In today’s unpredictable world, organizations must adapt to win.

Can your team move fast enough?


The world has changed. Organizations cannot solve 21st century problems with 20th century solutions. Technology and human behaviors have transformed dramatically in the last ten to twenty years, but organizations have not kept up. The pace of disruption has become both overwhelming and unpredictable. Maximizing efficiency, squeezing out every drop of productivity, and slashing costs is no longer sufficient – and simply being the biggest is not enough to guarantee victory. Siloes and bureaucratic processes slow you down. Carefully laid, detailed strategic plans are ruined by unforeseen variables, and organizations with rigid structures are too inflexible to adapt. How can organizations win in this complex operating environment?


Large, global organizations must learn to move like small teams to achieve adaptability at scale. Individual teams within an organization are often pockets of elite excellence – but a breakdown in teamwork and effectiveness occurs at the enterprise level. Today’s companies must capture the agility of small teams at the organizational level, creating a large, nimble enterprise in which each function is properly empowered and constantly adapting to the environment. An adaptable organization is one that can respond to changes in the environment in real-time, responding to risks and making decisions faster than others, securing a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing environment.

Complexity will continue to increase – organizations must fundamentally transform the way they operate in order to keep up. The choice is clear: adapt or get left behind.


The challenges facing modern businesses change constantly. Each day presents new obstacles that require individuals and teams to quickly adjust their tactics to execute in uncertain conditions. In the military, the term for this type of climate is VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). Technical expertise is necessary, but insufficient, to operate effectively in a business environment where the outcomes of decisions, processes, and outcomes are unpredictable. CrossLead believes that a workforce’s ability to be adaptive in the face of VUCA operating environments will enable their organizations to win.

As more companies find themselves in VUCA environments each year, it is increasingly vital that they have the organizational capabilities in place to deal with unprecedented change. The challenge many leaders face is that the management practices they have studied and practiced for decades are increasingly irrelevant in today’s dynamic markets; most management practices were designed for stable environments, which offer greater rewards to efficient rather than adaptive companies.

CrossLead developed its organizational management framework based on shared experiences in the United States Joint Special Operations Command, and validated the framework through consultation with academic research and organizational management practitioners. This framework enables leaders to instill a readiness for change within their organizations by developing four core organizational capabilities: Trust, Common Purpose, Shared Consciousness, and Empowered Execution.


Faith in the competence and intent of one’s colleagues

Common Purpose

Cohesive alignment on shared values, vision, and goals

Shared Consciousness

An emergent intelligence created by a holistic understanding of the operating environment and a high level of internal connectivity

Empowered Execution

Decentralization of decision making to the lowest appropriate level

Each capability plays a vital role in ensuring that an organization can quickly adjust its strategies and initiatives as the environment changes. This requires quickly absorbing new information from the external environment, sharing information and plans fluidly across teams, understanding the interdependencies of efforts across the organization, and empowering teams to develop their own initiatives for accomplishing their objectives.

CrossLead Framework of Adaptability

The challenges facing businesses are changing at an unprecedented pace. The CrossLead framework affords companies the ability to proactively increase their adaptability by highlighting the obstacles their employees face when working in teams or crossfunctionally. The CrossLead capabilities are further described in this section.


At the organizational level, trust takes two forms: interpersonal trust between employees and faith in the fairness of the institution itself. A supportive environment, or a culture of trust between employees, is foundational to an organization’s ability to adapt to change. When teams believe that their colleagues have good intentions and are generally motivated to do the right thing, they are more likely to share information and engage in effective collaboration readily. This sentiment supports the cross-functional dialogue necessary to spread ideas throughout an organization. Similarly, if employees feel interpersonal trust with one another, they are less likely to fear social rejection when sharing creative and innovative ideas. This encourages employees to advance their teams and organizations.

