Tag Archives: culture

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.

 


Edgar Schein: On the Evolution of OD, Leadership and Group Dynamics

Anyone who has spent time in the study or practice of Organizational Development knows something about Edgar Schein. He has been a central voice in this space for more than 5 decades, with books and papers that have advanced the field. He has helped to unpack what we mean by research and experimentation in the social sciences, and he has guided application of OD concepts through all aspects of teaching, mentoring and consulting.

What might we gain in looking back at his contributions?

The short answer: plenty.

Let’s use our April 17, 2017 #orgdna chat to unpack some of Edgar Schein’s most important and influential views:

  • Q1. Leadership: best defined as a role, not a position. Has Schein’s perspective received traction by CEO’s? Wall Street?
  • Q2. Culture: includes artifacts, values and assumptions; it’s encountered in layers. Which aspects are most fully realized in the practice of modern OD?
  • Q3. “The job of a leader is to create culture” -E.Schein. Agree/disagree?
  • Q4. Group vs. Individual Dynamics. Does a Western culture emphasizing individual achievement fight with a need for group/team learning?
  • Q5. OD Research vs. Practice. Fragmentation may be the enemy. Few B-schools have picked up the torch. Why?
  • Q6. What does Schein see ahead for OD?

The #orgdna chat community is continuing to unpack key trends in the 21st century practice of OD, from leadership to learning. In 2017 we are looking at ideas of key thought leaders. This year we have looked at Peter Block and Chris Argyris. In the past, we’ve looked at Margaret Wheatley, Peter Senge, and Donella Meadows.

The conversation continues. Let us know where else to direct our focus.

Meantime, join us MON 4/17 9pm EDT for our next #orgdna. We suggest a streaming app like TweetDeck. Just include #orgdna in your tweets, and we’ll see you online.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

More on Edgar Schein? Try these resources:


Chris Agryris: “On Organizational Learning” .. up next at #orgdna

Examining ideas of OD thought leaders is a vital thread for the #orgdna community. Some of our best discussions resolve around ideas of the masters like Peter Senge and Margaret Wheatley. Most recently, we checked in with the thinking of Peter Block.

One takeaway: it’s usually not the theory that eludes us, but the application.

It’s time to check-in on the ideas of Chris Argyris, a powerful force of the 1980’s and 1990’s, whose timeless ideas about organizational learning still offer insight today. His seminal On Organizational Learning first appeared in 1992.

We’ll use the following discussion outline for our chat.

  • Q1. Argyris was among first to cast light on dysfunctional orgs. What did we learn?
  • Q2. For Argyris, Double Loop Learning is to adjust our learning approach when we see gaps. Has this theory worked in practice? 
  • Q3. How might adaptive, Double Loop Learning be applied in today’s org?
  • Q4. What did Argyris teach us about the viability of learning culture? What gaps must we tackle?
  • Q5. What did Chris Argyris achieve that others had not?

I already feel this discussion will be valuable. As OD students and practitioners, if we can figure out how to move the needle on the status quo, our chat may prove a good example of double loop learning in practice.

I hope you’ll join us Monday 3/20 at 9pm EDT. It’s always lively. Just join the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #orgdna. We recommend a streaming app like TweetDeck.

The rest is up to you. See you online.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Peter Block: Better Questions for Orgs in 2017, moving from How? to Why?

We’re kicking off our #orgdna conversation for 2017. For me, there’s no place better to start than a focus on the top questions facing orgs and their leaders. For that, there’s no better thought leader to tap than the purveyor of the better question himself, Peter Block.

In late 2012, on the heels of getting my first book out, I read both of Block’s successful primers: The Answer to How, is Yes (2002) and Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009).

Together they create an excellent structure for online conversation.

Block introduces key elements of collaborative dialog, and methods to frame social change, in general. We conducted a Peter Block book disussion at our #k12 #ecosys chat in April 2013. On reviewing it, I found the frame excellent for our next #orgdna. Let’s reuse the basic structure, with focus on the first book. Here’s an excerpt of the 2013 #ecosys frame:

Block’s ideas are 100% congruent with what I’ve seen in a variety of social Twitter-based communities. Careful question framing changes our ability to recognize new possibilities. Better questions lead us to a dialog on what matters most.

I’ve updated the #ecosys questions just a bit for #orgdna, focused more on the modern organization (noting that public schools remain “in scope”):

  • Q1. Block argues “How?” bypasses questions of intention. Agree? Why?
  • Q2. The right questions, Block says, are those that get us to focus on what matters. What are some examples?
  • Q3. Flexible Structures. What are source/means for adaptive behavior?
  • Q4. Learning Organizations. Inspired by Senge, how does this happen in +2017?
  • Q5. Updated Guidance. Much has happened in OD since 2002. What would Block and others add to this dialog?

Food for thought, without a doubt. And we’ll use our takeaways to fuel follow-on frames.

Please join us on Twitter.  The discussion will be MON 1/16/17, 9pm EST. We’ve been going about 90 minutes, as we work to accommodate multiple timezones and west coasters. Simply add #orgdna to your tweets. We recommend a streaming tool like TweetDeck, to follow the conversation.

There will be more book-based #orgdna discussions in 2017. Besides, Block, we should look at Margaret Wheatley again, and most certainly others. Please weigh in on a proposed sequence. The only requirement is to keep the discussions practical and accessible. It’s okay to tap theories, as long as we don’t get stuck there.

Hope you’re excited for the new year with #orgdna. Let the conversations and deep learning resume.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Culture Change, the Dilemma of the 21st Century Organization: Can Leaders Keep Up?

