We’re living in a world of great complexity and volatility. New technologies are enabling disruption and exponential change. Richard Foster in Creative Destruction estimated that the average life expectancy of a corporation on the Fortune 500 has declined from 75 years to 15. That book was written in 2001; it’s likely the lifespan is even shorter today. The old, linear ways of working born from simpler times will soon be obsolete.
The challenge is that we’ve been taking an incremental approach to organizational change, feeling our way forward without a solid understanding of what a truly resilient organization looks like. That’s where our Future-Ready Assessment comes in.
A new operating system
Think of the difference between Windows , Apple and Linux operating system. As many of you know firsthand, most long-time users of one OS go through a readjustment period when they switch to the other; old hardware, software and ways of working are often incompatible with the new system. We’re about to make this type of switch within organizations, as old structures, beliefs, processes and perspectives are no longer compatible with today’s environment. “Best practices” are not transferrable from one OS to another.
The current OS was born out of the Ford era and views organizations as machines. Linear processes, command/control, silos and fragmentation are all attributes of a basic operating system that is ill-equipped to deal with today’s complexity, let alone tomorrow’s. We believed if we could break things down into their component parts, they’d be more easily managed. This worked well in a simpler environment, but increasing complexity now requires a whole systems view and distributed, not centralized, leadership. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, the phrase “turning the Titanic” is becoming increasingly in vogue; any organization using this OS will likely find themselves obsolete within a decade.
The NEXT OS views organizations as living systems. It is built on the principles of biomimicry, borrowing from the evolutionary, adaptive capabilities of natural ecosystems like coral reefs or watersheds. This new OS requires fundamentally new ways of seeing and thinking; there is no longer a direct connection between cause and effect. Culture, innovation, sustainability, adaptability are emergent properties, dependent on a multitude of factors. Hierarchy is flattened, leadership is distributed, control is relinquished.
If this seems like a hard shift to make…. it is. Yet a new generation of leaders is emerging who not only understand this OS, but thrive in it. Welcome to the future.
Our Future-Ready Assessment uses a 4-point maturity scale to benchmark organizations on their fitness for the future. The first two points — Fit for the Past and Fit for Today — are the low/high points of the current OS, which means that 95% of all organizations will likely fall within this range. The 2nd two points — Fit for Tomorrow and Future Shaper — are the low/high ends of the NEXT OS. There’s a giant leap between the old and new OS; our colleagues at GlobalGEA call it the 10x shift.
We include 40 dimensions for the assessment, which are organized into 6 categories:
- DNA: Includes purpose, perspective, values and beliefs
- Governance: Leadership, organization, how/where work is done
- Strategy: Goals, how strategy is developed, metrics, scope, incentives, etc
- Systems: How the organization senses, responds to feedback/change, builds capacity, etc
- Innovation: Participants, process, focus, risk profile, etc
- Relationships: Stakeholder communication, engagement, transparency, etc
- Note that sustainability is baked throughout, although we do provide a separate score
You can get a flavor for some of the key elements in the following chart. In a subsequent post, we’ll explore some real-world examples of NEXT OS organizations.