Here are thoughts from the opening pages of Paul Light’s book, High Performance: How Robust Organizations Achieve Extraordinary Results. It summarizes lessons learned from more than 10,000 studies done over many years by the RAND Corporation, and it’s fascinating to read. (How did Volvo, which hadn’t changed its ways in many years, figure out how to introduce a successful SUV? Why did Pearl Harbor take the U.S. by surprise, when all the information necessary to suspect that an attack was coming was available?)
One of the book’s mantras is that we now live in an age of rapid, unpredictable change. So organizations have to be prepared to make rapid changes in their own work.
Thus, in the opening pages, we read:
In a perfect world, organizations would not worry about surprise and vulnerability. There would be one future and one future only. It would be steady and predictable, a simple extension of the past.…[Which of course is exactly the assumption that lies behind the planning orchestras have always done.]
High performance requires more than a robust strategy that will succeed in a variety of scenarios. It also requires an organization that is among the first to sense a change in probabilities across a range of probable futures; among the fastest to deploy resources against threats, surprises, and opportunities; among the most creative in forging a presence in the evolving future; and among the very best in moving as a whole into whatever the evolving future holds. In a word, these organizations are robust. They are alert to change, agile in deployment, adaptive in practice and product, and aligned in purpose.
And then this:
Robust organizations think in futures (plural) tense. They plan against landscapes of possible futures; accept the inevitability of surprise; challenge their assumptions about the futures they face; reduce regret by adapting robust, adaptive plans, avoiding unintended consequences, and reducing vulnerability; and focus on the direct, indirect, and cascading effects of what they do. As such, they are highly alert.
Does any of this describe any classical music organization we know? Nominations welcome!
(Many thanks to my friend Jesse Rosen, for recommending this book. My comments of course express my thoughts, not necessarily his.)