Tag Archives: complexity

Laloux Part 3: Evolution, Purpose and Complexity MON 7/17 9pET #orgdna

 

Interest in Frederic Laloux’s 2-book series on “Reinventing Organizations” continues at #orgdna. His traditional 2014 business book favors the long form analysis with case studies, end notes, etc. The 2016 illustrated workbook introduces the concepts in a lighter-weight mode, ideal for visual learners .. and twitter chats.

Try to find Laloux’s RO-illustrated (2016) .. we’ll be referring to it.

Meantime, by request of the group, I’ve expanded the frame below to include more detail, to facilitate chat without the book(s) in hand. Let’s look at 6 key ideas in Laloux’s Part 3, his closing analysis:

  • RETHINKING VISION & STRATEGY. Laloux says our century-old predict-and-control mindset, rooted in ego, is the main force blocking better organizations. Obsessing on competition out of fear for survival, he believes, keeps us distracted. But he provides an alternative — Q1. How does a “sense and respond” change problem solving in an organization?
  • EVOLUTIONARY PURPOSE. Citing Brian Robertson of Holacracy fame, Laloux references the analogy of a bicycle ride to describe the discovery and response aspects of adaptive leadership, new processes essential to a teal organization, so let’s ask — Q2. Can the modern company allow the destination, strategy & purpose to evolve? Will Wall Street entertain so much ambiguity?
  • INITIAL CONDITIONS. For Laloux, two conditions are necessary for an organization to evolve: buy-in to teal principles from (a.) leaders and (b.) owners. Are both of these key groups prepared for risk taking, less structure and fundamentally new thinking? Laloux says it’s what’s needed to launch successfully, prompting — Q3. Is buy-in at the top enough, or is more required, such as an enabling culture?
  • HOLDING SPACE. A new skill for teal leaders is bringing and sustaining focus, at least for awhile, amid the chaos that decentralized decision-making can bring, taking us to — Q4. How and when does a leader know to focus, and for how long must it be held?
  • KEY ROLES. While teal CEOs make fewer strategic decisions, the need for leadership is stronger than ever, so — Q5. What current skills can be leveraged as today’s business leaders search for a path to new roles?
  • A SIMPLER WAY. Laloux cites Wheatley, as many of us do, for providing breakthrough thinking on how orgs need to function, using the metaphor of an org as organism over the prevailing metaphor of org as machine. In the organic view, evolution and adaptation are integral to how things work, so let’s ask — Q6. Can new mindsets or metaphors influenced/sparked by complexity thinking help us re-imagine the organization?

Much of this material we’ve covered in past conversations. But Laloux’s framework builds on the ideas in interesting ways, perhaps even actionable ones. I’m excited to find what we’ll learn from this, and where our dialog may take us.

Please plan to join us MON 7/17 at 9pm EDT. We recommend a streaming app like Tweet Deck. Just add #orgdna to your tweets, and we’ll talk then.

Best,

Chris Jones @sourcepov, Charlotte NC US


Frederic Laloux: On Reinventing Organizations, an Evolutionary Model

Many of us talk about change in our organizations, but few have been able to articulate a future state as clearly as Frederic Laloux. In Reinventing Organizations, he outlines a vision, examined both in historical context, and in contrast with other proto-evolutionary stages. For me, his comparitive approach is a useful mechanism to discuss a family of organizational cultures that are as familiar as they are dysfunctional.

I was introduced to the work of Laloux by #orgdna chat member/leader Christy Pettit (aka @odguru). I quickly found his content consistent with the theme’s we’ve been discussing. Thanks Christy!

Perhaps his most divergent, if not revolutionary, idea? Evolution driven by a next stage human of consciousness, further fueled by explicit linkages to complex adaptive systems. Echoes of Senge and Scharmer here of course. Definitely linkages to Wheatley. But there is some useful new thinking as well.

