One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last few years is that Organizational Behaviour Follows Leadership Behaviour. Lasting improvements can only start with leaders modeling new behaviours. I use this all the time to help leaders choose what they really want for themselves and their organizations.
Current Organization Behaviour is a result of Current Leadership Behaviour
Q: Who is responsible and can take credit for how the organization is functioning?
A: The leaders of the organization. They are responsible for the organization and how it is changing over time.
On the left we see an illustration of structured, low-flexibility organization resulting from one kind of leadership and culture.
When we examine culture and leadership closely, we see that they are two sides of the same coin; neither can really be understood by itself. On the one hand, cultural norms define how a given nation or organizations will define leadership—who will get promoted, who will get the attention of followers. On the other hand, it can be argued that the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.
– Prof. Edgar Schein, MIT Sloan School of Management
New Organizational Behaviour Requires New Leadership Behaviour
Imagine we want a new kind of behaviour in our organization. For example, we want to be more agile – able to be nimble in the market and innovate our products and services to delight our customers and make waves for our competition. The image on the left illustrates this.
Q: What kind of leadership will be required in this new way of working?
A: Different from what we have now!
If we want to have a new way of working, many things will change. In particular, leadership which fosters culture will need to be very different.
Growth Starts with Leaders
Since Organizational Behaviour follows Leadership Behaviour, we can see that leadership is the limit for growth in organizations.
There are only a small number of options around developing an agile organization:
- Support leaders on a transformational journey to become the future leaders.
- Exit the leadership of the organization and replace them with leaders with the desired mindset/culture. This is exactly what was done with the NUMMI joint venture by GM and Toyota.
- Abandon the goal of developing an agile organization.
I don’t see #2 very often in my practice. It does happen, though. Here is a recent article about a CEO who fired his management team in order to shift the culture.
In my own work helping leaders, I always offer a choice between #1 and #3. After all it’s their organization. I used to really want leaders to pick #1, but now I am less attached and focus on creating safety and control for leaders. And now I have had more leaders pick #1. And helping leaders on this journey is what I am about.
I would like to thank Glenda Eoyang who shared a very important teaching with me when I was in one of her trainings: “The organization is a fractal of the leadership team. Whatever you see in the leadership team, you will see in the organization.”. It also applies to each leader: “Whatever is in the head of a leader, you will see manifested in the leadership team.”
Olaf Lewitz created the wonderful question: “Who is responsible for the current organization?”
Excited to share slides describing the latest evolution of my story (at the Toronto Agile Conference). I talk about how we may dare to create environments where Agile may flourish so we have Organizational Agility. This requires reinventing organizations.
My message is really simple:
- If you want Breakthrough Results
- Cultivate Culture to
- Create Places People Love to Work
- Start with Yourself.
Slides for Reinventing Organizations for Agility
It has been 3 years since I wrote “An Agile Adoption & Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Culture” to help the Agile community increase success in spreading Agile. In this video, I share the highlights of what I have learned. Some of it is around thinking tools such as the Laloux Culture Model and some of it is around my inner journey to reach a place where I can really help people and organizations. My goal is for you to take away some practical tools as well as inspiration for your own journey.
- Intro – People over Process.
- Agile = Culture. Whole Agile.
- Focus on People: Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety & Trust (VAST)
- People-centric organizations (Laloux Culture Model)
- People-centric Change
You can also see earlier version of slides and video summary.
There is a huge world of difference between Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise. They are both valuable and accomplish very different things.
Enterprise Agile addresses the question – “How can we use elements of Agile to improve typical corporate environments while staying within the existing paradigm of traditional (Tayloristic) management. This is Orange level in Laloux Culture model.
In the diagram we see that traditional management practices are in part replace by Agile ones. In this case we are adopting Agile practices and may well have small pockets of Agile culture as well. SAFe is a good example of practice adoption. We typically see a very structured approach to orchestrate activities that are all about top-down steering and control.
