Organisations need a new maturity – the old one is tired

According to Wikipedia, the following is true of maturity (and who would ever argue with Wikipedia?) :

maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner

The problem with all this digital and structural change is that the maturity we once prized as a source of confidence and judgement does not work well any more. The idea that hard won experience over extended periods affords our organisations useful principles to apply as we respond to the world we are in now has been undermined. Or to put it simply: what got us here won’t get us to where we need to go next. It is not an appropriate response to our digitally disrupted environment any more.

Equally, an immature response will not help, by definition. There is a subtle twist here though. To a traditionally mature leadership, the new maturity seems immature and ill considered. It feels risky and uncertain and often just messy. That judgement is a real challenge to progress. We need to grow up.

What do I mean by old and new maturity? I have tried to summarise some important features of the two here:

So, the new maturity is one where teams and individuals are trusted and supported to use their own judgement. They are able to act quickly and pursue their curiosity in the search for evidence of what works now and what might work next. The resources and advice needed to make these judgements are readily and easily available. Sources of expertise are signalled clearly and ready to help, within and beyond the boundaries of the organisation. Crucially there is an expectation to support the development of others, both as members of the flexible teams created and as a record of what is done and how it is done. The new maturity thrives on openly available information and feedback of all kinds – it is fuelled by a learning culture.

This new maturity is what is required to respond successfully to the digital changes we are all facing all of the time. In large part, this is becasue this new maturity has grown up in digital businesses where build-measure-learn and lean decision making are commonplance. Constant and swift iteration has created an environment where this type of maturity can develop.

With many of my clients in the L&D world (and beyond) there is a dawning realisation that the old furniture of programmes, courses, ADDIE and posthumous assessment no longer fit the room. Redecorating takes some time and can be painful but is the only option. There are few, if any, shortcuts; but bringing in leaders from the digital world is one first move. Young people are helpful too (though it tires me to type it) and can be a healthy disruptive source of energy.

What have you tried to create a different maturity on your teams and projects?

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