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Why you should empower your people to make a more adaptive business

Updated: 6 days ago

I was at a fascinating workshop with Tom Cheesewright as part of CogX this morning on future-proofing your business (his new book).


Given the current Covid-19 situation, future-proofing organisations is not the academic exercise it once was. High-frequency changes are our shared reality.


Tom talked about the philosophical shift that predates Covid but has been accelerated by it - from the obsessive drive for optimisation that has made companies so lean they cannot adapt to change to one of adaptability. We now need resilience and the ability to adapt.


Adaption beats optimisation in an age of uncertainty

There were two parts of the workshop that interested me the most - the need to increase the speed of decision-making, and the rise in networked organisations (one for another time...)


To speed up decision-making you need to give people both the autonomy and responsibility to make them. Funnily enough this is also what makes for happier people.


Clearly this is a massive culture change for many organisations, and may even be a step too far for some. I’ll be interested to see if some of the monolith companies I have worked with in the past can make the change.


For responsibility he looked at:

  1. Clear rules that bound role scope - how often in bidding do we hear that R&R should be defined for every bid!

  2. Reviews that confirm trust - rather than the blood on the walls we generally face for proposals or lessons learned…give your people that psychological safety

  3. Open lines of communication for support - I’ve not seen huge problems here, but it’s clearly an issue in some companies.


The interesting challenge is autonomy. This takes:

  1. Coaching for confidence - the mentoring I am doing has an amazing impact on confidence (get yourself and your team mentors or coaching for specific career subjects)

  2. Visible authority - this is a good one given the governance pressures big organisations impose on bidding

  3. Training and skills development - who thinks they get enough of this?!


Empowerment is the main reason I was convinced I could not return to working for someone else. If organisations become adaptive and networked then maybe they will be more attractive places for employees, as well as the ones that thrive.


How efficient are decisions in your org? Would more empowered people make your company more future-proof?

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