Intro: Why Antifragility?

COVID-19 has taught us that agility and resilience are not the only capabilities that organisations needed yesterday; they also need antifragility.

Antifragility can be best described as the ability to thrive as a direct result of stressors, shocks, attacks, or failures.

Why-Antifragility

The concept was first described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.

Taleb offers this definition: “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Organisations that applied this concept did better during the initial crisis.

DevOps prepares your organisation to deal with stressful events, which is the vital outcome of building antifragility.

Every time you successfully work your way through a crisis and use the lessons learned to improve your organisation or systems, your level of antifragility increases.

Practising DevOps helps you to build a system that is both robust by nature, and that becomes stronger by responding positively to crises.

Antifragility requires a reframing of the employee proposition:

Antifragility starts with focusing on all factors that define the employee value proposition, including compensation and rewards, development and advancement opportunities, and work environments.

As we navigate through the continuing COVID-19 challenge, people will remember how their employer treated them during this uncertain time.

The companies that prioritised their employees will be rewarded by retention. The companies that wrestled with their values will pay a high long-term price.

Culture:

“Culture drives business performance when it is aligned with strategy and the business environment.” As the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”!

“Culture can be hard to understand and talk about, much less manage because it feels elusive. So much of culture is anchored in unspoken behaviours, mindsets, and social patterns.” Who said this?

What we don’t seem to grasp is that culture is an emergent property of structure.
Most leaders don’t prioritise by realising their organisational culture is driven by its structure. In other words, structure eats culture for lunch!

Creating an Antifragile Culture

Employee family life, politics, economy, religion, and workplace interactions all affect corporate culture. Despite this, many organisations maintain rigid expectations for employee behaviour and assumptions about work-life, standards that leave them fragile and vulnerable to change.

What if we could craft an organisation that reacted positively to cultural change? Instead of focusing on maintaining consistency, cultural change would thrive on continual learning, mindfulness, and adaptation. It would benefit from all the positive outcomes of a stable workforce, together with the addition of continual improvement. Innovation, skills, and mastery would follow, as would service performance, product quality, and improved client relationships.

Below is a short view of elements related to, but not limited to, antifragility. This is just a starting point, but even a little progress toward antifragility would yield great benefits.

Adaptive Team Metrics

Goal setting is value-aligned but decentralised.

Grant teams adequate power and resources to define some of their own lead and lag metrics. This is limited in scope to team-specific behaviours and results. By giving them more autonomy, teams can harness change more quickly and effectively.

Due to the inherent risks in decentralised control, impose the requirement that team metrics are aligned with corporate strategies, visions, and values. The line-of-sight will help teams understand how to design metrics that feed the larger purpose and strategy of the organisation.

Active Listening

Listening is considered more important than control, oversight, or behaviour management.

Adopt the belief that employees are experts and innovators. Build pathways for leadership to solicit input and guidance from them when making broad-sweeping decisions. Information from employees will flow up continually, both through and around managers.

Transparency

Be as transparent as you can about difficult changes and events. Take a critical look at what you tend to keep confidential and determine if your motivation for doing so is fear. Take an honest measurement of the risk and if you can share, do. Healthy transparency will make it easier for your employees to trust you during times of change.

Work Out Loud

Record successes and failures for the future. Recall these stories frequently to boost morale and discourage negative behaviours, enabling the organisation to benefit from a shared memory.

Closing:

Creating an antifragile culture will help turn disruptive change into a positive, productive experience. This is the future of change management, but it is a long-term effort. Any step you take will yield benefits.

Empowering your team members and encouraging continuous improvement habits means your whole system gains a little more antifragility every time there’s even a minor issue.

What Antifragility Is and Why It Matters? How DevOps and CI/CD Contribute to Antifragility? Find the answers here

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Sebastiaan Laurijsse

Head of Manufacturing EMEA, Service Now

Sebastiaan’s name has become synonymous with leading digital and fast pace product development. His conviction on the importance of transparent and open communication, fact based…