Tag Archives: relationships

Cultural Patterns in Org Design: Can specific elements mark our Path to Success?

Loved the ideas circulating during and after our September 19 #orgdna chat on the “Price of Growth” (transcript here).

We talked about the downside organizational impact of scale, namely, the loss of close relationships and nimbleness enjoyed when a company is new and small. Some of this, we concluded, is just driven by access. More people. More connections to make. Less time to get everyone in the loop.

But we also concluded a culture shift can also be tied to the changing nature of relationships and a shift of focus. I especially loved this comment by Mark Britz on this:

In our 10/17 #orgdna, let’s discuss several patterns of culture that will impact success as we seek to design and enhance how our organizations work.  It’s a focus core to organization effectiveness, key topics for OD and HR practitioners across industry groups.

We’ll include Mark’s input on a “social” archetype (Q1) and a few others surfaced historically by Charles Handy (Q2-Q5) and more recently by Jon Husband (Q6). Here’s our outline:

  • Q1. Discuss Social archetype. Seen where collaboration embraced. Values relationships. Other characteristics?
  • Q2. Discuss Command archetype. Seen in military & the CEO’s office. Values loyalty.
  • Q3. Discuss Silo-expertise archetype. Seen in Fortune 500 & Academia. Values consistency.
  • Q4. Discuss Network archetype. Seen in customer service and ER’s. Values learning.
  • Q5. Discuss Practitioner archetype. Seen in SMB. Values independence and flexbility.
  • Q6. Discuss Wirearchy-connecting archetype. Evolving. Where is this likely to work? Similar to Q1? Q4?

Our virtual think tank has been at this since 2012.  Four years and going strong.

Hope you will join us, 9:00pm ET for the chat, 8:30pm for the pre-game. Just add #orgdna to all your tweets at the appointed hour. We recommend a streaming Twitter app like Tweetdeck, so you can see the full conversation in real time.

Looking forward.

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)


The Nature of Fear: Are We Paralyzed by Conformity?


Conformity in nature and human nature. Survival is at our core. Are we afraid to be different? Where has Darwin taken us?

Understanding the notion of conformity is important when we talk about culture, inside organizations and out. It’s become a key driver in our thinking. As we’ve discussed, our mindset is subtly but deeply influenced by our own vauge perceptions of things are supposed to be, consumed by a feeling that our survival may depend on our ability to fit in.

Can we actually be paralyzed by conformity?

To Margaret Wheatley, there’s no beating around the bush. She says we are. Consider these excerpts from A Simpler Way (1999):

“We have terrorized ourselves by the thought of evolution, driving ourselves into positions of paralyzing conformity, for fear of getting things wrong .. (where) extinction will follow swiftly on the heels of any mistake.”

“.. fear is the darkest of Darwinian shadows.”

Wheatley likes to cut to the chase.

Can we find examples to support her claim? I think they are plentiful, and they are all around us. Consider:

  • a consumer culture that thrives on conformist based purchasing (think: brands, trends, styles)
  • social circles that favor (or outright demand) fitting in
  • work environments that favor the status quo, resisting alternative viewpoints
  • education systems increasingly riveted to standards
  • organizations that cling to structure/hierarchy over more dynamic/collaborative modes of interaction
  • a Western busiess culture modeled upon repeatable, uniform, mechanistic models of efficiency

Much has been written (by me and others; see also a book by C.Christensen, and a great RSA animation by K.Robinson), on the downside of our mechanistic, structure-focused paradigms. It’s thinking that makes us slaves to someone else’s blueprint. Our culture and our thought processes seem literally consumed by the conformist view.

Can we break the cycle?

I say yes. If we can find ways to fundamentally change our mindset.

I’m intrigued that in the very same book, Wheatley goes on to describe patterns and rules in nature that seek to discover what works. Conformity, perhaps, is not all bad, like a tree seeking a greater share of critical sunlight, or vying to expand its rainfall catching potential. Have a need for more light and water? Grow a little taller. Sprout some more leaves.


A better, more useful frame might be: conform if it’s working, adapt if it’s not.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balancing act. So often, we don’t see a choice. Conformity of purpose is important where precision, quality and scale are required. But when we limit our exploration of new ideas or way of doing things, we cut off our chance to learn, to innovate, and to grow.

Conformity can be a trap. And it can also be our saving grace when we frame it as a repeatable pattern, a platform for new possibilities.

Both. And.

The #cdna community hosts a periodic exploration of social learning, a deep dive into the factors that help us learn together. We seek to identify enablers that help us discover, and the barriers that tend to keep us from learning.  At our next discussion, let’s tee up these questions on conformity in the context of culture:

  • Q1. What reactions or thoughts does mention of comformity tend to trigger?
  • Q2. Can we advance metaphors for conformity that focus on upside (tree leaves) and caution of the downside (factory model)?
  • Q3. If you agree with Wheatley on the dark side of Darwin, why does conformist thinking carry a special risk?
  • Q4. Can we influence the cultural implications that conformity introduces? How?

I can help on that last one with a hint: if you’re a Peter Block fan, you’ll know the answer to “How?” is almost always “Yes!”  Our next #cdna chat is slated for Monday March 10th at 8pm ET.

Bring your ideas and an open mind. We hope to see you there.

Chris Jones (aka @sourcepov)

Crossover: The Power and Resilience of Diverse Perspectives

Do we appreciate the strength of our crossover connections?

Do we appreciate the strength of our crossover connections?

