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The Flexibility Test: Does Your Organization Have a Flexibility Culture?

The principal difference between the 21st century workplace and the 20th century (19th century?) work culture in which so many of us live is flexibility. While some organizations have made a commitment to an outcomes-based approach to meeting mission objectives, others are still stuck in a compliance culture that values by-the-book processes and policies over innovation and individual responsibility. Where does your culture stand today? Does this describe your organization?

  1. Employees are encouraged by managers to set work schedules based both on organization needs and employee preferences.

  2. Performance measurements identify a clear line of sight between mission objectives and the standards required for quality and timeliness of work performed.

  3. Employees are encouraged to work across organizational boundaries to achieve work objectives and meet customer needs.

  4. Trust is both horizontal and lateral – a feature of relationships up and down the chain of command and across department, division, and agency boundaries.

  5. Innovation and experimentation are celebrated – even when results fall short of expectations.

In a culture with high flexibility, managers trust employees to make decisions, and employees trust managers to provide direction and support. Results are valued over process, and when someone asks why a process is performed in a certain way, the response is “let’s look at that” rather than a blank stare or the answer “just because.”

If your organization doesn’t support the flexibility that you need for high quality performance, see if you can find a focal point for change. Find a rule, a policy, or a process that has hardened into an immovable object and create a way to move it. Start small, create a constituency for change, and build trust, and you will help your organization to build a culture of flexibility that can improve the work environment and enhance your ability to meet your mission objectives.

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