What is Total Systems Succession?

Never in our history have we lived in such a fast-changing and complex environment. Products, markets, customer wants, technology and attitudes towards work and career are all changing. Traditional hierarchical approaches to organisational design and leadership simply don’t work anymore.

At ADAPT, we believe in a Total Systems Succession approach. This means the practice of consciously designing, building and sustaining an organisation for the long term. It is the integration of a healthy culture, systems thinking and continuous succession, that creates an environment for organisations to sustain and flourish.

Healthy Culture

We start with culture because an unhealthy culture means an unhealthy organisation.

For you to be happy and healthy there are many systems in your body that need to work together: respiratory, digestive, skeletal, just to name a few. For your mental health, we know that having purpose and being part of a social network is important. In a similar way, a healthy organisational culture requires that we pay attention to all our systems, as well as our behaviours and our organisation purpose.

It means that we give a shit!

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking refers to understanding how those systems influence one another within a complete entity, or larger system. It is viewing the organisation as a whole and not dis-integrated parts.


Then we have Succession, the handover of roles, knowledge, wisdom and eventually ownership of an organisation.

Succession is not an event. It is continuous in all levels of the organisation. It enables owners and organisation leaders to move from working IN to working ON the business and provides a framework for mentorship and effective role handover.

So, what do we think the future looks like?

As the rate of change escalates and traditional leadership and organisational design models struggle to deliver, we look to see what IS working. A lot of ADAPT’s Method was established in the building of aQuire, a software development company that recently celebrated 20 years in business. But we also continue to be informed by observing and learning from many great thinkers and great organisations, including Frederic Laloux’s research outlined in his book Re-Inventing Organisations.

Laloux researched many exceptional organisations over a three-year period. He found that highly productive and purposeful organisations have three things in common:

  1. A lack of hierarchy. A flat self-managed organisation compared to the more traditional pyramid structure. He notes that this is essential in complex systems. Yes, you need structure but perhaps not so many bosses!
  2. The idea of wholeness. These organisations embraced the wholeness of people and created work environments where people can be truly human and authentic. Imagine meetings without ego!
  3. Evolutionary Purpose, which is more than the purpose statement pinned on the office wall. This is a world where the people within the organisation are constantly listening and adapting the purpose of the organisation.

We believe that the application of Total Systems Succession will provide an approach to deliver on these three capabilities in a business.