Pick up an ordinary basket and look closely at the weave.  You’ll find an ancient yet simple way of making something that’s durable, flexible, and resilient.

In fact, a basket’s weave is a great model for how we might interact and learn with others more deeply. We need durability and resilience in our relationships too .. to me, a weave is a powerful way to think about “crossover” in all our interactions, especially when we seek to collaborate.

The power of the basket weave metaphor lies in its very basic structure. The over/under aspect of a basket weave reinforces the notion of complementary, diverse elements.  One thread or strand of cane provides support from one angle, which is further supported in the other direction by another.  These are connected and supported by yet another thread or strand on the perpendicular axis, creating structure, and ultimately, strength.  The tighter the weave, the more durable the resulting creation.

Aristotle was a big fan of metaphor, and I am too. Like so much in our world, we take useful concepts (like metaphor and basket weaving) for granted. But what could we gain if we dig a bit deeper? Is there untapped power in our mental models?

To me, there are 3 areas where I think the notion of a basket weave can help our collaborative efforts:

Unlocking Creativity. Artists are well versed in the flow of possibility that occurs when raw materials begin to show their potential. How might the threads or strands come together? What patterns are possible? How might we weave something new?

Inception of Ideas (or “ideation”). Each thread of insight brings new energy and strength from a different direction, supporting the other threads but in a different way.

Design Thinking. Coming up with new ways to solve a problem (solution patterns?) is at the core of design thinking, where structure, form , function and relevance demand diverse thinking from muliple perspectives.

AMG152709b Basket Weave

Examining the basket weave. It may help to ask: what is possible?

As we bring together design elements or ideas, we are bringing together strands of raw material.  As innovators, we are like basket weavers.  As collaborators, our ideas are like threads.  Our soution may well be the resulting basket.

Here are a few questions to drive this thinking home.

Q1. What challenges do we face when we seek to weave together ideas?

Q2. Why are notion of durability and flexibility important?

Q3. Have you seen examples of ideas woven into a “solution fabric”?

Q4. Where and how else might we apply the basket weave metaphor?

We’ll discuss these topics WEDS 10/16 at 9pET using hashtag #cdna, and again in the social change context with SMCHAT cofounder & special guest moderator Kelli Schmith WEDS 10/23 at 1pET using hashtag #smchat.

I must point out that idea weaving is already in progress. Props to Angela Dunn, Shell Rummel and the crew at #ideachat who provided deep insights on “Design Thinking” that contributed to this post.  To me, the richness of the weave metaphor provides plenty of inspiration, or at the very least, some new thinking based on a very old way to make baskets.

More on metaphor? See G.Lakoff: Metaphors We Live By (1980). In The DNA of Collaboration (2012) it’s chapter 6.

Let’s compare notes on this. I’ll see you online.

Chris aka @sourcepov

As the Spiral Turns: From Culture to Community

As we follow the turns of our spiral thinking model, no surprise that we have considerable flexibility as to “where we go next” in our exploration.

Since Astrid led us on a very productive disussion of Culture as it pertains to Learning in the last 2 sessions, let’s follow that cultural thread into the context of Community.

This now brings into focus a discussion of relationships, place, and some sense of a common good or goal or set of goals. I like the way Peter Block broadly frames the ideal common ground of a productive, engaged community, paraphrasing him:

“In terms of possibilities, what can we create in this place together?”

As we unpack the Community dimension, let’s start first in the Social Change context (column E, in the above framework), and address questions that would be associated with cell “E2” ..

  • Q1. What cultural forces are constructive in a community vs. problematic?
  • Q2. How important are relationships in a community vs. focus on specific topics/issues?
  • Q3. When and why do community stakeholders (aka “citizens”) participate & engage?

As we wrap up discussions Monday night, be thinking where you’d like the conversation to take us next .. back into the organizational context of OD and KM (columns C & D), or staying with the Social Change and NFP context (column E), and exploring other dimenions/vectors (rows) .. spiral thinking gives us options .. !

Thanks in advance for your engagement and input. I’ll see you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov

Building a Social Community [#USXSW FRI 3/8/13 5pET]

Building a Social Community #USXSW 3 FRI 3/8 4pET

Building a Social Community (c) 2009 Amberwood Media Group

People are social creatures, that much is clear.  We enjoy the company of others, and thrive when we feel connected and included.  But why is it that some communities must be designed and planned, while others seem to appear and grow more spontaneously?

What forces are at work?  What is happening behind the scenes?

Amber and I, like many of our colleagues and friends at SMCHAT, USGUYS, BLOGCHAT MEDIACHAT, KAIZENBIZ, SOBCON, ECOSYS and CDNA, have been witness and party to the evolution of many social communities.  Let’s take the next hour to try to understand the forces at work, to see how we might influence them.  What are the key building blocks?  What is in the DNA of a strong Social Community?

Q1. What is the dynamic that sparks & expands common ground, vision, or a sense of purpose?

Q2. How important are individual relationships, and in what conditions are they formed?

Q3. What key factors influence success of a social community?

Q4. What key factors lead to the demise of a social community?

Q5. Does a social community have an ideal size?

Q6. What advice would you give to someone who wants a social community to grow/thrive in their physical or virtual space?

Join us Friday, 3/8, for #USXSW topic 3, at 5pET.  It should be a great conversation.  We’d love your thoughts.

For a deeper dive?  Check out The DNA of Collaboration, Part 4 on FLOW which takes on many of the process and relationship dynamics introduced here ..

See you online!

Your co-moderators for this segment,

Chris Jones & Amber Cleveland