Career Management Needs Adaptive Change

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 22

Everyone understands that change happens in business, companies, and their personal lives. Yet, rarely, does change stick.

In the business world, we adopt TQI, then Six Sigma, then Lean, and then the next great methodology in the sky. Companies announce initiatives with their employees with great fanfare and promotion – and nothing changes when the program completes.

Even though I interviewed Cali and Jody for their book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It and mentioned the difference in technical and adaptive change in the first question, I missed the significance of adaptive change for knowledge workers.

Definitions of Technical and Adaptive Change

Technical change is all of the steps to have a successful roll out of X. It can be a product, a benefits program, or what needs to be done to evaluate the talent the company has working for them.

Adaptive change requires people to act differently then they have in the past. Acting differently means people need to adapt to the new behavior.

Corporations are all about Technical Change

If you look at most corporate change programs, they are technical change. A new benefit program comes out and we have seven steps to complete for everyone to know about it.

If a new version of technology is being installed, here are the 27-steps that need to be completed to have “change.”

If talent is being evaluated for managerial succession, here are the four things that need to happen so that we can decide.

Career management incorrectly follows Technical Change

Unfortunately, we as knowledge workers model our career management the same way corporations model change: we do the technical stuff. Yet, doing the technical steps involved in career management will lead us to failure because the change is not adaptive: we don’t change our behaviors as a result of it.

If you look at how to change your self or, for that matter, your company culture, you need to have adaptive change. Change that will result in different  behaviors done now compared to the past.

For dieting, it means changing your behavior to eat the right number of calories and exercising the right amount to reach a goal weight.

For the career management skill of personal branding, you have to know your personal brand and be aware of when your behavior and your brand don’t match.

For the career management skill of brilliant basics – doing your job well – it means improving your meeting skills every meeting.

Adaptive change is the right change for career management

Adaptive change, as Cali and Jody describe it, “is starting with a desired goal and then working your way toward that goal, regardless of where that process might take you.”

Not doing “7-steps to freedom” and declaring “freedom reigns.”

As knowledge workers, our career management efforts need to focus on adaptive change. Adaptive change is real change. You will know you have changed when your behaviors change.


PS To see a great example of a Results Only Work Environment, check out Girl Scouts Gone ROWE over on Cali and Jody’s site.

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