Here are 5 questions to frame our conversation. As always, we may diverge a bit ourselves, as the dialog evolves:

  • Q1. Evolutionary Purpose. A core theme for Laloux. Are his ideas actionable?
  • Q2. Teal, Amber, Red, et al. Do the colors used for Laloux’s organizational models resonate?
  • Q3. Linkages to Human Consciousness. This is a big step. Does it advance our thinking? Or distance it? [Note: The shift Laloux describes is fundamentally a change from Fear/Scarcity to Trust/Abundance. For me, in this more specific context, the abstract leap isn’t quite as hard to navigate as the ‘consciousness’ reference implies.]
  • Q4. Linkages to Complex Adaptive Systems. The implications for orgs and social change keep us wanting to learn more. How has Laloux advanced this?
  • Q5. Forward. What happens next? Are leaders and their organizations ready?

Lots to reflect on, for certain. And lots worth discussing.

Please join us Monday, 5/15/17, at 9:30pm ET, as we discuss Laloux and his ideas. Just add #orgdna to your tweets at the appointed time. To allow conversation, we suggest a streaming app like Tweetdeck, to make sure you see the tweets as they come in.

What is #orgdna !? It’s not just a hashtag. It’s a lively bunch of OD-minded change makers, congregating monthly to compare notes. I hope you will join us!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

 

Sources and further reading:

  • Laloux, Frederic. Reinventing Organizations (2014). Nelson Parker.
  • Jones, Chris. The DNA of Collaboration (2012). Amberwood Media Group. [Note: I like to think of my first book as a research guantlet, laying down foundations for what’s to come in OD. I pause to list it among these titles, but it contributes to the OD discussion, and it was the early genesis for this chat, started way back in 2012. More on the site you are on, if interested.]
  • Mitchell, Melanie. Complexity, A Guided Tour (2009). Oxford University Press.
  • Wheatley, Margaret and Myron Kellner-Rogers. A Simpler Way (1996, 1999). Berrett-Koehler.

 


A Time for Sense Making: Then, as Now, Our Understanding Evolves

While the search for understanding can be traced back to the ancient greeks, the modern take on sense making has a history of it’s own.

Space will not allow for a full accounting, but I see four primary vectors to help us track its modern evolution, unwinding both the practice and promise of sense making in modern terms. Consider:

  • Dervin (1983, 1992, 1996), and Russell, et al (1993, 2009) – on the human-computer interface, with the earliest explorations on the psychology of recognition and understanding.
  • Klein, et al (2006) – studying frame-to-data, and data-to-frame matching as a means to test patterns observed, advancing the earlier work of Cohen, et al (1996) and Piaget (1972,1977).
  • Weick (1979, 1988, 1993) – exploring organizational implications, with 7 discrete properties in the sense making process in groups or teams; without delving into them in detail, they are:
    • Identification – the role/sense of self, as it relates to the observed
    • Retrospection – looking back, considering the function of time
    • Narrative, discourse, and feedback – developing context and understanding via story, often through real-time dialog
    • Cues – using familiar points of reference
    • Plausability – establishing viability of scenarios
  • Snowden, et al. (2003, 2007) – with the “Cynefin” framework, introduced complex and chaotic scenarios, in contrast with the simple, the merely complicated, and the hopelessly disordered; with this more robust landscape, real world situations were more accessible, or at least visible.

How have these understandings evolved?  Has sense making come of age?

This, of course, will launch a good discussion, if not a healthy debate. In our #orgdna chat MON 2/20/17 at 9:00pm ET, let’s explore this question with the following frame:

  • Q1. HCI as Foundation. Was the early research important to what came after?
  • Q2. Klein and Pattern Matching. How influential have patterns become re: sense making & complexity? Are we returning to foundations?
  • Q3. Weick on Narrative. Has story consumed our dialog in the modern framing of sense making? For better or worse?
  • Q4. Snowden & Complexity. How has Cynefin changed the sense making dialog?
  • Q5. Futures. What is the path to practical application for sense making?

