How You Can Get The Best Of Both Worlds

How do you get the best of both worlds? Nimble, adaptive ways of working with the wisdom of planned, prudent approaches to change?
Source: Human Factors Advisory (

What is organisational maturity?

So What?

Getting the best of both worlds

Surfing the wave of changing organisational maturity

What is organisational maturity?

One way of looking at organisational maturity lies in how your environment initiates and responds to change. In a less mature environment, peers and bosses may expect immediate changes. They may demand yet another urgent change to how your team operates or an adaptation of another sort. Could we liken this behaviour to an adolescent? Energetic, chaotic, making mistakes and adapting to change with reckless abandon.

In more mature environments, there may be a layer of governance and project thinking. Only the most urgent changes may be initiated with adolescent zeal. Even then, the “green light” to proceed may be from a committee instead of a single manager. A more mature environment is not always positive. As with many realities of organisational life, it is what it is. Adults may bring to bear wisdom and a balanced, proactive perspective. Yet, they may also suffer from baggage, slowness to respond and complicated motivations.

Organisational maturity can be defined in several ways. There is organisational change maturity. This brand of maturity is the capacity for people to adapt and install change, especially in large enterprises. There are also maturity scales and measures covering other types of maturity. For example, cybersecurity maturity or organisational health.

So What?

In this article, we consider organisational maturity as our capacity to adapt to customer service requests. These requests might be from actual paying customers. But don’t forget the upstream or downstream teams in our organisation who serve as customers!

Where can you start? The structure which comes from maturity can be positive or negative. On the positive side, your environment will be more accepting of a longer-term roadmap. Your roadmap may serve as a buffer against short sharp shocks. But is the organisation resilient to most shocks like these? This strength through adversity and working through the unknown brings to mind “antifragility”. Antifragile is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Adopting antifragile thinking, can your operation and team grow stronger from setbacks? Can your operation become more resilient from crises and other learning opportunities?

Are people around you used to seeing changes within the next five minutes? This mindset will take time to unpick. Yet if you allow yourself to breathe and think, you gain a significant benefit. Your ability to tolerate today’s distress and push back helps both you and your team avoid enduring stress and burnout. Changing minds may even involve deliberate, long-term expectations management.

Organisational maturity may seem like extra work. Governance forums, a greater focus on risk, and a much slower pace in getting things done …not fun. Teams may have enjoyed the adrenaline rush of quick adaptive changes, even saving the day. Yet burnout can ensue if the majority of change faced by your team is reactive.

Getting the best of both worlds

Can you have the best of both worlds? The nimble adaptiveness of an adolescent’s sense of organisational maturity? Yet with the wise risk-averse and well-executed tenor of a mature organisation? Yes.

Here are two starting points to achieve this aim. Both have a significant influence on mindsets — yours, your organisation’s leadership, and your team.

Invest in a project management method. Every change is (at least) a mini-project. Take the best ideas of project governance and building your team’s capacity to lead and be accountable for mini-projects. By establishing a project board, their governance and focus on accountabilities protect you. Instead of customers and other teams demanding immediate changes, governance layers shield you and your team from needing to react. Governance allows you to respond — especially in light of roadmaps and a cogent argument for planned, measured change.

Adopt practical ways to explain changes succinctly. Explicit, systematic awareness-raising communications help your team know of impending changes. Surprises are the enemy. Over time, your systematic awareness-raising has a secondary benefit. Your team’s thinking expands. The next deadline and looming changes and possible crises — this is reactive thinking. Yet if changes are signposted well in advance, and roadmaps signal longer-term thinking? This is where your team’s thinking can expand to longer-term, more proactive horizons.

Surfing the wave of changing organisational maturity

Consider the changes to customer service. It is not only about implementation. Planning and “making changes stick” make the change likely to work and be sustainable. What small changes can you make today?

Change is a mini-project. Each change request (a term often used in projects) is a mini-project. It is difficult to push back against demanding stakeholders who expect their change to take place immediately. Yet think through the components of any change rather than immediately commit, even in the face of intense emotion.

What systems for change will you use? What handy resources and templates support your mini-project? Have you considered how a change impacts your “organisational system”? In other words, have you mapped those directly and indirectly affected by the change? This includes people those well outside your team — both upstream and downstream.

Look at your team’s ratio of planned change to reactive change. Think of how changes take flight in your organisation — including timeframes. People’s expectations about the intensity and timeframes around changes may take a while to alter.

Devise a roadmap. Can you craft a roadmap of the changes ahead? Would these changes be part of your ratio of planned change?

Describing your roadmap to others may help manage their expectations. As with any change in culture and expectations, there may be initial grumbling about “having to wait” for change. Yet this grumbling may subside in the face of incremental results.

After these suggestions, what obstacles might you face? What could prevent you from maximising your ratio of long-term, responsive change?

  • Do you have a team who have prided themselves on “saving the day”?
  • If you reflect on their time in your team, have they been rewarded (even intrinsically) by quick responses to save the day?

As a leader, you may have to change how people are rewarded and again look at the ratio of planned to reactive change. With this in place, can you be fair and consistent in your rewards to those in your team striving to do the right thing?

  • What percentage of a manager’s time was spent managing versus being on the tools in the last month?
  • Do managers habitually rush in to solve problems or provide their team with “the answer”?
  • Have they sought to systemise the way they operate? Behaviours beat rhetoric or promises. Can you see a commitment to documentation or other training artefacts? Are practice recommendations, standard operating procedures or brief videos available to everyone?

It is up to you to foster the right balance of organisational maturity for your team. The right balance helps you reap the benefits of nimble, passionate customer service with wisdom and forward-thinking.




Organisational change, behavioural design and coaching psychology insights — practical and research informed. Clever ways to put a dent in the world.

Recommended from Medium

Whispered Micro Soft Business Office 365 Keys

If You’re Going to San Francisco

How Top Recruiters Are Applying The Toyota Way to Talent Acquisition

Independent Contractor Is Not What It Seems- How To Be Prepared

Purpose is the power to re-energise

Don’t Be Afraid of Making the ‘Wrong’ Choice

Structure, Structure, Structure or three options to order your presentation

How to provide feedback

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Allan Owens

Allan Owens

Australian Change Lead: 8 years experience. Author of The Change Manager’s Companion.

More from Medium

What Really moves the needle in People Change, part 3

The unfinished symphony of business

All the Best Leaders Practice Emptiness

How To Make Decisions That Align With Your Purpose

Top view of a DSLR camera lens