Industrials & Business Services

In the new commercial environment, organizations must be hyper-adaptive to win

By Torsten Bernewitz, Samir Bhatiani, and Ron Siahpoosh

June 10, 2020 | Article | 5-minute read

Colleagues working in a cafeteria

There will be big winners and losers this year. Those who fall behind will struggle to catch up, but the winners will drive a strong rebound and thrive. The difference? The ability to become hyper-adaptive.


It was hard to drive good execution of top-down strategies in the best of times. Going forward, it will be outright impossible. Why? Because local market variations, volatility and speed of change will be dramatically higher. Because channels like virtual, tele and digital will be mainstream. And because customers’ loyalties, preferences and behaviors will be more unpredictable. In this environment, no top-down plan will survive contact with reality.


The key to surviving and thriving is the organization’s ability to spot new opportunities with acuity, exploit them quickly, and learn and adjust actions constantly.


Organizations that keep relying on the conventional top-down or center-out management of their commercial activities will not be able to do this. The locus of decision making must shift to the front line, where the action happens. At the same time—and this is critical—HQ must equip the front line with the right support to effectively prioritize key actions and to keep learning and adapting as they act.


A few commercial organizations have already started mastering this. Recognizing that in a volatile world, strategies have a short half-life, these hyper-adaptive commercial organizations keep a laser-sharp focus on wining the next 30, 60 and 90 days. They empower their front line teams and move them to a hyper-adaptive operating model with three core practices:


Win the quarter localization: Local teams create plans to achieve their short-term goals, typically by quarter. These plans are highly tailored, with overall goals broken into segment or account sub-goals, KPI targets and key actions. The local teams are energized as they get crystal-clear about how they will win the next 90 days. HQ has a critical function as enabler, providing well-defined, end-to-end multi-channel customer engagement processes and plays, and scorecards and dashboards to track results and understand their drivers.


Win the month readying: Getting ready for action, the teams systematically validate and adapt their local plans each month. Any local changes, new insights, successes as well as challenges are incorporated. The teams go into each month ready to win. Again, the role of HQ is that of the enabler through providing “reconnaissance”: customer-specific insights, predictive local analytics and AI-generated field suggestions.


Win the week sprints: Hyper-adaptiveness is a team sport. The teams get together each week to learn from what worked (and didn’t work) the previous week, adapt as needed and decide on next actions. Everyone contributes. Hyper-adaptive organizations are thus able to unleash the thinking power of all their people, not just a few strategists away from the action. Decisions are made by those closest to the customer, who can evaluate impact and adjust in the moment. First-line managers play critical enabling and coordinating roles. This process takes skill and practice at scale, in addition to a growth mindset and curiosity to learn. Unsurprisingly, hyper-adaptive organizations pour exceptional effort and resources into their talent, including competencies, coaching and motivation programs.


Hyper-adaptiveness has quick and big payoffs. We have witnessed commercial organizations that implement the new way drive better first-line manager, team and customer results in less than 90 days while building key habits for long-term growth.

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