By Perry Timms. Originally posted at https://adjusteddevelopment.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/orgshift-why-arent-organisations-shifting/
Ah the beauty of an unconference. Loose format; Open Space as our guiding frame and then the thoughts, passion and ideas that come from discussions with people known and unknown.
The folks at http://caterfly.co.uk/ have arranged this event as an unconference around the question “Why aren’t organisations shifting?” and by shifting we’re saying yes there’s change but is it the kind of change we need or should be seeing given the new insight, inspiration and enlightenment we have about the human soul, spirit and mind at work..? It seems not. We do see examples of great ways to work in some places but the behemoths of olde and the toxicity of yore is still with us in a way we thought we might have moved from knowing what we know about the great crash, the new insight we’ve discovered about ourselves and our motivations and the movement at great pace that technology is leading us towards.
At this event are a range of people who have a buzz and a thought or 3 about this shifting reference. Some freewheeler traders of the sole variety and others with staff numbers and jobs in conventional organisations. A small band of activists? I guess you could say that.
We’ve started with some contemplation about why we’re here and the way we can work today but mostly it’s been about people with a issue or a topic or an idea or an unconventional model to test.
Leadership was the first group discussion I was involved in. And the posing question was around the role of leaders in these new ways. What, in this different future, needs shfiting in the ways people lead and the behaviours people demonstrate as leaders?
Ok the answer is probably a flippant “A lot” or “Nothing” depending on your attachment to orthodoxy or otherwise.
Our discussion leader’s additional question was is the delivery of change helped or hindered by the leader’s role in either the new way of working or their dogged attachment to the old? Is an attachment to the old about wanting to maintain and retain traditions and customs that have served the organisation well and should continue to do so or is the attachment because it’s about them and their power base? Probably all / some of these factors.
Inevitably we spun into a discussion about the new forms of leadership and the new ways of managing – especially sociocracy and holacracy. In such models, we discussed the difficulties posed when leaders are either 100% pushing it (Tony Hsieh at Zappos) or actively resisting it (most other CEOs). We talked about the need for more humane, organic ways of organising and being and as such leading and that the machine and mechanic ways currently prevailing are now starting to literally “run out of steam”.
We talked about the hanging onto control; the continuing leverage of fear and the conditioning of the human soul and psyche to conform to whatever norms are present in parenting, education and then work.
We talked about the courage needed to make the changes from hierarchical, power-based and even fear induced ways of working to more socialised and self-determined ways of working.
We found what united our thinking was the display of passion in whatever your cause or mission or purpose was in the organisation. Indeed the purpose element was considered the strongest and this is backed up by the things we’ve read and seen in the ether about purpose-led organisations and leaders who tap into the purpose and get some outperforming organisations delivering amazing things and creating the fantastic working environments that most can only dream of.
As inevitable it was that holacracy came up so did Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations book. With lots of lovers and some loathers, Laloux’s work certainly capture a more humanist way of doing work and that the successes of the organisations featured and the distinct link between human evolution and organisational development got us talking.
We talked about the huge amount of leaders operating in SMEs. So not just Branson, Zuckerberg and Ellison but those in the thick of the vast majority of organisations where a huge percentage of people are employed or work within. What makes/keeps those people in charge of thriving places of work is their authenticity and perhaps connectivity to the people and human side of the work they do. What they do is what Laloux eloquently describes as “holding the space” and that others lead. Inevitably the holacracy model came up again and one of our group – working in that model – stated it’s utter liberation and a love of the work that results from being in this model.
I talked up the WorldBlu.com organisations and their approach to freedom at work: that workplaces without fear; with distributed power and control dispersed across the wider workforce was proving to be more economically sustainable and more humane and soulful.
We then re-zoomed in on the leadership role within the more progressive thinking and doing organisations and we hit on two key “Cs” that is demonstrated and we deduced vital; being a Catalyst and being a Champion. A move from Head-based leading to Heart-based leading.
I dropped the E-bomb (empathy) as a wonderful aspect of leadership and that already has been hijacked by commentators, thought leaders and leadership development deliverers alike. Empathy and the more feminine side of being human – caring, support, non-macho strength, compassion, nurturing. We deduced that there was already a tipping point and that feminine – not necessarily just female – leaders were starting to show their worth and strength.
So leadership, leading and being a leader in a shifting organisation is tough. It goes against the grain of years of conditioning – not necessarily the right conditioning – and is also derided by many considering themselves to be successful and effective proponents of the existing ways.
It’s tough and it’s worthwhile. That so many people try to change an organisation from within and then leave to pursue their own career outside bears testament to the futility of some of the change.
Why try and change the current big four / magic circle / banking conglomerates etc. when actually, we may just be better divesting our efforts into the creation of alternatives. That for a while will be a complement the existing behemoths and incumbents but may/should/will eventually displace and replace them. The scale and diversification issues apart, Handelsbanken provides proof that you can scale and maintain an alternative to the banking model. Buurtzorg proves there’s an alternative to the nursing methods in practice for home care etc.
Conceive, build and prove the alternative. Only then will the tired, toxic and tyrannical corporates wither and die and leave us with an abundance of good. A plenty of sweet. A soulful mass.
That’s leadership for the shift. Believe in the alternative, lead the change to make that alternative happen and the shift won’t be in the old being reborn but the alternatives taking over.
Do you want to lead exhibits in a living museum or a be at the centre of a thriving community of passion and belief? #orgshift will share more I’m sure. For now, that’s the first discussion documented.