Adaptability - a key part of why culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Clare Anderson
16th June 2020

As points out, business agility is really about adaptability. Business agility means being able to successfully ride the wave of any dramatic shift in overall market conditions. An agile - and therefore adaptable - business will be better positioned to swiftly respond to challenges and seize opportunities. More important than ever in the post-COVID VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world we are living in. highlights that agility can be assessed across four dimensions of adaptability: leadership adaptability; team adaptability; change adaptability and delivery adaptability. The two key areas to think about here are: do you have staff that are comfortable in embracing new ways of thinking and doing? And do you have a culture that embraces complexity and is comfortable in continuously exploring new ways of getting things done?


Whilst historically the focus has always been on strategy and tactics, both Harvard Business Review and management guru Peter Drucker make the all-important point that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Whilst detailed, thoughtful strategy plans are commonly carefully laid out, culture is often left unmanaged or becomes a secondary concern, relegated to the HR function. Culture is a key tool for maintaining organisational viability and effectiveness. It’s inextricably linked to adaptability - without the right culture, you won’t have the right people who can adapt quickly when things don’t go according to plan. 


So how do you build a culture that helps people be adaptable and ensures business success? Particularly if it is remote and beers on a Friday aren’t part of the equation?  As Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi’s book Primed to Perform highlights, human psychology builds high performing workplace cultures. The bottom line is:  Why we work determines how well we work.  And why do people work? Research has shown the six main reasons people work to be: play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia. Importantly, high-performance cultures maximise the first three motivators and minimise the second three. This is known as creating total motivation (ToMo) - which ultimately helps people to become more adaptable. If you’re considering offshoring, ask your provider what tools they use to build culture? Do they provide coaches who conduct regular one on ones? Are these growth and problem-solving meetings aimed at developing careers? As per Verne Harnish’s ‘Scaling Up’, do they facilitate a learning culture where training is given to develop better leaders and better contributors to society? People are most motivated if their job gives them a sense of empowerment, where they can control some of their own destiny. There are many ways to show your team you give a damn beyond Pizza Fridays and fruit in the kitchen, ensuring that your business adapts and thrives in challenging and changing times.


As Fast Company points out, teamwork, problem-solving and dependability are all important soft skills in the workplace. However, adaptability may be the most important skill of all. Employees with high adaptability are better equipped to take on new tasks, learn new technologies, and develop new proficiencies. All are skills that provide positive benefits to companies working to maintain their viability and growth. If you are considering offshoring, ask your provider how much emphasis they place on adaptability and culture to ensure their partners will be successful? Do they look for candidates who are resilient, innovative and calm under pressure? Are their team members tested for their adaptability quotient, meaning the capability to acclimate and thrive under changing circumstances? Historically only very controlled work was outsourced offshore, however smart people exist everywhere and, given the opportunity, they will think for themselves. Offshoring high-level work will increase your chances of finding problem-solvers who, with the right culture in place, will stay and help your business grow and thrive in even the most challenging of circumstances. Actually, the smarter the person is, the more value they will add. 


For detailed questions around how an offshore provider can help you think about adaptability and culture in new ways, as well as other areas to consider, click here to download our eBook 'The 30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’. It will ensure you're informed and have the right questions to ask when considering the next step.

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