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Consortium for Service Innovation

Nurturing an Adaptive Workforce

For folks who are retaining, interviewing, hiring, leading, and working with talented people in a rapidly changing, complex environment.

Complex Adaptive Systems modelOne of the things Consortium Members reported early in the pandemic was that “the first two weeks were chaos, and then with loose guidance and some experimentation, things started to run smoothly.”  Matt Seaman wrote about this in his post on Complex Adaptive Systems and the Illusion of Control, which offers a way to think about our organizations based less on top-down command and control, and more on guidance and experimentation. 

“If we think instead about our teams as complex adaptive systems, and understand we cannot control every aspect of every interaction, it can help us refocus on the what and the why, and less on the how.  It is impossible to control every interaction.  It is a far better use of our time to be clear on what it is we’re aiming for.”

Approaching our organizations as adaptive systems allows for efficiency, flexibility, and alignment in the face of constantly changing environments. 

With compounding evidence that we are looking at a skilled labor shortage and potential annual turnover rates of 30-40% (see The Tech Talent War Has No End In Sight from Forbes, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, Why Are So Many Knowledge Workers Quitting? from The New Yorker and The Turnover Tsunami is Real at SHRM), it is a competitive advantage to create a working environment people want to be in.  Good employee experiences create good customer experiences. 

This resource aims to provide a path to increase adaptability and alignment among your team to ultimately create a more resilient and engaged organization. The intent is to not only use the guidance for daily interactions but to incorporate adaptive values into your hiring, onboarding, reviews, debriefs, career development, and wherever you have an opportunity to reinforce an adaptive company culture.

This guidance includes:

  1. Culture Prompts: Align your team around adaptive qualities - a roadmap for team interaction 
  2. Interviewing: Find and add enlightened knowledge workers to your team (or find and assess a company culture you might want to join)
  3. Leadership: Create the conditions for desired emergent patterns in which adaptive people thrive
  4. Additional Resources: Articles and books for additional exploration
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