The industry term Scaling Agile is about how can we scale Agile practices to support the Enterprise. It is essentially Enterprise Agile that is focused on adoption in large-scale environments. In contrast, Agile as a mindset or culture is about a way of being and does not require specific practices to scale.
With the Agile Enterprise the we are evolving an organization that is very adaptable and resilient to change. Anti-fragile is a good description for this type of organization.
In the Laxoux Culture model this would be represented by Green or perhaps even Teal levels.
In an Agile enterprise, there is leadership at all levels. The people who are closest to the work are the ones driving decisions. Here we replace top-down control with a clear organizational purpose, shared values, visibility and trust. Since everyone is contributing to the shape and direction, the results are emergent. Like a living organism, everyone is sensing and responding to the environment. The intelligence that emerges from the collective is what allows our organization to be ‘Agile’.
Fostering an Agile Enterprise will usually require a complete reboot of the cultural operating system of the organization. As such it is a much more significant undertaking that adopting Agile practices.
Both Enterprise Agile & Agile Enterprise Have Value
It is important to re-iterate that both Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise have value.
Enterprise Agile allows organizations to improve their operational capability so they may execute better.
Agile Enterprise is about creating an adaptable future-proof organization.
It’s not about which is better. It’s about what is right for your context.
Culture is at the core of your organization. Everything in your organization informs culture. And vice-versa: culture informs everything in your organization. Here is an illustration:
Culture is at the Core
Culture = “How we do things around here to succeed”
Each element is the above diagram intimately tied to your organizational culture. Let’s consider each in turn:
- Leadership: Who is allowed to lead change in your organization? Is it just managers or is anyone allowed to initiate a change program?
- Management: What are managers expected to do? How are they expected to behave? Are they elected by staff?
- Org Structure: Is there a hierarchy that shows importance and power?
- Roles: Do people have clearly defined roles that limit how they can contribute? Can people easily create new roles to meet new business needs?
- Systems: Are these chosen to serve business needs or to reduce costs and standardize? How do they enforce or limit behaviours?
- Policies: What rules do we have for people? How much do we trust them to make good decisions on their own?
- Processes: Are our processes designed to support the needs of customers and staff? How much process (rules) do we need? In what areas?
- Unwritten rules & norms: What are the sacred cows and taboo subjects? What is acceptable behaviour?
- Identity: How do we see ourselves in relation to the organization’s purpose?
- Values: What are the stated values? How well does this reflect what actually happens?
- Behaviour: What we say and do is the most concrete manifestation of culture. How we think about ourselves and our organizations will show up in every single meeting. Not only in how it is conducted, but in what is noticed and what people choose to say (or more importantly not say).
The arrows linking the elements illustrate that they are all inter-related and connected. It is a web of cross-linking and supporting elements. The web they weave together defines the organizational culture.
Note that the above diagram is illustrative rather than an exhaustive list. For example, we may note that elements such as office structure could be added.
Laloux Holistic Culture Model
The Laloux Culture Model provides a holistic view of culture that encompasses all of the elements shown above (and more!). In his book, Reinventing Organizations, Laloux makes a clear link between these elements is shown. We cannot shift behaviours without shifting the systems we use. This link was also noted in a 2003 journal paper: Systems and Culture: Connecting the Dots.
In contrast, many models of Culture only use some of these elements. For example, the Schneider Culture Model uses a very specific set of filters that examine what is valued by an organization. This is great for building awareness and starting a discussion around culture, but not as useful for identifying a holistic plan for changing it.
Effective and lasting culture change requires that all of these elements shift together. Teaching people new behaviours or beliefs – such as collaborative meeting techniques or how to assume responsibility – will not work in isolation. Neither will changing our systems and processes without other changes. For more on culture change, please see Culture Change: Reinventing Organizations.
Introducing change efforts such as Agile with teams without changing all the organizational elements around it will generally fail to achieve the desired results. Whole Agile is one of several models to propose a holistic change model.
