How Ready is Your Organization to Adapt?

We’ve talked at length about the uncertainty that has surrounded us all for longer than we care to remember. This uncertainty has manifested itself in the workforce in countless ways, including high rates of absenteeism, massive supply chain issues, and increased instances of employee burnout. We’ve also talked about what it takes to get through these challenging times. In fact, the words “resilience” and “adaptability” have become as much a part of our vocabulary as “masks” and “Zoom.”

Yet, while we understand theoretically that we need to shift and transition, many continue to resist change. They’d rather stay in their comfort zones, regardless of the fact that no growth can occur there. Let’s face it – it’s not easy to jump off the crisis mode wheel, even with its high level of stress and burnout. It’s what we know, so we resist anything else. But the time for resistance is over.

It’s time to embrace change, understanding it is where opportunities and innovation thrive. It may not always be easy, but it must be done. And it takes transformation, work, and most of all, adaptability. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, “[A]daptability is the critical success factor during periods of transformation and systemic change. It allows us to be faster and better at learning, and it orients us toward the opportunities ahead, not just the challenges.”

All Encompassing Change … and Adaptability

When we look at an organization’s capacity to adapt, it’s not a singular level view. The unprecedented change we’ve been experiencing penetrates each level, department, and person in the organization. Even when we think it’s a “minor change,” it isn’t. Ramifications exist that we could never imagine. For example, when the pandemic hit, airlines, like all industries, had to make adjustments quickly. They had to figure out how to get people flying again. After much research and many consumer studies, Delta was one of the first to decide to block the middle seats of their aircrafts.

While that seems like a fairly simple change from the outside, what we didn’t see was all of the behind-the-scenes changes that had to occur for it to be implemented. What we didn’t see was the shifts throughout the entire organization ranging from ticketing to the number of planes needed to changing online technology. Those shifts could only occur in an organization that embraced adaptability.

So, in this ever-evolving business landscape, the question is – how ready is your organization to adapt?

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, there are nine elements of change power to help companies thrive throughout change. Organizations should evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in each to determine their capacity for change.

  1. Purpose: Creates a sense of belonging; guides decisions and inspires action
  2. Direction: Translates your purpose into a plan; clarifies where you are going and how to get there
  3. Connection: Taps into the social side of change; creates networks of influencers and fans
  4. Capacity: Defines the limits of change; allows you to absorb more change
  5. Choreography: Helps you be more dynamic; adjusts change priorities and sequences moves
  6. Scaling: Creates a virtuous cycle; spreads innovation and amplifies impact
  7. Development: Prepares you for growth; builds learning and change capability
  8. Action: Builds momentum; fosters a can-do mindset and a bias for change
  9. Flexibility: Helps you stay in front of change; redefines how you work and even what work is


Based on those nine elements, the same article discussed four general archetypes when it comes to organizations and their capacity for change. The first archetype they identified is “In Search of Focus.” This group is busy and always on the move. But too many distractions result in diluted priorities and a lack of focus. Leaders should prioritize the big picture, connecting company activities to purpose and strategy.

The second archetype is “Stuck and Skeptical.” This group knows they need to make a change. It is clear to them that what they are doing is not working. Yet, they are skeptical about transformations and question their value. Leaders should reignite the enthusiasm and energy of the team by boosting confidence in their success.

The third archetype is “Aligned but Constrained,” where everyone is aligned in purpose and vision, but there are barriers. Leaders must identify the capacity bottlenecks and work together to solve them, realigning priorities and reallocating resources, as needed.

Finally, the fourth is “Struggling to Keep Up.” Team members get weary and check out because they don’t have the confidence that they can solve any problems. Mistrust is created with the inability to anticipate what’s coming next. Like “Aligned but Constrained,” this requires reprioritization and reallocation resources.


Where does your organization fit in?

Leaders should look comprehensively at the nine elements and examine each team member’s strengths and weaknesses in that category. Collectively, the data will begin to uncover the organization’s readiness for adaptability and provide an opportunity to understand its willingness for change. Ensuring that the team sees how they fit into this change is key. If they can’t, they will have a fight (bring conflict) or flight (check out) response. Instead, leaders must find a way to unite them with a common change purpose. Remind them that you were able to pivot once when you were forced to do so. Then talk about what else you can learn from that experience, not from a reactionary perspective, but an anticipatory one. Take it slow … and small. Remember tiny tremors eventually lead up to massive transformations.