How do you develop a culture that embraces and enables change? Leaders and executives are continuing their search. In fact, the dilemma of culture has been much discussed in the press, even before IBM’s Lou Gerstner took the challenge head-on in the 1990’s. He said IBM’s culture was the single biggest challenge facing the company’s gut-wrenching transformation from hardware sales to services. The company needed to rethink itself. The culture needed to change.

There are many challenges to unpacking the culture of an organization, because it is not well-defined or easily influenced. Drucker called in ‘amorphous’. There are no specific levers to be pulled, or scripts to be followed. Culture is the result of how an organization has evolved. It can be defined like this:

Culture is the set of beliefs and values that emerge when a group of stakeholders have interacted over time. They influence it, and are influenced by it. It is how the group models success, and the ground rules for survival.

With that frame, the challenge is clear. Convincing an established group that the rules have changed doesn’t tend to work, at least not on the first few tries.

The problem is further complicated by a broad lack of understanding. Most haven’t been exposed to the prevailing theories from an organizational development (or “OD”) perspective. If Drucker is right and culture resists definition, do we dare look further?

Not to challenge Drucker, but in this case, I say ‘yes’.

While no model is perfect, the theories put forward by two respected leaders in the OD space have stood the test of time. Let’s have a look at them here, so we might better understand the dilemma of culture change:

  • Edgar Schein advanced a model that cultural forces operate in layers, where beliefs and values effect us in different ways at different times, but all of them operating together. As examples, he mentioned our citizenship, our ethnicity, our professional training, and our gender, all operating in tandem with our workfplace culture. The values and behaviors passed down among each of these affinity groups play a role when we respond to a an issue, make a decision, or challenge the status quo.
  • Charles Handy is known for 4 discrete cultural archetypes, each operating in organizations, sometimes side by side with one another, but having unique properties. With 21st century forces in mind, I adapted Handy’s 4 archetypes just slightly into the categories of Command, Role, Network and Practitioner. I created a visual some years back to recap and expand on Handy’s model.  I’ll include the graphic here.
Four Types of Organizational Culture, from Handy (1993). "The DNA of Collaboration" (c) 2012.

Four Types of Organizational Culture, from Handy (1993). “The DNA of Collaboration” (c) 2012, Chapter 10, Fig. 15.

As we unpack the forces of culture change in the 21st century, we should keep Schein’s layers and Handy’s 4 archetypes top of mind. They help us understand what’s at stake.

With that as background, let’s discuss the 21st century implications, with overlays of complexity and our recent focus on systems thinking. We’ve been talking about the dual dynamics of structure and flow in the organization. This conversation should advance our thinking in all of these areas.

Here’s a discussion frame for our next #orgdna chat:

  • Q1. Layers. How do the Schein’s layers of culture interact during times of transformation? How do they effect the structure?
  • Q2. Archetypes. Can you confirm any of Handy’s 4 archetypes in organizations you’ve seen? Are they at times at cross purposes? Which archetype maps to the modern silo?
  • Q3. Network. The network model has proven well-suited to learning and adaptation. Is it necessarily the path for the 21st century organization? Does it model structure, or flow?
  • Q4. Scale. Does scale necessitate the Role/Function model, or is there another approach?

I hope you will join us Monday, August 15, from 9-10pm ET, as we discuss the Dilemma of Culture Change. Just sign onto Twitter at the appointed time, and use hashtag #orgdna in your tweets to join in the conversation.  We recommend a Twitter streaming app, like Tweetdeck.

It’s always a lively conversation. See you there!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

Additional Reading


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:

 


The Fallacies of Control & the Quick Fix: On Culture and the Complexity of Organizations

Anyone seeking to change an organization has known the pitfalls of trying to control behavior and motivation. Setting goals and expectations is not so hard. One-off wins tied to an event or a compelling speech can move the needle. But execution over the long-term .. including any lasting, sustainable change in thinking .. is another matter.

Ask Lou Gerstner, the man who moved IBM from hardware to services in the 1990’s, who said:

Culture is not just one aspect of the game, it IS the game.

I’ve always seen this as a fundamental breakthrough, a wake-up call for change the modern organization. Yet leaders will routinely, if not obsessively, plod through short-term ideas for long-term results, without ever seeing the fallacy. What’s missing is an understanding of how people in groups behave, and the implications that complexity has on an organization.

I won’t try to unpack all that here.  Frankly, it’s enough to fill a book (or two), and the subject of some in-depth posts. But for the sake of discussion, let’s establish a premise:  people in organizations are driven more by a need for belonging and conformity with group aspirations, and less by draconian measures to direct, incentivize or otherwise control it’s members. In this light, culture can be defined (if loosely) as a set of groundrules for survival, based on what has worked in the past.  New leaders and programs come and go.  But the memory of groups runs long and deep.

Try changing the minds of an organization on how things work. Ask Lou Gerstner.

For our #orgdna chat on MON 9/21/15 from 9:30 to 11:00pm ET, let’s tee up the conversation like this:

  • Q1. If we can’t control behavior or results, what CAN we influence? Does environment play a key role?
  • Q2. Why do organic ways of thinking (forests, ecosystems, viruses) provide rich metaphors for understanding people in groups, and org culture in general? 
  • Q3. What can leaders try to do in the near-term to impact the long-term?
  • Q4. Can a culture be changed?

The #cdna community of thinkers became the #orgdna community last month, to better describe and focus our dialog.  I think we’re off to a great start. Evidence?  When one chat among a few of us creates enough ideas for 2-3 more chats, imagine what can happen if we keep going, learning as we go, even as we expand and diversify our group?

Please join us. The conversation gets more lively with more ideas in play. And lord knows we enjoy a lively conversation.

As always, thanks for stopping in.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)