In any organization promotion and selection, as well as evaluation tools, provide the primary “power levers for changing or maintaining culture.” These critical tools, presented as inherently fair, determine awards and control access to positions of influence and control.” They provide specific instructions when tasking subordinates due to an obsession with certainty. The individual as well as the “system” carefully monitor the execution of their instructions, and track all activities and outcomes with the finest attention to detail. Unfortunately, “professional systems and structures are not very adaptable.”
If any organization is to become adaptive, a “Learning Organization,” it must ensure that its personnel system supports its move to a learning organization, and not the other way around where a retained personnel system limits the evolution to adaptability. The organization must learn to be adaptive, while creating and supporting adaptive institutions. The thread of evolutionary adaptability must exist everywhere. It starts with doctrine and strategic leaders, and filters down to daily activities, threads through policies and beliefs, winding its way from the training base to the those teams deployed in the conduct of an array of possible future missions. An environment must be in place to support and nurture the adaptability an organization says it wants in its leaders and employees.
Evolutionary Adaptability (EA) is a doctrine for a culture that accepts a lack of absolute control over events on or off the battlefield. Implementing EA means the organization revisits “mission” or “trust tactics” through raising the bar in the way it educates, trains and nurtures its Leaders and Soldiers. The environment will cherish those who, when the need arises, they will act without waiting for orders. Instead of seeking perfection or optimum solutions, find a solution that works locally and exploit its results as a continual evolution, preparing leaders to think and decide when opportunities arise.
The focus from this point on will be Leader development.The past reliance on “competency mapping” will not do in the future. Instead of creating longer lists of characteristics and attributes in which many contend future leaders must have and institutions must teach—less will actually be more. The evolutionary professional pyramid of the past must be reverted focusing on a couple of key attributes in the beginning—such as adaptability and development of strength of character—and “plug and play” attributes as they are needed in the future. See this as a tree trunk, and as the tree grows so does, its need for more limbs (attributes and capabilities). The teaching of fewer earlier, will allow teachers and curriculum alike to be evolutionary, open to experimentation with up to date lessons learned.
Critically important to the institutionalization of Adaptability in an organization will be superior education and training. Not only will the organization produce leaders that possess adaptability, but the institutions tasked to develop leaders will become adaptive as well—evolving as the future operating environment evolves. The Adaptive Course Model (ACM) oultined in my book Raising the Bar will provide principles that allow implementation of the how to over time always adhering to a few ideas.
ACM will hold to the first idea that every moment and event offers an opportunity to develop adaptability. Every action taken by a student in the classroom or in the field training is important to the process of inculcating a preference for solutions. If a student errs while acting in good faith, they do not suffer anything more than corrective mentoring. Constructive critiques of solutions are the norm, but more important are the results of their action, and the reason they took that action. The role of mentoring and 360-degree assessments is to teach the student so that their future actions will make a positive contribution to their organization or team’s success, no matter what the mission.
Base this idea on the premise that one learns more from a well-meaning mistake reviewed critically and constructively than from a mediocre performance following an established and memorized process.
The ACM teachers will not be so much concerned with what a student does or how they do it. Rather, the emphasis of the course will be on seeing that the student gained and then maintained an instinctive willingness to act. During numerous After Action Reviews and mentoring sessions—occurring during and after numerous scenarios with different conditions—the teacher will analyze why the student acted as he did and the effect the student’s action has on the overall operation.
The ACM curriculum and Leader Evaluation System (LES) will use two criteria to judge whether students did well—the timelessness of their decisions, and their own justification for it. The first criterion will impress on the student with the need to act quickly, while the second requires the student to reflect on their actions and gain insights into their own thought process. Since the student has to justify their decision in their own mind before implementing it, imprudent decisions and rash actions will be less likely.
During ACM, what the student decides to do will be relatively unimportant. The emphasis will be on the effect of the students’ actions overall, not on the method they may have chosen. ACM will create a learning environment where there will be no formulas, or processes to achieve optimum solutions. This environment will solicit creative solutions.
The ACM LES is based on the idea of undue criticism, after the fact, of the student on the scene—who will be in a confused, dangerous, and pressured situation and who has the best command of immediate information—will be unwarranted. Anything beyond a constructive critique will only destroy the student leader’s willingness to act and might even lead them to withhold adverse information or provide falsely optimistic reports simply to avoid a less than perfect evaluation report. ACM will recognize there is little in adaptability that is systematic and will make allowance for it in its program of instruction (POI).
The heart and soul of adaptability—theme throughout ACM—will be the desired result, not the way the result is achieved. Teachers of adaptability will reject any attempt to control the type of action initiated during a mission as counter-productive. ACM will instead concentrate on instilling in students the will to act, as they deem appropriate in their situations to attain a desired result.
More to follow with the principles.