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How to improve boundary fluidity within your company

Today, we’re discussing the final trait among the five named as the most stand-out in highly adaptive teams, according to an article by Roselinde Torres. As a review, here are the traits we’ve already covered:


One Voice. “Adaptive teams take the time to get completely aligned about the organisation’s vision, values, and vital priorities, while respecting individual differences of opinion and experience. Once a diverse team has reached agreement, members have the same “true north” guiding their strategic moves, and they display an absolute consistency in articulating that direction.”

Sense-and-Respond Capacity. “Adaptive teams systematically use multiple real-time filters and amplifiers of information to monitor the external forces that drive change in their business environment. These filters often take the form of customized data mining, market research, dashboards, and war rooms. These enable the teams to excel at reading external signals, connecting disparate trends into meaningful patterns, and putting in place mechanisms that allow them to collectively separate the signal from the noise.”

Information Processing. “Adaptive teams are able not just to sense when change is needed; they are also able to synthesize complex insights and make high-quality decisions quickly. They identify leading and lagging metrics that enable everyone to monitor progress in a way that is transparent and aligned with the company’s strategy and performance objectives.”

Freedom Within a Framework. “In addition to setting a common direction, adaptive leadership teams establish a framework within which the organisation can experiment. Team leaders are empowered to take bold risks within agreed-to parameters, with failure seen as a possible and an acceptable outcome. Failure is only debilitating if the lessons learned are not disseminated and applied quickly.”


The final piece in the puzzle that is a highly adaptive team is a trait called Boundary Fluidity. Torres defines it as follows:

“Adaptive teams can move both horizontally across roles and vertically to connect with the next level of leadership down from them. Team members can play out of position and pinch-hit for others at a moment’s notice, regardless of their role or how long they have been on the team. An operations person can oversee a human resources initiative, for instance. This role fluidity strengthens the bonds among team members.

“The feeling that people have your back is a fabulous thing,” said an executive at an investment company. “This truly is a sense of comfort and confidence.”

Here are ways to better the boundary fluidity within your own company:


  1. Consider what the senior-level leadership team does at one investment company. At random, they assign next-level leaders from different departments to critical strategy initiatives. This empowers the leaders to make more decisions, think strategically, and be more than implementers while also giving them a context for adaptation. Are you using your own team members to their fullest potential? Are you challenging them and providing them with opportunities to develop their critical thinking skills?
  1. In the same vein, move your team members around multiple departments on a regular basis. As a result, their perspectives will change instead of growing stale. They’ll also acquire a better understanding of all the company’s various roles and may even be able to provide a fresh approach to how things are done. This sort of cross-pollination is a great way to exchange new ideas.
  1. Allow your senior leaders to let go of more and empower those below them. One executive discusses the idea of the Top 10 who are talented, but the subsequent 100 who are running big parts of the business. There must be connection between the Top 10 and the 100 (or 1,000 or 10,000) that are beneath them. How does your company push down knowledge to those who may be at the lower tiers of hierarchy? How is information passed along so that everyone is growing, not just those at the top?


With better boundary fluidity in place, you won’t just have talented team members, you’ll have a more robust organisation that is not only highly adaptive, but prepared for ultimate success in an ever-evolving business landscape.

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