‘Being adaptable’ is one of those backhanded compliments. It can have negative connotations associated with being wishy-washy, spineless, impressionable, naive, crafty, calculating, opportunistic and similar. Despite this the history of civilizations is full of examples where adaptation was critical for survival and for growth.
Adapting and evolving to exploit changes in the environment has now become a business buzzword – being Agile. Definitions of agility can range across the continuum from operational agility to business-model agility. I agree with the latter definition that James Taylor clarified recently.
Agility to us, I think, is a measure of responsiveness to change rather than responsiveness to customers or to orders. It is not the time it takes a company to, for instance, restock a product. While that’s an interesting thing to measure, it is not agility to me. The time it takes a company to change its reorder approach or a specific product/vendor is, however, a measure of agility.
Being an agile organization requires it to be able to rearrange its people, processes and systems into new configurations at short notice. ‘Composing’ new value chains and business models using existing processes as components is the new competency that sets organizations apart. The new generation systems need to support these process-components in Service Oriented Architectures (SOA). And, we need many more of those ‘multiple-hat’ people who morph among roles like architects, business-analysts, project-managers, designers and customer-advocates.
Those video-game playing, text-messaging, social-networking, hyperactive, mobile, multi-tasking kids – and adults – are perfect for this paradigm. Systems are now available as Services that you plug into as and when needed. Businessweek claimed recently that you may never buy software (or hardware) again.
No longer do small companies have to spring for servers and IT staff just to get the basics. With software services, you don’t install programs on your own computers or server. Instead, you sign up online for software and use it while you’re connected to the Internet.
This agile, anything-can-change-at-any-time world needs ‘being adaptable’ in spades. The pace of change is accelerating and business-ecologies are constantly forming, dissolving, splitting, aggregating and reforming in a kaladeoscopic blur.
The Adaptables are center-stage now – as always leading the charge for survival and growth.