Our back story? The #orgdna chat community has been meeting since late 2012 on topics from leadership to learning, most often focused on the social dynamic.

To what end? Making sense of it all, of course. This topic is right up our alley.

Our conversations are typically lively. Just add #orgdna to your tweets at the appointed hour. We recommend a streaming app like TweetDeck. After the conversation, we’ll share a PDF transcript. And there’s likely to be a follow-up chat on a related thread. We do this every 3rd Monday, 9pET/6pPT.

Props to group member Christy Petit, who helped me shape this conversation.

Intrigued? I certainly am. The rest is up to the group. Hope to see you online Monday night.

Chris (aka @sourcepov, now on Medium)


Culture Unraveled: The Semantics of “Purpose” .. a Tale of Many Threads

After 3 lively #orgdna chats on culture since August, you’d think we’d be out of things to talk about. Yet the opposite is true. The more we discuss, the more we find to discuss. Each chat opens new ideas and new threads for exploration.

In discussing patterns of culture, we spent much time on semantics. Vivid concepts like “power” and “fear” often fought with broader and more abstract notions like “purpose” and “ethical behavior” that more of us would prefer to aspire to. This particular thread from friends & contributors Mark Britz and Bruce Waltuck rung especially true as I reread the transcript.

Like Wittgenstein, I’ve always been a stickler for care our word choices. Last month we talked quite a bit about somewhat abstract notions that get appropriated for nefarious agendas, good words like collaborationtransformation and even values.  I believe it was Noah or Jim who commented on purpose needing to be saved.

But it occurs to me that a change agent has little more than relationships and words to drive transformative change. The ability to inspire a team to action based on common ground requires that we shape that common ground carefully. What do we seek to accomplish? What are the hurdles? What can we all agree to?  There’s a fine line between manipulation and inspiration for the change agent, who, in my view, needs to alter semantic interpretations at the edges to create a coalition. Facts are facts, to be certain. But abstract ideas leave room for interpretation. A skilled change leader helps shape that agenda, recruiting all the while.

So what ARE the skills of a change agent? What must happen for them to become masters in undestanding and navigating “attractors of meaning” as Bruce noted last time, in the tweet above? Let’s discuss.

  • Q1. Define “attractors of meaning” in the cultural context
  • Q2. How does a change agent build common ground when everyone has their own semantics? a diverse cultural lens?
  • Q3. Utlimiately, what are the skills of a change agent?

Here’s an aggregation of our recent #orgdna culture transcripts, with a participant # and a tweet # for each:

We are slowly unravelling the tapestry of organization culture. We’ve got planning threads open in both Twitter dm’s and Slack. Lmk if you’d like to join us there.

Hope to see you !! MON 11/14/16, at 9pm EST.  Should be another great one.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


The Price of Growth: Losing Our Edge, and the Impact(s) of Org Culture

We’ve all seen organizations change as they’ve grown. This is a part of any group’s natural evolution. With scale organizations encounter new demands, acquire new talent, and find ways to navigate the many new relationships that form. But what is lost in the process?

What are the forces that cause us to lose those advantages that entrepreneurs and small businesses hold dear?

Is an organization’s culture part of the answer, or part of the problem?

Important ideas are circulating here, very much aligned with our past few #orgdna conversations on cultural forces. Major thanks to #orgdna member Mark Britz for his recent blog post that’s helped us frame this topic. We’ve been viewing organization change and culture through a system thinking lens, to help us understand the dynamics. Along the way, we’ve started to apply a complex systems overlay to the dialog, to help us understand the interactions that happen with large groups.

Now we focus on the impact of scale.  Let’s take a look at some of the forces.

Span of Influence.  First, its worth reflecting that as organizations scale, the number of relationship multiples rapidly. The communication among leaders and members that is possible when very small starts to break down with growth. So intermediate sub-leaders are appointed, and specialization of roles and functions begins. There is a natural evolution of complexity as small organizations get larger. This challenges any leader to rethink their approach and processes, on all management topics ranging from motivation to communication to strategy setting.

