Adaptive governance : an innovative approach to meet the challenges of our time

A meeting - Photo's credit: Dylan Gillis A meeting - Photo's credit: Dylan Gillis


Adaptive governance : an innovative approach to meet the challenges of our time

Adaptive governance : an innovative approach to meet the challenges of our time

Since March 2020, the transformation at work in our companies – constant changes, the impossibility of predicting, the multiplication of information to be processed, the questioning of the business model, the difficulty of grasping an environment in which everything and everyone seems to be interdependent – has become more prevalent than ever.

Securing value chains

In such a context, steering operations within ever-changing value chains remains essential, but entrusting this task to a single individual – in this case the leader – can be dangerous. Isn’t it unreasonable to believe that one person can master everything when there is more knowledge every day? Isn’t it risky to put the overall performance of the company on the shoulders of one person? 


In this respect, the generalization of remote working has opened the eyes of many managers. Haven’t they been forced to trust their employees, to give them more autonomy, to control them less… without this leading to the disasters sometimes announced? 


While 8 out of 10 employees want to keep the possibility of teleworking, we believe that organizations are being pushed to change their paradigm and to move from a sequential way of thinking, organized on a top-down chain of command that hardly manages interdependencies and leads to the creation of silos, to agility that favors collective intelligence, the management of “interdependencies”, and the understanding of complexity.


But adopting this new paradigm is not self-evident and raises many questions. How can a manager act more easily in complexity and help his team to do so? How can they make decisions in a changing environment and create value? Is there a valid solution for every company, even though it is unique and evolves in its own context? Is there a solution that is accessible to managers who sometimes have limited room for maneuver? 


This solution exists: it is Adaptive Governance. 


Adaptive Governance is an approach that enables companies to evolve in a complex environment by promoting their ability to adapt to rapid and intense change. It proposes a new form of work organization based on collective intelligence at the service of the company’s raison d’être (or that of a department or a project). Based on roles, self-governed and adapting to the needs and challenges of the moment, Adaptive Governance promotes subsidiarity and collective processes allowing for accelerated decision-making in uncertain and complex environments.

When the company's structure serves operations

In a conventional company, operations and support functions serve the structure. Organized in silos attached to a control center, this structure forces them to produce reports and wait for decisions to be made. In the long run, such a rigid way of working coexists with agile projects, which are becoming more and more numerous in organizations, and which rely on the autonomy of the players, incrementalism and collective intelligence. The logics are too contradictory not to generate harmful friction to performance. 


By embedding itself in a conventional pyramidal organization in an attempt to make it more adaptive to a highly uncertain environment, more focused on innovation, value creation and the relevance of its impact to the current needs of its environment, Adaptive Governance (AG) makes it possible to put the structure of the organization at the service of operations. 

And contrary to most change processes, AG is supported by employees. One of our clients, engaged in an Adaptive Governance approach, surveyed its employees: 83% do not want to go back to a traditional mode of operation. The figure is even 94% for those who have been using AG for more than 12 months.

Six key principles

This is no accident. The effectiveness of Adaptive Governance is explained by a precise framework based on six key principles:


  • Shared meaning with an organization aligned with its purpose;
  • Clear roles, updated collectively and regularly, which eliminate any ambiguity about the responsibilities of each indivudual… and which are distinct from the people;
  • Empowered actors, each role having full latitude to decide and act within its scope;
  • Problems are solved by addressing all “tensions” within the team, leading systematically to decisions;
  • Efficient meetings, conducted with a process adapted to the objective, which favors the full participation of everyone;
  • A resolutely pragmatic approach, with a “test and learn” logic to promote operational agility.


These principles, combined with a set of practices adapted to the company’s needs, convey a culture of agility and collective intelligence and are thus a powerful lever for transformation.

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Mickael Drouard picture

I am driven by one question: How to concretely bring collective intelligence and empowerment into daily practice in organisations? Over the last 15 years I have learned and developed highly efficient ways to do it.

Mickael Drouard


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