The Adaptability Culture

The adaptability culture is characterized by strategic leaders encouraging values that support the organization's ability to interpret and translate signals from the environment into new behavioral responses.

The adaptability culture also consists in strategic focus on the external environment through flexibility and change to meet customer needs. The culture encourages entrepreneurial values, norms, and beliefs that support the capacity of the organization to detect, interpret, and translate signals from the environment into new behavior responses.

This type of company, however, doesn’t just react quickly to environmental changes — it actively creates change. Innovation, creativity, and risk-taking are valued and rewarded.

Most Internet-based companies use the adaptability type of culture, as do many companies in the marketing, electronics, and cosmetics industries, because they must move quickly to satisfy customers.

Zappos.com became a hugely successful Internal retailer with an adaptability culture that encourages open-mindedness, teamwork, and a little weirdness. The Book Mark underneath tells more about the successful, slightly wacky Zappos culture.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
How many companies pay employees to quit? Zappos.com does, because CEO Tony Hsieh believes paying someone to leave is $2,000 well spent when it gets rid of a person who doesn’t fit in and could damage the company’s culture. The successful Internet seller of shoes (and now other products) is renowned for its exceptional customer service, but managers say they don’t even talk about customer service at the company. Instead they focus on culture, and exceptional service and high performance happen as a result.

DELIVERING HAPPINESS THE ZAPPOS WAY
Tony Hsieh joined Zappos.com in 2000 and sunk practically all his assets into the business to keep it going during the dot-com bust. By 2009, when Amazon purchased the company for $1.2 billion, Zappos was one of the most successful Internet retailers of all time. Hsieh believes that’s because the primary goal of the company was not to sell shoes, but to deliver happiness, both to employees and customers.

Hsieh knew first-hand how important a strong, constructive culture is when it comes to employee and customer happiness. He had experienced the joyless grind of working in a job that had no meaning, where technical skill as all that mattered. Hsieh decided to write Delivering Happiness to talk about his journey from “chasing profits to chasing passion,” the life lessons he has learned, and how those lessons have been applied at Zappos. Here are some key points for business leaders:

  • Get the right values. Zappos has a set of 10 core values that include Create fun and a little weirdness; Deliver Wow through service; Embrace and drive change; Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded; Pursue growth and learning; and Be humble. But Hsieh didn’t dictate the values from on high. He sent an e-mail to all employees asking them what values should guide the company. The responses were discussed, condensed, and combined to come up with the final list.
  • Get the right people. Zappos does two sets of interviews. The first focuses on relevant experience, professional and technical skills, and the ability to work with the team. The second focuses purely on culture fit. There are questions for each of the core values, such as. How weird are you? People are carefully selected to fit Zappos’ culture, even if it means rejecting people with stronger technical skills.
  • Make culture a top priority. All employees attend a four-week training session and commit the core values to memory. At the end of training, they’re offered $2,000 to resign if they believe they aren’t a good fit with the culture. Every year, Zappos puts out a Culture Book, in which employees share their own stories about what the Zappos culture means to them. Core values are supported by structures, processes, and systems that give them concrete reality and keep them in the forefront of employees’ attention, and performance reviews are based in part on how well people participate in the culture.
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