Cultural Loopback.  Second, it helps to understand culture is both an emergent outcome of an organization, while at the same time providing a set of guiding principles back to that organization as it evolves.  That means culture is both influencing and influenced by the people that make it up. If that sounds complex, it’s no wonder. Linear cause and effect forces don’t work in large groups, because the dynamics are so intertwined as to make outcomes unpredictable. It’s why leaders usually struggle to drive transformation agendas. It’s why culture change is so difficult.

But this is just the starting point. Expanding relationships and the 2-way dynamics of culture are only two forces that occur with growth. There are likely many more.

In our M 9/19 9pm ET chat, let’s exlore the implications, expanding on some of Mark’s questions:

  • Q1. What are additional drivers of change, with growth? What else influences how an organization culture changes as it scales?
  • Q2. What signals change? How can we know culture change is happening?
  • Q3. Must we lose our edge? Can the benefits of small (e.g. being nimble and low-cost) survive inevitable growth that comes with success?
  • Q4. What must Leaders do? Complex forces can be paralyzing. What can/should leaders do to accommodate healthy growth and healthy culture?

Our group is a loose band of change-minded thinkers. We come together virtually and rekindle these discussions every 3rd Monday at 9pm ET. Simply add the #orgdna hashtag to your tweets, and join the conversation. We recommend a streaming app like Tweet Deck for the best real time experience.

From there, the rest is up to the group. The conversation will flow where you help us take it. It’s almost always a lively exchange. And watch for a PDF transcript here, after our chat, courtesy John Lewis of Holosoft.

Hope to see you online.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

 


Deconstructing Silos: Visualizing the Flows and Forces of Organizational Gridlock

Every organization is a mish-mash of people. From my experience, most are working very hard but still struggling to get things done. Good leaders know there are myriad forces at work, ranging from culture to incentives to policy and process, all of it strung together by the organization’s structure, the infamous org chart. Unpacking this complexity to address problems can be daunting. But there’s some hope. I believe the tools of System Thinking, popularized by Peter Senge and Donella Meadows, can help us visualize the vital flow of resources and the forces that shape them.

The classic structural curse of most large modern organizations is, of course, the functional silo. So often these common structures bring us face to face with gridlock and productivity issues. They are the essence of bureaucracy. We need to understand why.

System Thinking can help us unpack the forces that create/feed the organizational silo, with simple tools to help us understand what is causing and perpetuating them. 

With some pictures, foot notes, and conversation, we might even discover pathways to alternative models.

What exactly is System Thinking? We started unpacking this last month. To recap, let me share a few simple systems. Picture water flowing in and out of a bathtub, influenced by the spigot and drain positions. Or imagine money flowing in and out (mostly out!) of your checking account, driven by bills, purchases, interest rates, etc. While these are very basic systems, they are intuitive, helping us visualize flows we process subconciously in our day to day. They are simple metaphors to get us into a System Thinking frame of mind. The rest unfolds quickly:

System Thinking, in a nutshell, is a way to show the forces and flows that are influencing how systems work.

You’ve seen impromptu examples on white boards in every company. Often they’re pictures of how work is or should be getting done. The best ones can help us understand structural issues in our approach, helping us find ways to fix them.

Organizations are systems too. Resources flow in, through, and around the various structures and substructures like departments. Whether those resources flow or don’t flow is significant. These are factors that can determine what works and what doesn’t work in a given company. In fact, I will argue that the organizational silo is a product of good ideas (like specialization and quality control) gone too far. It’s worth a deep dive. We often engage in ritual attacks of org silos, but we rarely spare the time to understand why we have silos in the first place. What’s worse, there’s no real focus on why our silos are so hard to break through, or, importantly, what we can do about them.

This diagram is an imperfect first cut at some of the flows impacting, feeding, and sometimes fortifying the silo’d functional organization.

Key forces at work in the organizational silo, through a System Thinking lens. Discussion at #orgdna. Content (c) 2016 Chris Jones. Reuse with permission.

