Goal – Adaptive Action

Meme – Adaptive Action

The second key capability of an Innovation Team is Adaptive Action.

Ground breaking enterprise innovations are notoriously difficult to deliver.   The failure rate for complex original projects delivered in chaotic environments is depressingly high.   Adaptive Action can be used to augment traditional project management techniques to increase the ability of teams to deliver original new ideas.

The tenets of planning and control that underlie Traditional Project management rely heavily on assumptions that:

  • Tasks can be defined in advance and will remain relatively stable over the project life
  • Scope and complexity can be bounded.  Out of bound items won’t impact success.
  • Risks can be defined in advance and proactively managed.

These assumptions have limited validity for projects which track closely to the status quo … enhancements or deployments of standardized business solutions.   They break down badly when projects are original, cross enterprise, and chaotic. 

Risk management and control cannot entirely rely on up front planning and control.  There must also be a capability to adapt to newly discovered issues, new insights, and changes in scope, design and implementation.   

This “Adaptive” capability requires specific support in the team design:

Action Heroes – a role outside project management with the responsibility to drive adaptive responses to problems

Cross Project Problem Solvers – resources (potentially including the Business Innovation Architect) who  are available to analyze and respond to unexpected problems.   A key aspect of this role is assuring that fixes and changes provide a workable solution across the entire application.

In addition, the culture of team leadership must view the use of agile “Adaption” as a valid response to program issues.  The practice of punishing changes as violations of plan is counter productive when change is an inevitable part of the project execution. 


Embrace the reality of chaos.  Learn to effectively adapt to new information, changes in design, and unexpected challenges.     

Good Reads: 


Brainstorming Questions

  • Who on the team is responsible for identifying gaps that no one is addressing?
  • Who on the team solves unexpected problems? 
  • Who on the team makes sure that evolving designs and implementation choices are consistent and support the ultimate program goals?
  • Who can cross program boundaries and get action?
  • Who has responsibility for making sure the project delivers its promised business value?
  • Who can throw out obsolete project plan assumptions?

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