer to “industrial efficiency consultant” creating the Scientific Management model for productivity and efficiency. From there many revelations and research discoveries focused on improving cultural performance, motivation which uncovered new understandings into employee motivation and organizational effectiveness.

With the advent of the Knowledge Age, the need has come to move from performance-driven, to that of adaptation-driven and emotionally intelligent cultures. As a coach working with organizations, entrepreneurs and corporations, I have found organizational learning frameworks allow adaptation and resiliency so that outcomes are reached. The transformation is powerful, not only to the leaders, but also to the team members. It brings about new levels of energy, productivity, and communication.

Applying an Framework Can Build Adaptation-Driven Cultures

According to Henrich Greve, researcher on organizational learning and adaptation, there are several key areas organizations need to focus on to align behaviors of team members to the outcomes leaders desire to see.

First, leaders and team members need to review routines and structures that lend to stability, creativity, and growth so they may build from them. Additionally they need to identify barriers and growth areas. Processes that are deficient will effect the culture and should be altered through resources, training and new practices.

Second, consistent feedforward is a major catalyst for change, improved performance, and I also find, key to accountability. While researching organizations, often accountability is either non-existent, sporadic, or only top down. There are much better ways to make feedforward loops useful. One of the most effective performance tools is what I call “Feedforward-15.” It is a concrete process of questions, key indicators, and of which uses triple loop learning, that allows leaders and team members to be transparent, share vision, and transform synergy.

Third, according to Greve, leaders and team members need to focus on goal formation which is a decision on for what purpose to learn, expand knowledge towards and to what direction. What works exceedingly well here if for leaders work with team members to think strategically on what areas need to be focused on. Companies that invest in programs that develop the team’s overall emotional intelligence and communication find transformation in their cultural behaviors and decision making. Instead of relying only on technical or knowledge, it is important that companies expand in to competency based coaching programs and or training.

What Does An Adaptation-Driven Organization Look Like?

What I find about adaptation-driven organizations that make them so successful is not only do they stay relevant, they remember the importance of building an empowering culture. They build a foundation of trust through new levels of accountability, communication, and expectations based in emotionally intelligence frameworks. According to Jack Welch in his book, The Real Life MBA, an adaptation culture:

  • Is focused on responsiveness, innovation and change

  • Is fluid and dynamic

  • Has creative processes and structures that are fluid

  • Builds strong lean cultures based on integrity and accountability

  • Invites innovation and agility as well as mistakes and risk taking

He further states, that truth and trust is “ceaselessly seeking the former, and relentlessly building the latter.” Investing in programs that build adaptation and emotional intelligence builds trusts across the team.

Steps to Building Adaptation-Driven Cultures

There are resources out there for leaders and teams that help create an adaptation-driven organization. Look for coaching programs that work on organizational and emotional intelligent frame works, resiliency and communication. Organizations can also start transforming by following these adaptation design steps!

Step 1: Uncover Perception.

Ask “What are the needs of my team?” Learn about your team and what gets in the way of 1) putting customers or clients first, 2) communicating effectively and 3) working intrinsically. Whether it by survey or a focus session, explore this so that you might start learning about the barriers that hold your company back from excellence. At the core of all of this is caring about people and understanding what makes them tick.

Step 2: Ideate.

In this step, brainstorm what possible direction that moves towards adaptation. Institute an “internal learning” strategy in which team members can instill new understanding of what team effectiveness looks like. This can start as simply as all team members reading a book on emotional intelligence all the way to being part of a leadership development program.

Step 3: Design the Ideal.

Define what the ideal culture. Find out what practices around communication, accountability, expectation setting, and skills would be demonstrated. What metaphor or picture would define this new design? Describe the vision with clarity. Write it out on a whiteboard, white paper or flip chart and use it to guide the progress!

Step 4: Remove Blockages.

Through an objective process, create a prototype that will remove blockages, support new change, and provide the benchmarks that move toward the Ideal. List the blockages and remove them one by one. I find that its most helpful to take one or two a month, make clear actions toward this and establish a format for accountability.

Step 5: Implement the Prototype.

It is time to test the prototype. Test it! Focus on transparency, continual movement towards the change, and trust in the ideal vision.

The future is filled with possibilities. As organizations and companies move toward adaptation-driven organizations the platform for innovation, employee satisfaction, and team cohesiveness will directly follow!


Van Vliet, V. (2015). Frederick Taylor. Retrieved [12/20/18] from ToolsHero:, B. (1982), The Academy of Management Review, 7, 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 35-44

Greve, H.R. (2017). Organizational learning and adaptation. Oxford Research Business and Management, (March), DOI:10.1093/acrefore/9780190224851.013.138

Greve, H. R. (1996). Patterns of competition: The diffusion of a market position in radio broadcasting. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(March), 29–60.

Welch, J. and Welch, S. (2015). The Real Life MBA: Your-No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career. Harper Collins.

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