The Road Runner cartoons are wrong. Wile E. Coyote is the exception rather than the rule. Coyotes are idea models for remaining nimble and flourishing in the face of change.
Need proof? They continue to grow and expand in the face of continuous human encroachment on their territory. They do so despite the fact that most states have placed a bounty on their heads.
Coyotes are able to do this because they are:
- Adaptable: Coyotes originally inhabited open prairies and deserts in the southwestern part of North America. Today, they are found from Alaska to Central America and flourish in forests, mountains, and urban areas.
- Opportunistic problem solvers: Coyotes learned that survival meant doing different things as well as doing things differently. They prefer meat, but they will eat basically anything: mammals, insects, fish, snakes, fruit, food discarded by humans, and plants. Coyotes were never told to adapt. They just looked for opportunities and did it.
- Aware of their surroundings: Coyotes can detect food and danger up to a mile away. In other words, it is hard to surprise a coyote. They know you are coming before you know that they are around.
- Speedy: Coyotes can run at a respectable 40 mph. That is not puma-like speed, but it is fast enough for them to avoid predators and catch their prey.
- Territorial when needed: Like their cousins the dog, coyotes mark and defend their territory. What is theirs is theirs, and you will have to fight them to take it.
- Secretive when it serves them: Coyotes have developed the ability to hide in plain sight, and they will even walk on their toes to keep their prey from hearing them.
- Committed to family: Coyotes strong sense of family increases their opportunities to protect and grow the species. Male coyotes are active participants in caring for newborn pups, which means more of them survive.
- Versatile when working to succeed: Coyotes usually work alone or in small packs. But they will work in larger teams when it serves their purpose. Coyotes will even team up with badgers—a natural enemy—to track and kill a common prey. There is no illusion of friendship. The coyotes and badgers enter into this partnership of convenience because it conserves energy and increases their mutual effectiveness.
Don’t you wish the culture of your organization could be as nimble as a pack of coyotes?
Sustaining the Culture
Culture isn’t the holiday party or monthly birthday celebration. It isn’t casual dress on Fridays, and it isn’t scheduled fun on a quarterly basis.
Culture is the DNA of your business that defines the “way we do things around here.” It is the integrated patterns ad habits of human behavior that include thought, speech, and action.
Every organization has a culture. Here are seven things you can do to make sure that yours stays nimble:
- Create continual awareness. About the time that you believe you have sent every imaginable message about the need to be nimble and adaptable, you are beginning to cut through the clutter of workplace distractions.
- Cultivate the language. Words have meaning. We’re not talking a cult-like, secret ceremony language. The best cultures adopt and cultivate the language of success rather than of failure. Use words that generate urgency not complacency.
- Leverage the legends and symbols. Promotions, salary increases, and recognition are the symbols of success in organizations. Use them wisely to reinforce behavior is aligned with your desire to be nimble. Create and share the legends of performance that demonstrate the culture in action.
- Build and maintain the competencies. Don’t just tell me to work faster. Give me the tools and skills I need to do so.
- Align structure, process, and procedure. Structure, process, and procedure create habits. Make sure that the habits you create support rather than create barriers to staying nimble.
- Actively assimilate and strengthen group membership. Hire for fit. Teach new team members your culture through an intentional on-boarding process. Coach for cultural fit as well as performance, and be willing to remove those who do not live your values—even if they produce good results.
- Go first. You can’t simply say, “be nimble.” You must live it every day. Compliance can be mandated. The commitment you want from your team is volunteered every day. You earn it when you model the behavior and performance you want.