The Consequence of Weak Adaptive Capacity

Whether we think about it in these terms or not, most of us would assume (rightly) that our organization or project already possesses some adaptive capacity.

But where?

Typically, the ability to anticipate changes and adjust accordingly is expected of program designers and upper-level administrators (as the term adaptive management suggests).

But let’s juxtapose that to what we are learning about “empty scale-up,” the frequently occurring situation whereby practices are “scaled” in terms of implemented more widely, but not in an effective manner (cf. Hodgins). Scale, in these cases, may mean that a practice may even have been faithfully “replicated,” but it is fragile and unsustainable—the practice has not genuinely taken root in a new environment.

Syntegral believes that the co-occurrence of management-centeredness and empty scale-up are not coincidental: isolated pockets of adaptive capacity and unsustainable scale-up seem to work in tandem.

For this reason, Syntegral seeks to foster organizational understanding of complexity and the organizational will to use it. Not just at the upper echelons of an organization or program, but at every level of implementation. Skillful adaptation is truly everyone’s job.