I have revised this diagram with some really important changes. Please see the new version here: Culture is the Core of Your Organization – V2.
The following infographic adapted from Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations shows:
- A path for reinventing your organization.
- The reason why management and workers need to care.
Culture Change Model
The infographic shows that greater trust and consciousness leads to higher engagement and better results. Better results is proven out by case study after case study. As organizations develop from one stage to the next, they develop a more human approach that leads to greater trust.
The Teal stage is shown as separate since it yields dramatic benefits and represents a paradigm shift from conventional management thinking.
Please see: Laloux Culture Model for a description of each of the stages of development.
The Reinvention Path
Increased success requires that we focus our efforts on developing organizational trust and consciousness to foster engagement. We may consider how our existing processes, structures, and behaviours support or reduce engagement. We may measure engagement scores to see if we are on the right track.
A good place to start is by understanding where we are today: is the way our organization functions mainly Orange stage, Green stage or somewhere in between? When we inventory different areas of functioning (See P. 237) , what stage are we at? It helps to do this without judgement. Where we are is where we are. It’s a fact. Not good, not bad.
We may read through case studies in books or other business literature to inspire us to desire a different future and give us ideas of what experiments we wish to run to move us in that direction. My suggestion here is to start with small experiments. We need to take small steps so we may all develop our levels of trust together. Trying to get there all at once is a sure recipe for disaster. It helps to think of Teal as a star on the horizon – a direction to steer in – rather than a destination.
Why Management Needs to Care
If your organization is near the Orange stage, then your focus is on achievement and results. The dramatically increased results offered by the higher stages compels action. It is the responsibility of management to grow the capacity of the organization to get better results.
If your organization is near the Green stage, then your focus is on the people. The dramatic impact on improving the joy and satisfaction of the people compels action.
Why We All Need to Care
Do we want to work in a place where we are supported and grow? Do we want to feel like our opinions count? Do we want a place where we can give our best every day? The answer for everyone is yes – we would like to contribute and to feel like we are making a difference.
What’s New Here?
The infographic and post is adapted from Laloux’s book – my interpretation & extension. His work identifies trust, consciousness and results as related to organizational stage development. I added the clear association with cause and effect to highlight where it helps to focus. I also added the word engagement.
Success comes from Valuing People
Sadly, many organizations are mired in organizational debt: mistrust, politics and fear. Changing the process won’t fix this. We need to go to the root of it – to find a way to talk about and shift to a healthier culture: one that values people.
The VAST (Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety and Trust) shows us how we can make our workplaces more human.
We outline a fundamentally different approach for organizational change: one where valuing people is integral to building lasting success.
Slides from my Keynote at Lean Into Agile Conference
Video Summary (7 minute PechaKucha)
I am sick to death of Agile Initiatives because they usually fail. Sure there are some companies where Agile just fits, but the most common case is a culture conflict. Best fix I know is: Agile is NOT the Goal (Workshop)
The core problem is that the typical approach used to initiate Agile is inconsistent with Agile goals of empowerment and engagement.
Paul Heidema and I ran a session to explore this at Agile Open Toronto this Spring and this post is a way to share the key learnings.
This is a great workshop to run with people to help them understand different options for engaging with change.
I Caused Damage By Agile …
My mom used to say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
Here is how I and others have caused damage with Agile:
Of course you can replace the word “Agile” with any other word such as “Lean”, or “Total Quality Management” or <Fill-in-the-blank>.
Real Change Happens When…
We then reflected on the times when we participated and witnessed real change and found that it emerges – it’s not forced:
How Change Your Agile Initiative into Something Better
Real success comes from digging in deep on what is important and really valued in the organization – not just jumping on the Agile bandwagon.
Here is are practical exercise you can use to transform your Agile Initiative into something more resilient and lasting: Agile is NOT the Goal (Workshop)
We really appreciate all the folks who showed up and participated in this session. It was awesome.