Adapt and thrive

first_imgAdapt and thriveOn 1 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Adapt or die.  It works in nature, sowhy not in business?  Asks Carolyn NimmyHR has seen trying times over the last two decades. Since the mid-1980s, wehave lived with a proverbial pendulum that swung first from an era of‘right-sizing’, where employees were treated like interchangeable parts in thecog of a re-engineered corporate machine, to one of intense ‘talent battles’where human assets were viewed as prized ‘booty’ in the business wars formarket and mind-share. One can only wonder what will come next. Today many industries face a more volatile situation than ever. We knowchange is a constant that should be embraced. But stability and predictabilityare no longer reasonable assumptions and CEOs are struggling to get theirorganisations to adapt to a competitive environment. And, again, it isincumbent upon HR to change and adapt in support. “Biology has been solving hard combinatorial optimisation problems for3.8 billion years. Maybe we should pay attention to how it does it” –Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe Since the dawn of time, adaptation has been the key to species’ survival.This principle of nature also applies to business. Research carried out by CapGemini, Ernst & Young’s Centre for Business Innovation shows that we couldlearn more from nature and use these lessons to create the adaptive enterprisethat can evolve to win in a fast changing volatile landscape. Cap Gemini’s six principles of adaptive enterprises, which can be applied toHR as well as to the rest of a business, are: – Enable self-organisation – Recombine to reinvent – Make boundaries permeable – Close feedback loops – Apply selective pressure – Live at the edge of chaos Enable self-organisation In times like these, liberating prudent risk is a necessity of success.Managers need a few simple rules for behaviour and then they can give peoplefreedom of action. Talent dislikes bureaucracy. Turn the organisation upsidedown, fit the processes to enable the individual to “just get on anddo”. Do not tolerate misaligned behaviours, be a role model, build andsupport a culture that allows experimentation. Recombine to reinvent Doing more with less is the reality of a volatile economic climate. But lesscan really be more through the power of recombining existing ingredients. Donot tolerate the “not invented here” syndrome, instead, reward thosethat recombine to reinvent. Make boundaries permeable The birth of the Internet opened markets and created transparencies forconsumers. While many dotcoms boomed and busted, the conditions they created inmany cases still remain. Forward-thinking businesses can take advantage ofboundaries rather than see them as barriers to progress. Ensure key performance indicators do not create silos; encourage and teachpeople to create and maintain their networks – especially parallel networks.Encourage and promote diversity – of people, of ideas, ways of doing things. Use technology – build systems and processes that move e-learning tonetworked learning. This will give the ability to build upon knowledge via aninteractive learning process – creating value and innovation. Close feedback loops What gets measured gets done. Take a look at what you measure – apart fromfinancial measures, are you measuring the intangibles which today can accountfor over a third of the company value? Examples of such intangibles includebrand, leadership capability, ability to attract and retain talent. Be transparent. Get feedback from employees, customers, partners andcompetitors to make sure your HR philosophy meets the needs of your market. Apply selective pressure Create and maintain a high performance culture, in good and bad times, andalways aggressively manage poor performers. Demand continuous improvement andinnovation. Strive for more, and do not be satisfied – but reward excellence.Bring in new blood – do not allow stagnation; always look to raise standards. Live at the edge of chaos Keep highly connected to the external environment. Do not be inwardlyfocused. Respond quickly. You need to break to create; sometimes even if it isnot broken you still need to fix it. “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level ofthinking we were at when we created them” – Albert Einstein Perhaps by using these six principles to look at things differently we maybetter align HR to the business. We may reap benefits – by doing even more withless though the power of recombination and through enabling innovation byfreeing talent from bureaucracy. We could be well on the way to having thatadaptive enterprise – which like an organism is connected to its environmentand evolves accordingly to survive and win. Carolyn Nimmy is global director, people relationship management, at CapGemini Ernst & Younglast_img read more