This opinion piece was originally published on Devex.com on January 2, 2020. It was cross-posted with permission.
With a greater focus on interdisciplinary programming and constantly shifting contexts in international development, we need to hire staff who can make the most of complex situations to achieve meaningful results. Put another way, we need to prioritize hiring employees with an adaptive skill set, regardless of technical sector or geographic expertise. When we don’t, our implementation suffers and our ability to achieve meaningful results is compromised.
To put it simply, adaptive employees are “individuals, regardless of title, that in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, systematically acquire and use knowledge to make decisions and adjustments in their work in order to achieve greater impact.” Perhaps the most important piece of this definition is the focus on impact: adaptive employees stay focused on achieving meaningful results and this “North Star” guides their decisions. A program manager in this situation won’t just “check the box” on a quarterly review of a program — they will stay focused on achieving programmatic outcomes and use the review to figure out what is working, what isn’t, and how to improve results.
Driven by a sense of curiosity and commitment, these individuals aren’t satisfied with the status quo. Lastly, they don’t assume they have all the answers or that their experience is all that matters. As they navigate inevitable changes, they remain humble, aware of all that they don’t yet know, and value relationships that are critical to achieving success.
Monalisa Salib is the deputy chief of party for the USAID LEARN contract at Dexis Consulting Group. The contract is a multi-year effort to change the way USAID does business by improving its organizational learning and adaptive management practices. Salib has been working in international development for 15 years and has an MS in Organization Development & Knowledge Management.