Enabling the Adaptive Enterprise: Foundations for Continuous Change

Few times in history have there been such rapid change as we’re seeing right now. 

With each passing year the number of forces in play seems to grow exponentially, and business models are being disrupted at a rate that has never been seen before. To help businesses survive — and thrive — during this era of continuous change, we’ve partnered with Peter Taylor to co-produce the Enabling the Adaptive Enterprise: Foundations for Continuous Change whitepaper.

Peter Taylor is a PMO decision influencer, author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, and a respected expert on project management. In this blog article, we summarize the topics discussed in the full paper. To read the full version, download the white paper now.

Continuous Change, Continuous Disruption

In Forrester’s paper The Adaptive Enterprise, they lists a host of forces that are disrupting businesses around the world, including:

The beginning of a global economic recession. The US – China trade war and its effect on supply chains. An ever-increasing volume and sophistication of cyber threats. Automation changing the face of the work and labor market. The need to ramp up investment in climate change adaptation.

On top of all that, new technologies are challenging the way businesses operate. Disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing have opened up entirely new ways of operating, including radically new business models.

Widespread adoption of these technologies is forcing businesses — even those in long-established markets — to adapt or die. As the paper notes:

“These forces generate a level of volatility that creates acute risk — or extraordinary opportunity. The level of volatility places a premium on how well companies adapt. The market will reward adaptive enterprises and punish those unable to quickly sense and respond to the different forces playing out in the external market.”

Deliver What Customers Need Today

For a business to thrive in a turbulent environment, it must have two capabilities:

The ability to withstand and recover quickly from difficult, unexpected situations. The ability to rethink and recreate any part of the business to better serve current customer needs.

That second point is crucial. As we’ll see shortly, being completely focused on delivering an end result — i.e., serving the customer’s current needs — is essential. If a business becomes distracted by the processes or technologies involved, the desired result will always suffer.

Ultimately, serving the customer’s needs as they exist today is the only thing that matters.

A business that has both of the characteristics above can change even its core value proposition to pursue the opportunities produced by volatility. Businesses that lack these characteristics are static and unable to change quickly, making them highly susceptible to the disruption caused by continuous change.

Embracing Continuous Change

So what does it take to thrive during continuous change?

First, business leaders must play a central role in building the capabilities needed to embrace continuous change. This is not something that can be kicked down the hierarchy while executive teams continue to operate as they always have.

Beyond this, there are many different capabilities that must be nurtured for a business to develop change resilience. Some of the most important capabilities include:

Outcome-focused. Businesses that thrive during continuous change always work backwards from

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