Additionally, in an organization with a high degree of trust, teammates perceive the company’s leadership to be credible and fair. This means that employees have faith that decisions are made based on the best available information and reasoning, rather than arbitrarily or based on biases or favoritism. This type of culture motivates high performance and sharing ideas because individuals believe they will be rewarded and respected for their contributions. Both interpersonal trust and operational objectivity are required for an adaptable organization.

Common Purpose

Common Purpose is a shared understanding of the enterprise’s goals and an emotional commitment to its success. Goal alignment occurs when employees have a clear sense of how their responsibilities contribute to the goals of their team or department. Similarly, they understand how their department’s goals contribute to the organization’s larger mission. Keeping these cascading and interconnected goals in mind enables teams to understand how they support their objectives. It also gives them the appropriate context to know when it is necessary to subordinate their
own team’s goals to benefit the organization’s mission. When the environment changes quickly, goal alignment keeps the organization moving in the same direction.

Coupled with goal alignment, an emotional connection to the organization’s success creates a Common Purpose. If employees genuinely care about the organization’s future, they are more likely to engage with its mission and work tirelessly to make it successful. Adapting to change can be exhausting and requires true emotional commitment and motivation from employees.

Shared Consciousness

Shared Consciousness is an emergent intelligence that stems from a high density of cross-functional interactions between teammates; in other words, there is a high level of transparency so that employees know what challenges their teams are facing, but also the pursuits and challenges of other teams in the organization. Shared Consciousness can be measured by the presence of three organizational characteristics: information sharing, collaboration, and situational awareness.

Information sharing means that all organizational knowledge is accessible for those who need it to be successful in their jobs; information is readily spread across silos and team members incline to share, rather than withhold, information by default. Similarly, organizations that are strong in information sharing have systems in place for making information public so that those who need it either for action or understanding can locate it quickly. This is particularly critical for organizations operating in complex environments, where circumstances change frequently, and information becomes outdated quickly. A bias towards sharing information prevents teams from acting on stale data.

Collaboration, both within teams and across teams, makes it possible for teams to leverage the necessary cross-functional expertise they need to make decisions and execute quickly. Cohesion between teams enables teammates to prepare for emergent opportunities and equips them with access to the resources they need to be successful.

Finally, situational awareness – a shared understanding of the internal and external operating environments – indicates that teams acknowledge how their actions impact one another and share the same perspective on what external events are relevant to their industry. Interdependence between teams is healthy and necessary in an adaptive enterprise. Maintaining an appreciation for the interconnectedness of efforts across teams enables them to function more cohesively, without losing the autonomy necessary for quick action.

Empowered Execution

Empowered execution is the final capability necessary for an organization to adapt to the 21st century. Empowered execution requires that decision-making is pushed to the lowest appropriate level of the organization. The team or person closest to a particular problem should be permitted to solve it with minimum interference from higher-ranking employees in the organization. To measure empowered execution, CrossLead evaluates three categories: empowerment, guidance, and shared ownership.

In an organization with a high degree of empowerment, teams organize their work autonomously. They can make the decisions necessary to accomplish their objectives without regularly seeking approvals from higher layers of management. This enables teams to work faster and adapt to new information more quickly, as they have more control over their planning processes.

For the organization to maintain order while providing teams enough freedom to self-organize and solve problems, leaders must provide clear guidance on the limitations of a team’s decision space; for example, a team might know that it can self-organize its work, but might have to ask permission before pivoting the core functionality of a product it is developing. Certain strategic decisions will inevitably be debated at higher levels of management or among other teams, and it is important for teammates to understand which decisions fall outside of the scope of the team’s decision space.

Similarly, organizations where decision-making is decentralized to the lowest appropriate level should expect a high degree of shared ownership among teammates. If employees feel that leadership trusts them enough to make decisions and respect their choices, they are more likely to take responsibility for outcomes. In this environment, employees and teams can be held accountable for their actions and decisions and are thus more motivated to accomplish their objectives.

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