As a leader, are you engaged in technical or adaptive work?
...it was Ron Heifetz (1994) who focused attention on the concept of an adaptive challenge. An adaptive challenge is a problem situation for which solutions lie outside current ways of operating. This is in stark contrast to a technical problem for which the know-how already exists. This distinction has resonance for educational reform. Put simply, resolving a technical problem is a management issue; tackling adaptive challenges, however, requires leadership. Often, we try to solve technical problems with adaptive processes or more commonly force technical solutions onto adaptive problems. ...
Almost by definition, adaptive challenges demand learning, as progress here requires new ways of thinking and operating. In these instances, it is 'people who are the problem', because an effective response to an adaptive challenge is almost always beyond the current competence of those involved. Inevitably, this is threatening and often the prospect of adaptive work generates heat and resistance.
Mobilizing people to meet adaptive challenges is at the heart of leadership practice. In the short term, leadership helps people meet an immediate challenge. In the medium to long term, leadership generates capacity to enable people to meet an ongoing stream of adaptive challenges. Ultimately, adaptive work requires us to reflect on the moral purpose by which we seek to thrive and demands diagnostic enquiry into the realities we face that threaten the realization of those purposes.
From: Every School a Great School by David Hopkins
Published by: McGraw Hill