BASIC BUSINESS CENTS: Adaptive management has become a must

To succeed in today’s ever-changing marketplace, adaptive management must be embraced.

Lou Schultz

Many words have been written about how autocratic management is passé.

Managers today can no longer sit in their offices, issue edicts and expect to have them carried out to the letter. That may have been okay in the days of the assembly line and their non-thinking jobs, but today most of those jobs have been replaced by robots.

This mutation in workers’ jobs is accompanied by mutation in managers’ jobs. Mutation is ultimately essential for adaptive evolution in all positions.

The adaptive manager needs to make fast and effective decisions that draw on the insights of those on the frontline. A simple guide for the adaptive manager is to understand the employees, define the mission and trust the employees, as espoused by the Wharton School of Management.

Adaptive managers get to know their employees by walking around the organization and listening to employees. Something similar was once called Management By Walking Around, which implied observing workers. What the adaptive manager does is not just to observe but to sincerely get to know the employees by asking questions about their needs, goals and ambitions. Specific needs, such as training, tools, equipment and facilities, may be uncovered to help them improve their performance. The real value is to build two-way trust and respect.


During these discussions, the mission or goals of the organization is required to ensure the employees know the why and what of the end target. The vision of the desired achievement at a certain time needs to be understood by all if it is to be achieved. A strategy of how to achieve the organization’s needs must be developed and conveyed to all employees. Buy-in of the mission, vision and strategy by everyone is critical if the goals are to be met.

Managers today have no choice but to empower the people to execute the mission. They need to allow flexibility to adjust to changes in technology, communication, transportation and competition. Employees must constantly adjust to changing realities, and management must rely on the people’s ingenuity to cope in real time.

The mutation of management style today allows for fast and effective decisions that utilize the wisdom and experience of those closest to the work. To succeed in today’s ever-changing marketplace, adaptive management must be embraced.

Lou Schultz is a Certified SCORE Mentor and can be reached by email at

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