…is a series of expedients

Helmuth Von Moltke was regarded as one of the greatest military strategists of the late 19th Century.  In the military context, his statement above meant no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.  Strategy becomes one of extensive preparation for all possible outcomes.  Flash forward nearly 150 years and business and military leaders alike find themselves in a similar environment where the key success factor is adaptability.  It is still about successfully preparing for all possible contingencies they might encounter in their area of engagement.

So what does it take to plan for a series of expedients?  In my experience in the military and in business, I’ve found 3 common elements of successful adaptability:

  • Know Your Environment – The military continuously updates threat assessments based on changes in enemy activity.  Successful businesses routinely update their environmental assessment and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis.  While in the military, I’ve operated in environments of 130° F and -100° F.  The business environment can change just as dramatically in the current regulatory and competitive global landscape.  We do not have the luxury of “If we only had more time” or “If we could go back to the way we were” anymore (I’ve heard both multiple times in the last 90 days!).  Create processes to understand the environment including early detection of shifting forces!
  • Identify Potential Obstacles Up-Front – Adaptability suffers from encountering obstacles without a plan to overcome them.  Whether looking at personal goals or organizational strategies, identifying potential obstacles up front reflects both an understanding of the environment and an ability to keep an open mind to other options. Once the obstacles are documented (there are always obstacles!), possible solutions can be created to overcome them.  While the possibility exists the obstacle might not appear, having a contingency to overcome it is still better than not having a contingency and the obstacle becomes real!
  • Everyone Understands the Mission – Once the battle begins, real-time intelligence becomes the lifeline of the military commander.  Business is no different where leaders depend on real-time intelligence from their field operations (sales, engineering, customer service, etc.).  To the extent the entire organization understands the Mission is the extent the intelligence from the field supports the success of the Strategy. When everyone understands the desired results and has effective communications channels, the business leader has a clear picture of what is truly happening!

Adaptability is the ability to change to fit a new set of circumstances.  Successful business leaders adapt from a position of knowledge of their environment.  The rest react to the environment with less than ideal consequences.

How are you helping your organization adapt?

Lead Well!