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Tuesday, August 7 • 15:45 - 16:15
Are you ready for the age of the organisational plasticity? (Manoel Pimentel Medeiros)

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We are living in a new economic and societal model. In this model, companies have to create highly individualised customer experiences and promote instant solutions for users' problems. Because of this, more organisations are becoming aware of the necessity to improve processes, structures, behaviours, and mindsets to create better products for users. This need is much more relevant than any other discussion regarding methods or frameworks. Most organisations need to adapt their business model to promote business agility. This is a vital element to survive in "The Now Economy".
Why is this so relevant for companies? Traditional models of management worked on the assumption that even in a complicated system, it was possible to predict behaviour when things changed. However, due to the high speed of innovation and strong competition, companies are being exposed to the effects of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity).

How to be prepared for this challenge
The burning question in the now economy is how organisations can survive in a shared, collaborative, humanised, and on-demand economy. This is the reason why many companies are changing their organisational design to promote better experiences for users. The solution is not about adopting a particular framework, model, or method. The gist of this new approach is about whether we can create nimble organisations to respond to new social and economic disruptions quickly.
I have been observing behaviours in a few outstanding companies in Brazil and Australia over the last six years. The secret ingredient for the success of these companies is not that they are adopting agile or any other process; it is their ability to quickly rewire their organisational tissue to abandon old thoughts and continuously create new behaviours.

Neuroplasticity: The great inspiration
This type of behaviour is similar to neuroplasticity. In the book Neuroplasticity (the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series), Moheb Costandi states:
"Neuroplasticity simply means change in the nervous system, and is a collective term for all the processes that change the structure and function of the brain. Brains evolved to respond and adapt to the environment, and so neuroplasticity is an intrinsic property of nervous tissue, which occurs at all levels of organization, from the genetic to the behavioral."
As a broader concept, plasticity is about the quality of being easily shaped or moulded. This is the same quality we need in corporate systems. In order to survive and grow, modern companies should be able to change their structure and function. It should become an intrinsic property to respond and adapt to the environment. We can name this property "organisational plasticity".
Organisational plasticity is not a methodology or a framework or even a mindset. Organisational plasticity is a natural characteristic. It is similar to neuroplasticity in human brains. This ability has been present in all companies since their organisational genesis.
I was a director in a Brazilian company called RS Franchising (http://www.rsfranchising.com.br) when I started to notice this type of characteristic back in 2011 and 2012. RS Franchising was a small and young business specialising in managing and providing IT solutions for fast-food companies.
In this company, I noticed four key emergent attributes:
  • Nimble sensory network (democratisation of the information and decision making)
  • Rapid organisational learning
  • Constant renewing of practices
  • Lightweight functions to solve problems
I noticed similar attributes in other small businesses and startups in my work as Agile Coach in the following years. Because of that, I found the concept of neuroplasticity as the best metaphor to explain this kind of behaviour and essential element for Agile Transformations.
This phenomenon has been noticed by other people in different parts of the world as well (as you can see in this article written by Laurie Leitch - https://www.thresholdglobalworks.com/whats-organizational-plasticity-got-to-do-with-it/, and in this white paper produced by Sparknow - http://www.sparknow.net/downloads/Sparknow_Rewiring-the-Organisation.pdf).
However, I have to confess, most organisations neglect this natural characteristic when they start to grow/scale. Considering Agile is becoming something popular in large organisations, we have to think about how feasible it is to achieve real business agility without unlocking organisational plasticity. That is one the questions we are going to explore in this session. That is one the most important reflections regarding the future of Agile Software Development.
Innovative companies like Envato, Menlo Innovations, Google Ventures and Everlane are good examples of organisations who didn't bury its natural plasticity into heavy processes and unnecessary bureaucracy. In this session, we're going highlight what we can learn with those companies and, how we can translate these lessons into practices to foster the organisational plasticity.
In summary, I'll share in this session how we can translate different ideas into organisational practices to cultivate plasticity and why it is an essential ability for the next years.

Learning Outcomes:
  • How organisational plasticity can help companies to deal with complexity and uncertainty
  • How to use organisational plasticity to increase business agility
  • What are the pitfalls of applying organisational plasticity?
  • What are some tips to foster this behaviour?
  • Plasticity as an element to facilitate failure recovery
  • A few examples of practices to unlock and cultivate the organisational plasticity.

Tuesday August 7, 2018 15:45 - 16:15 PDT
Marriott Salon 1 & 2