Adaptive change

Our colleague and member of the Advisory Board, Richard Pascale, introduced the understanding of change processes as adaptive change to our work. This goes back to the differentiation between technical and adaptive challenges, which were described for the first time by the Harvard professor Ron Heifetz.

The traditional leadership approach has its origin in the "technical", i.e. rational, engineer thinking. Tremendous progress was achieved with this type of reasoning.


Today executives are however more and more confronted with "adaptive" challenges, caused by:


  • the social, political dimension which inevitably comes along with every major measure of change
  • the organisational complexity of working within global value added chains
  • the necessity of behaving differently

Meeting adaptive challenges with the traditional leadership approach will not lead to any success:



Indeed, the single most common source of leadership failure we've been able to identify - in politics, community life, business, or the nonprofit sector - is that people, especially those in positions of authority, treat adaptive challenges like technical problems.

Ronald Heifetz

In order to successfully implement corporate programmes, such as initiatives for improvement, M&A, innovation projects or international expansion, the responsible executives must face the "adaptive" character of these changes and re-develop suitable approaches.

Case study "Adaptive challenges in aircraft construction"