Change is our constant reality. And how good we become at adapting to it will define our future levels of success. Adaptability requires leadership, discipline, and accountability, shifting the organization from quick emergency fixes to long-term systemic changes.

Remember, don’t do what you’ve always done because you’ll always get what you got. Let’s go get it. Let’s go win.

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It’s Time to Play Offense

It’s Time to Play Offense

With the Super Bowl not far behind us and discussions already underway for what to expect next season, we’ve been surrounded by talk of the teams, coaches, and strategies employed. Oftentimes, we talk about the team with the strongest offense. After all, the team with the strongest offense will likely move the ball down the field more, put the most points on the board, and probably win the game. All of this talk inspired me to think about the alignment between this time-honored game and running our businesses. I started to wonder – Isn’t it time to start playing more offense and less defense?

There’s no doubt about it – from a business perspective, we’ve been playing defense for the past two years. We really had no choice. We had never before experienced a global pandemic and its far-reaching ramifications, so we had to adapt and make moves based on what was thrown at us (often with a moment’s notice). There was no process, no procedure. There was no playbook. It was all defense.

While we are still in the midst of constant disruptions, the key difference now is that we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. We saw what worked and what didn’t. We saw the innovations and consequences. We can recall how we defensively maneuvered through the challenges of a global pandemic, school and office closures, technological advancements (and threats), the Great Resignation, and supply chain shortages. We learned procedures and processes that allowed us to work effectively and continue to give value to clients, even when we couldn’t be face-to-face.

What strikes me is that we never would have known about the possibilities and opportunities to conduct business in other ways had we not experienced the need to do so firsthand. Now, it’s time to adjust to this new way of life. Essentially, we now have a playbook with clearly established rules and policies, or “plays,” and it is time to start using it to be more offensive.

Offense is Problem Solving – from Airlines to Supply Chain Shortages and Everything in Between

At its foundation,the  offense is all about problem-solving. We will always have external factors that disrupt business operations and impact organizations (we just happened to see a lot of them all at once). But instead of waiting to see what will happen and react to it, we’re going to shift our mindsets to anticipate what will happen and plan for it. We’re going to ask ourselves, “Now what?” One great example of this is when flights were being canceled in record numbers. There were understaffed airlines, severe weather issues, and a number of other external factors affecting the industry. So, how did they play offense?

Airlines began adding additional flights as soon as they could. Internally, they asked staff to work overtime and heightened sanitizing processes to keep as many staff members and passengers healthy, and as many flights as possible active. They don’t know when the next variant or the next snowstorm will hit. None of us do. The best any of us can do is prepare by taking action now and not waiting until after the disruptor.

Another scenario of which we are nearly all feeling the impacts are the supply chain breakdowns occurring worldwide. There are long wait times, increased costs of shipping and logistics, warehousing problems, inflation, and other continued supply challenges that are driving higher demand for products. Dealing with this offensively means less responding and more repositioning.

It’s about taking a step back and thinking strategically. Can you lower the price slightly to attract customers and in turn, drive higher volume? How can you drive growth? Can you redo your pricing strategy? You may also have an opportunity to reposition your products. For example, you may want to reposition the in-demand, and short-supplied, products to increase the value proposition of other products that are currently in less demand (and lining your shelves).

A Playbook is Nothing without the Team

You simply cannot play offense alone. So much of it comes down to the coaches, or leaders, effectively sharing the playbook with the team and asking for their feedback. After all, they’re the ones pushing down the field each day. Questions should be powerful, insightful, and thought-provoking. Some questions to consider with the team include:

  • What have we learned?
  • What new ways are we doing things that could work elsewhere operationally?
  • What advantages are we seeing? What disadvantages?
  • How can we get out of the situation?
  • How can we think about this differently?
  • What could we do differently?
  • What is in our control? What is not?

Encouraging, motivating, and inspiring your team is the key to success. Engaging them collaboratively allows them to test options, experience small wins, and move the ball down the field. Remember not every throw needs to be 50 yards. Similarly, not every business decision needs to come with the biggest payday. Ten yards at a time will get you down the field and closer to your goal. You just need the next first down to stay in the game. And you will get it when you play offensively as a team.

Being offensive means not merely adjusting on a whim because we didn’t know what to expect (that’s all defense). Rather, it means learning not just how to survive but to thrive through disruption. And while the players may be fatigued, it is up to the coaches, or leaders, to find ways to empower and support them as they push forward – whether it’s on a field, in a conference room, or on a Zoom call. Simply, it’s time to double down on a new strategy because the best defense is, in fact, a strong offense.

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