Cultivating creativityOn 1 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article How do you cultivate adaptable people and unleash their capabilities on avolatile world without losing control? Philippe Masson explainsIs there such a thing as an ideal company? Probably not. But, as in nature,some are better suited to their environments than others. And today’s volatileenvironment is certainly not what it was even a few years ago when the neweconomy was booming. At Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, our recent experiencessuggest that those enterprises which are most adaptable are the ones best ableto cope with this volatility. Achieving superior performance By observing what a few high performers have achieved, we have concludedthat truly adaptive enterprises exhibit three fundamental qualities which setthem apart: – Instinct: an ability to read even weak signals early, and to reactquickly, such as credit card innovator Capital One which tests new products onthe market every day – Agility: coping with events such as demand fluctuations by combining andrecombining capabilities within their ecosystem. Dell Computers is good example– Intelligence: learning from past experience. After a difficult return to growthfollowing the Gulf War, Marriott Hotels reacted to the World Trade Centerdisaster by mobilising their entire organisation for recovery within a fewweeks – instead of slashing costs from the top. All have mastered the art of cultivating adaptive people – individuals whoshare a common purpose, seek to help others, are sensitive to theirenvironment, and stand ready to exercise initiative and take risks. Cultivating adaptive behaviours through People Management Practices As employee behaviour is shaped by the key events in their workinglifecycles, so HR executives have a vital role to play in building peoplemanagement practices – from recruitment to ‘off-boarding’. Like most consulting companies, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young recruits forskills and behaviours rather than job-specific knowledge. Combined with diversetargeting, a strong on-boarding process, and dynamic management of mobility,this makes for a richer blend of talents. Our people work for an organisational entity such as the Finance Sector inFrance, but they belong to a ‘profession’ such as strategic and businessconsulting, or technology. Their choice of career tracks and their performanceassessment criteria depend on their profession and their role. Our consultantshave a choice between becoming content specialists or managing clientengagements and evolving towards a broader account executive role. Clearly, HR directors have a major role to play in shaping the peoplemanagement practices that foster adaptive behaviours. But they need to operatein an environment that empowers people. Empowering people through adaptive organisation models and adaptive IT While most companies today still entertain some pockets of hierarchy, wherelife is controlled by job descriptions and reporting lines, many have evolvedto a more modular structure with responsibilities delegated to business unitsand consistency achieved through transverse management processes. The most adaptive phase in this evolution is the shift towards a networkedorganisation model in which teams are the most important organisationalentities and people are connected through communities of interest. Besides project teams where people spend most of their time, communitiessuch as ‘technology architects’ or ‘engagement managers’ provide our employeeswith a natural family in which to share knowledge and collaborate on clientwork with fellow-professionals. The technology architects community, for example, was instrumental innurturing our approach to adaptive IT architecture, which has subsequentlybecome a market standard. The other key ingredient in this empowerment formulais IT. Adaptive IT provides the connectivity and flexibility which employeesneed to operate in networks and to respond to events. But adaptiveness is not a panacea. Empowering even talented people canresult in disasters if they are not properly guided. Building a soundorganisation in the adaptive world is a matter of judgement about the rightbalance between initiative and risk-taking, empowerment and guidance. And adaptive enterprise is also critical once an employee decides to leave.Such enterprises also support their employees at that point by maintainingstrong relationships with the alumni community. Getting startedDo you recognise the need to cultivate more adaptive people inyour company? A first step might be to revisit your approach to performancemanagement. – Do you assess and reward individual performance on the basisof demonstrated behaviours as opposed exclusively to results against targets? – Have you agreed on a model of the capabilities expected ofpeople in your organisation – from shared attributes reflecting the corporateculture to role-specific competencies? – Do your employees have a clear understanding of their careeroptions and their development plans?If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, thenperformance management might be a good starting point.About the authorPhilippe Masson is global leader ofthe Strategic Consulting Profession at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. 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