Key forces at work in the organizational silo, through a System Thinking lens. Discussion at #orgdna. Content (c) 2016 Chris Jones. Reuse with permission.

Let’s use our scheduled monthly #orgdna chat to attack this. We’re on tap for MON 5/16 at 10 p.m. ET.  We’ll take 60-90 minutes to discuss these forces and others. We will challenge the picture and it’s implications using the following discussion outline:

  • Q1. Discuss the reinforcing flow of reducing variance to drive improvement. Does it cause silos to form & harden?
  • Q2. Discuss feedback constraints. In the name of focus and specialization, how can this hurt adaptability?
  • Q3. Discuss communication constraints. How does this impact calcification and reduced resilience?
  • Q4. Can a manager takes steps that could allow quality & specialization but avoid silo formation?
  • Q5. What’s missing in the diagram?

I hope you will join us. Our #orgdna conversations are always lively. This one promises no less. We’ll start a little early if folks are around. Just sign on with Twitter with an app like TweetDeck, and follow hashtag #orgdna. Include it in your tweets, and join the conversation.

See you Monday.

Chris Jones (aka @sourcepov)


System Thinking in the Organization: Tracing Flows of Power, Information and Influence

As we’ve covered here and elsewhere, the mental models we hold of the organization help to shape our thinking, if not our behaviors. Models are deeply woven with the culture of our workplace, not to mention the personal mindset we bring to work. Models tell us what works, and who we are. As an organization, do we value open communication, or adhere to strict communication conduits up/down the chain? Is it ok to try and fail, or must we play it safe? Are we expansion/growth oriented, or defensive? Our mental images shape what we think about our organization, and fundamentally shape our view of our place in it. In short, they define the workplace as a container.

But what about the critical flow of resources and information inside that container? Are there models to help us understand how and why things happen internally?

The short answer, of course, is yes.

System Thinking offers numerous models that describe how critical resources flow in, out and through the workplace. Resources such as power, influence and rewards .. not to mention information itself .. move through organizations in interesting and important ways.

System Thinking, like Complexity Thinking, is a new way to look at how things work. It’s a move away from simplified, piece-meal, cause-and-effect models where one solution fixes one problem. Most systems are inherently complex. So work in the complexity space looks at a much broader set of interactions that are inevitably in play: environmental variables, resource constraints, inter-dependencies, feedback loops, and the very important impact of delayed feedback. Factors like these are usually left out of reductionist models, where problems happen in a hypothetical vacuum. Intuitively, a complex systems view can move us closer to reality than simplistic formulaic constructs.

At #orgdna for 2Q16 (April-May-June), in our monthly 90-minute Twitter Chat, we are going to tackle Systems Thinking. As we do, we will start to see why some organizations thrive while others fail, often while having similar structure, resources, and leadership methods.

To get started, let’s tee up a few of Systems Thinking’s foundational elements, taken from Meadows and other readings.  This will give us a toolkit for subsequent #orgdna chats.

  • Q1. Key #systemthinking concepts include stocks, flows, and feedback loops; how can these improve our understanding of the org? 
  • Q2. Helpful #systemthinking metaphors: (a.) bathtub (b.) checking account (c.) thermostat. Which are most useful in #orgdev?
  • Q3. Let’s explore #systemthinking archetypes for orgs:  (a.) escalation (b.) tragedy of the commons (c.) diminishing returns. Where to focus?
  • Q4. Can we isolate (a.) element inventory (b.) relationships or (c.) purpose/function as a primary #orgdev focus? #systemthinking
  • Q5. What are limitations/challenges for #systemthinking in the practice of #21stcorg and #orgdev in general?

I hope you will join us MON 4/18 at 10pm ET, as we take on these important and exciting topics.  Much to learn, and much to discuss.

For the best, most interactive experience, log-on with Twitter using TweetDeck or a similar app, and follow hashtag #orgdna.  We’ll see you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov

Further reading: