Adaptability refers to a person who can easily change what they’re doing to fit the current situation. This could involve anything from a change in their work to a change in their behavior. People who are appropriately adaptable are Chameleons With a Core™: they successfully navigate changes while preserving their own identity and values. While this is an essential skill for daily life, it is especially relevant for project managers and change stakeholders.

People who score high in the Adaptability category are skilled at knowing when it is appropriate to standardize and when it is better to deviate from the path to get things done. While you may not necessarily be energized by constant change, you are competent and capable of navigating the fluctuating waters of your organization. Others likely rely on you as a person who can keep a cool head through the chaos.

Projects and changes by nature require the people involved in them to be able to change. Adaptability involves not just being willing and capable of changing what you’re doing, but also knowing when it is best not to change. Knowing the time and place for standardization is essential. The best adapters can be referred to as a Chameleon with a Core™, changing as necessary but remaining the same person with the same values and principles.  Below are some examples of exercises to improve your Adaptability.

  • Try explaining it to a five-year-old. Chances are, there are things you and your organization are doing that could be changed. However, after doing things the same way for so long, we forget that there’s any other way to do it. Go through your tasks and take the time to mentally explain to yourself why they are important – but take your time to break things down as if you were explaining to a five-year-old child, who has never seen how you or your organization functions before. A child might have questions like, ‘Why do they use the computer to communicate instead of walking down the hall to their office?”, “Why don’t people say what they really mean?”, or “Why aren’t those teams sharing?” By delving into your cultures and procedures this way, you may discover inefficiencies and begin practicing small changes in your own thoughts and behavior.
  • Question yourself. What words do you use in your head? Do you use positive language or defeatist language? Do you find yourself falling into the comfort of using simple obstructive words like “can’t” or “won’t” or “impossible”? Try changing your mental script. How would it feel if those tasks weren’t impossible? What are the odds that they actually were possible, even if only marginally likely to occur? Get rid of the words that don’t serve you and are stopping you from growing through change. Push yourself to be open to new ideas, and check in with yourself about how those ideas make you feel. Become familiar with the boundaries of your comfort zone, and what it feels like when something pushes those boundaries. Incrementally work to expand that zone.
  • “Take a look at your project management methodology from a fresh perspective. Take a step back and ask if it is achieving the goals you desire. Is it providing too much structure? Is it not providing enough structure? Develop a list of action items you and the project leadership at your organization can take to adapt the framework to what is best for your organization. Don't view this as a one-time-only event. Come back to this exercise regularly to reevaluate and tweak the methodology.” A Sixth Sense for Project Management, Tres Roeder.

For more information about how to improve your adaptability, see A Sixth Sense for Project Management, pg 75.