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The Adaptive Organization (for Forbes)

Submitted by on October 26, 2010 – 10:51 pmNo Comment
Image representing Ray Ozzie as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Ray Ozzie, the visionary behind Lotus notes and the departing Chief Software Architect at Microsoft posted an open memo this week.   I highly recommend reading the whole thing.  There are two quotes that I found of particular interest and I will dedicate a post to each one separately to keep things focused.

In this first section he reflects on the past 5-years of disruption that has remade much of the world we live in and some of the challenges he sees coming.

…in the past five years so much has happened that we’ve grown already to take many of these changes for granted: Ubiquitous internet access over wired, WiFi and 3G/4G networks; many now even take for granted that LTE and ‘whitespace’ will be broadly delivered.

We’ve seen our boxy devices based on ‘system boards’ morph into sleek elegantly-designed devices based on transformational ‘systems on a chip’. We’ve seen bulky CRT monitors replaced by impossibly thin touch screens.

We’ve seen business processes and entire organizations transformed by the zero-friction nature of the internet; the walls between producer and consumer having now vanished. Substantial business ecosystems have collapsed as many classic aggregation & distribution mechanisms no longer make sense.Organizations worldwide, in every industry, are now stepping back and re-thinking the basics; questioning their most fundamental structural tenets. Doing so is necessary for their long-term growth and survival.

As end-consumers of these changes it is easy to remain inconsiderate of how transformational these developments are.   However in business, emerging technologies and the customer expectations that they have created represent tectonic shifts in how business must respond and reorganize.

And as the pace of connectivity and access points (mobile, tablets, connected devices) increase so will the rate of change.  In this environment the only ones who will thrive are those capable of rapid, continuous adaptation at an organizational level.  This is not a strategy – but a cultural trait.   The adaptive organization is one with a workforce capable of (1) surfacing leadership from all levels of as inputs to decision-making, (2) amplifying weak signals from the points at which the organization meets the outside world (sales, customer service and even further beyond into customer led innovation etc.).  (3) matching the pace of information flow inside the organization with what is occurring outside and (4) developing rapid feedback mechanisms with which to assess the impact of (5) making a distributed set of bets.   In this way, optimization of small strategies will often win over the “big bet.”

Technology is the superstructure upon which all business is now reliant – Every business process and every function is mediated through electronic technology: from communications (telephone, email, electronic documents) to finance, resource planning and supply chain.

In this regard business must coevolve at the rate of technological change in order to remain competitive.    This is not the same as saying successful organizations must maintain cutting edge technology – but that they must foster cultures that are capable of shifting and changing with the requirements of the business environments they find themselves in.   As Technology comes to resemble organic processes and evolve at a quickening rate so must our own organizations.

Quote via Dawn of a New Day « Ray Ozzie.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

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