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?”
If you are having culture challenges with your organization, you are not alone.
80% of participants at a recent conference (Scrum Gathering in Orlando) reported that the dominant culture in their organization is not supportive of progressive working environment such as Agile.
Where is Your Organization?
The infographic below show my simplification of the Laloux Culture Model. You can hand it out or show it on a projector and explain the model. Then ask: “What is the dominant culture in your organization?”
Culture Challenges show in Scrum Gathering Results
Here are the results when I asked this question at the Scrum Gathering in Orlando in April 2016.
A whopping 80% or participants are in organizations that are predominantly Red/Amber or Orange.
Agile culture is compatible with organizations predominantly green or teal as per diagram below.
Only 20% or the session participants evaluated their organizations as ones supporting Agile. This can be seen as the gap between Doing Agile and Being Agile. Lot’s of organizations trying to Do Agile without creating cultural context to Be Agile. No wonder there is so much failure around Agile.
Similar results in 2012!
In 2012, I reported almost identical results: Agile Failure and Culture – Agile 2012 Workshop Results. In this survey, I used the Schneider model with people reporting that 70% of companies were in control culture (similar to red/amber or orange). This suggests that as an industry we have not improved. Or perhaps that the improvements have been shadowed by growth of “Doing Agile”.
What Can You Do About a Culture Gap?
Trying to “Be Agile” is not a recipe for success. Instead we may see it as an invitation for real change to the fabric of the organization. Real change requires organizations to focus on their own goals and dreams – not cut and paste Agile in their organization. This is why I advocate stopping Agile initiatives and Conducting “Agile is NOT the Goal” Workshops. Please keep in mind that survival is optional – companies do not need to change their culture.
What can you do? Start a conversation about this! Listen to hear what the system wants for itself.
Here is my updated drawing showing how Culture is the core of your organization – how it binds everything together.
“Organizational Culture” = the wibbly, wobbly thing that connect everything.
In this model, there are two important dimensions of culture:
- Consciousness = intangible way of being that reflects how we are as human beings. Inner world.
- Structure = the ways that we organize our outer world.
Culture Diagram – How you can use it
If the conversation turns to Culture or (Agile) Mindset, I walk people through this handout to help them understand that changing culture is a complex endeavour. For example, we will create tension on the system if we try to change just one element. If we hope to invite healthy growth we need to consider a holistic approach to change that considers how our changes relate to the whole.
Another key aspect is that healthy growth requires shifting both consciousness as well as structures. Changing one or the other alone is ineffective.
What has changed from Version 1?
In the first version of this diagram, I used the term “people” to capture how we are as human beings. I now see that “consciousness” is a more accurate term for the inner or energetic world of how we connect with each other.
I also move “unwritten rules and norms” to “consciousness” since this is more about our way of being.
Why does Consciousness Matter?
I will let Albert Einstein answer this one:
Here is a visual that captures the essential elements of Teal Organizations as described in Frederic Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organizations”. This describes the Future of Work. Except that it has been here for decades. We never noticed how to have radically successful organizations. Enjoy.
The foundation element is that the organization has clear sense of purpose that transcends profit, employment, shareholder returns. Instead, it looks towards supporting society and humanity as a whole. Evolutionary Purpose means that people in the organization listen and help the organization grow into what it needs to be rather than try to control or shape it based on their preferences.
The results and research supports that by focusing on something worthwhile in a soulful way that profits will follow.
People and teams are self-managing. Guided by the evolutionary purpose, people make decisions that support the organization and it’s purpose. Some Teal organizations are structured as independent loosely-coupled teams while others have a more intricate web of commitments based on the nature of the work of the organization. In either case, there is a high degree of autonomy.
This is a radical departure from the way most companies are run with a traditional hierarchy to control decisions within the organization.
A key characteristic of an organization filled with autonomous workers is that there will only be a bare minimum of staff functions (IT, Legal, HR, Marketing, etc) required. In Teal, these staff functions see themselves as support – they are at the service of the people on the front lines delivering value.
In place of a hierarchy with fixed roles and titles, many Teal organizations have roles that evolve and change dynamically over time. These are often “micro” roles that are about taking on specific responsibilities whereas traditional roles may have a dozen or more such micro-roles. Sometimes these are specified through contracts or agreements between workers or teams.
The advice process is a decision-making process where the owner of a decision seeks advice from all people who are significantly impacted or those who have experience with the matter. Although all advice must be considered, the decision owner has full autonomy to make the decision. This process allows the organization to move forward and avoid the potential trap of consensus-based decision-making.
With autonomous people we will invariably have some level of conflict. People are treated as adults and expected to sort out there own conflicts through a well-understood conflict resolution mechanism. This often takes the basic structure: go talk to the person. If you can’t work it out directly, get help resolving the conflict. Of course, there is is training and support to help people develop the necessary skills.
Responsible & Accountable People
Teal runs on people feeling responsible for their actions and for helping the organization serve it’s purpose. They hold themselves and their peers accountable for behaviours and actions. Although this may seem radical in a traditional organizational context, this is very natural in Teal organizations. Once there are no bosses and everyone is a leader that makes decisions and is responsible for moving the organization forward, these properties naturally emerge in most people. Of course, some people don’t like this and choose to leave Teal environments.
Wholeness and Trust
At a deeper level, there are other foundational elements.
In Teal organizations, we invite the whole person to the workplace: Mind, body, heart, and spirit. Here we see that people are complex, deep and rich. We do not try narrow or confine to only the analytical left-brain view in Orange organizations. Here we see that by welcoming the whole of people including intuition and sensing we may advance our purpose. We also look after people – in all aspects – so that our organization may flourish.
It is an ongoing act of trust for the most senior leader/owner to give away all their power to people in the organization. To trust that something better will emerge from an organization filled with leaders than with retaining power and control. Also, for Teal organizations to function there needs to be a high level of trust for the people we work with.
Context for Teal
I want to clarify a few things about the information I am sharing here:
- I created this infographic to help people grasp how substantially Teal organizations differ from traditional organizations.
- It is an illustration of Teal. All Teal organizations differ since they evolve organically. It’s not a blueprint. There is no blueprint.
- Although much of this is based on Laloux’s model there are some elements that have been added as part of my sense-making of Teal. e.g. emphasis of Responsibility, Trust.
- I am touching on some essential elements, not the full richness of how Teals organizations may function
I see Laloux’s concept of Teal as a very rich territory for inspiring how we might want to re-invent our organizations. My closing invitation is for people to use Teal and Teal organizations as inspiration for finding your own unique paths for growth rather than as a blueprint to be copied.
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.
Delighted to share the slides from my and Soo Kim’s presentation at Spark The Change.
An insider’s account of a manager’s journey of cultural transformation. How our beliefs and assumptions radically shifted. How we found the courage to fully see what is there and accept it. Being vulnerable enough to speak our truth to allow new options to emerge. Developing the boldness to choose them.
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.