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Pre-Conference Survey – Organizational Adaptability Assessment

by Chris Paquette

In the weeks leading up to the 2015 MOR Leaders Conference, we invited 2,051 members of the MOR IT Leaders community to participate in a nineteen-question survey designed to gather their impressions of their IT organizations’ current levels of adaptability. We received a total of 589 responses.

The survey posed nineteen questions in the form of opposing statements, and respondents were required to select a point on a seven-point scale to indicate which opposing statement was most accurate and to what degree. The graphic below illustrates a typical question.

Here are the questions from the survey (framed only in the positive) and the categories they were loosely organized under.

Contextual Perspective

  • This organization ensures staff are informed about what the state of the art is, what the environment is like, how it’s trending, and where the organization stands relative to these forces.

Experimentation and Learning

  • This organization is willing to risk and accept failure in the pursuit of innovation.
  • This organization learns from mistakes, viewing them as learning opportunities.
  • This organization embraces a continuous improvement mindset.

Openness and Flexibility

  • This organization is always looking to develop and pursue new ideas and approaches.
  • This organization has enough people who are ready and willing to step into new roles as required.


  • This organization provides wide visibility into current or planned efforts so others can contribute or adapt.

Decentralization, Autonomy and Trust

  • This organization provides people and teams with the autonomy they need to innovate.
  • This organization provides people the means to innovate.

Purpose and Meaning

  • This organization provides a compelling vision of success that inspires staff.
  • This organization communicates desired strategic goals and outcomes clearly.

Peer Collaboration

  • This organization encourages collaboration at all levels; sees silos as barriers to success.

Diversity and Dissent

  • This organization has a diverse pool of people to draw perspectives and ideas from.
  • This organization has a culture that encourages robust discussions about the work.


  • This organization has a stellar pool of creatively talented people who create novel solutions that advance the work.
  • This organization actively seeks ideas from all staff.

Shared Leadership

  • This organization actively involves people in change efforts and gives them a part to play.


  • This organization recognizes and rewards excellence.
  • This organization deals decisively with incompetence or bad behavior.


Though dozens of institutions were represented in the data, only eight had 30 or more responses. The table below illustrates the distribution of positive and negative responses across these eight schools, sorted from high to low by the average rating at each school for all questions.

There are dramatic differences in how individual schools are perceived by the people who responded to the survey. For the school that fared best, 20% of their ratings were negative and 69% were positive. For the school that fared worst, 47% were negative and 33% were positive.

So why were there differences? Was there something particular the top four schools did differently that might explain their more favorable ratings?

All of the four top-rated schools received higher ratings than all of the other four schools for five items:

  • Encourages collaboration at all levels; sees silos as barriers to success.
  • Embraces a continuous improvement mindset.
  • Provides a compelling vision of success that inspires staff.
  • Provides wide visibility into current or planned efforts so others can contribute or adapt.
  • Recognizes and rewards excellence.

There were notable commonalities among all schools. For example, “Encourages collaboration at all levels; sees silos as barriers to success” was among the top five ratings for every school and “Deals decisively with incompetence or bad behavior” was among the five lowest.

Individual Investment

The survey asked respondents to focus on attributes of their organizations, but what about the attributes of the individuals who responded? What is their role in tending to their own adaptability and how they affect the adaptability of the organization? During the 2015 MOR Leaders Conference, we engaged participants in completing a self-assessment that was derived from the pre-conference survey and invited them to reflect on that question.

In Conclusion

The survey results suggest that adaptability and intent go hand in hand. The most successful organizations and individuals are not waiting to see what changes may come, they have a vision for excellence, they have a plan, and they are making change happen.