We are living in a time where a business’s ability to rapidly respond to market changes has never been more essential.  If you wish to fend off disruptors and stay one step ahead of your competitors, then your organization needs to have the agility to adapt. Cloud Strategist, Jeremy Ward, explains what it means to be an adaptable organization.

When you think of what it means to adapt or be adaptable, a great starting point is to go back to the famous words  that are often misquoted to  Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The ability to respond positively to change has been a revered trait throughout human history. Indeed,  stories of people transforming obstacles and hardship into moments of great triumph pervade throughout our mythologies and culture. The journeys of some of our most inspiring and celebrated leaders all contain moments where they have had to adapt to overcome often overwhelming challenges.

The same is true for some of the world’s most prosperous businesses. When new technologies and disruptive players emerge, market expectations shift. The businesses that don’t respond quickly fail (see Kodak and Blockbuster) and those that do prevail.

But what does it mean to be an adaptable organization in the cloud-age?

Many are labeling the current business and developmental environment as the Fourth Industrial-Revolution.  In this epoch, disruptive technologies like the  Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are having a profound impact on how people and organizations interact with each other and the world around them. In many ways, the cloud is the foundation for harnessing these new possibilities, making it easier than ever before for businesses to adopt and exploit technology and create innovative experiences for their customers.

With the ability to rapidly adopt and scale through the utility of cloud technologies, the opportunity for innovation is available at even the smallest company’s fingertips. The biggest challenge large enterprises are facing is having the agility to respond to their market at the same speed as their nimble, often cloud-native, challengers.

The organizations in many of these established businesses maintain hierarchical systems and are focused on long term planning. They are built for stability and efficiency and are, therefore, resistant to change and slow to adapt.

A truly adaptable organization needs to be able to sense the smallest changes in the market and be empowered to rapidly respond and develop new solutions.

What does an adaptable organization look like?

An adaptable organization should be synonymous with an agile organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean adopting and adhering to strict Agile methodologies but it does require a cultural shift away from sequential, Waterfall processes.

An adaptable organization should include a network of teams within a people-centered culture.  It should operate in rapid learning and fast decision cycles which are enabled by technology. The organization should also be working towards a  common purpose that co-creates value for all customers.

Here are five signs of an agile, adaptable organization:

A network of teams – An adaptable organization should have a flat structure with a focus on transparency and collaboration. Teams should be empowered to run autonomously and individuals should be fully aware and accountable for their role.

Dynamic people model – As projects change and scale, you need to be able to create, change and remove roles as required. This is an opportunity for creating a community where more experienced team members can help encourage develop their junior colleagues and help foster a culture of collaboration.

Rapid learning cycles –  You should encourage a culture of continuous learning and iterative experimentation. This should celebrate learnings from failure and move your organization from an optimizing mindset to an innovating mindset. A blameless culture should encourage psychological safety, where individuals are challenged but able to speak up and/or learn from their mistakes.

Next-Generation technology- Development and delivery practices and architectures need to evolve and improve, taking into account, risks, opportunities and the latest technologies available. You should minimize the barrier of entry for investigating and introducing new technologies. Anyone in your organization should be empowered to trial next-gen technologies to find the right technology solutions to deliver a business benefit (see our piece on Cloud Vending Machines here). Modular solution design (e.g. microservices) helps with this approach.

A North Star – Your primary goal is to sense changes and opportunities in the market and to rapidly respond. It  is essential that your network of teams are unified around a common goal of creating value for customers

While all organizations are different, these five characteristics should point you in the right direction for a successful transformation. Along the way, you should notice a shift in perception- from organizations functioning as machines to existing as empowered, productive organisms. That’s a sign that you are going the right way!

We recorded a special CxO Roundtable episode of the Cloudbusting Podcast that was focused on Adaptable Organizations. You can see our key lessons learned here.

If you are looking for help with your transformation efforts, get in touch with our team. Cloudreach has over 10 years of experience guiding enterprise customers to adapt their organization and accelerate their cloud adoption efforts.