The Robust Culture: the culture handles well internal faults and external stress. There may be internal gaps (skills, unfilled positions, imperfect process) or external pressure (unfavourable markets, unlucky launch) but the culture is relatively stable and able to support the business. There is a lot of ‘bouncing back’. The culture is elastic. Post stress, it goes back to ‘normal’. Its opposite is an unstable and weak culture.
The Resilient Culture: the culture has mechanisms to recalibrate itself to adapt to internal or external stress. In doing so, not ‘just’ bounces back, but changes ways of operating (less people doing same amount of work, shortening time to market with same resources) with relative ease. The overall performance does not fall significantly over the changes and adjustments. It’s true North remains the same. It’s opposite is a rigid and stiff culture.
The Adaptive Culture: the culture reacts to stress in ways that may look similar to the resilient or robust type but the overall direction may be lost in those reactions. For example, a company may reorganize the regional operations in a way that saves money by downgrading the local structures. Favourite of Big Consulting has been the conversion, and demotion, of self contained country operations into glorified sales and marketing, local structures reporting globally. The company has been adaptive but the culture has completely changed, good or bad. Adaptation does not imply keeping the cultural true north. Adaptation contains a lot of survival (good in the short term) but lots of question marks about identity (from completely lost, to completely different).
The Antifragile Culture (Nassin Taleb term): reaction to stress, internal or external, disruption, even chaos, triggers some mechanisms borrowed from robustness, resilience and adaptation but the culture gets stronger and stronger every time. Post stress, it never goes back to ‘normal’ but to ‘much better’. The transformation is progressively more significant, in a positive way, post stress, post fiascos, or even disasters. Its opposite is a fragile culture.
The robust type bounces back but does not change much, the resilient does change and keeps performance, the adaptive changes but to a very different look, the antifragile gets stronger by dealing with stress.
Inspired by Network Theory! My working and imperfect definitions!
Beyond words, I am interested in the organizational cultural differences between companies that tend to share similar types of resources and belong to similar worldviews (e.g. shareholder enhancement). Why some are like bamboo, others like chameleons, others like a defiant phoenix. Others RIP, others…
Work in progress.