Archive for Organizational Culture

Laloux Culture Model

Looking for a way to help evolve your organization’s culture? Frederic Laloux’s model provides a clear picture of how culture may evolve in an organization.

The model comes from Reinventing Organizations – a landmark book in the development of organizations that unleash the talents of people to get astonishing results. The book is grounded in case studies from around the world of organizations that are succeeding in a new way of working. The book has inspired me and helped me see much more clearly what is possible for myself and the clients I work with.

Laloux Culture Model

Frederic has a really awesome model for understanding organizational culture. It looks like this:

It shows how our society (over thousands of years) has evolved new ways of working together. Each stage has value: more advanced is not necessarily better – it’s about fit for context. It is derived from other models such as Integral, Spiral Dynamics, etc. Note that Laloux does not call this a culture model – he refers to it as stages in evolution of consciousness and organization.

Centralized Power & Structure [Red & Amber]

Red is about power: I am the leader – do what I say or else. Key innovations are the division of labour and authority. Examples include street gangs or tribal militias.

Amber organizations channel power through a hierarchy with formal roles and reporting lines (command & control). They establish stable processed that allow them to scale to a large size. Current examples are: military, government agencies, public school systems.

Achievement [Orange]

Orange is about a shift to focus on achievement: bigger and better. Innovation is key: how do we evolve our process? What projects do we need to improve things? With orange, we create plans and hold people accountable for results (predict & control). Since the focus is now on results, a meritocracy is formed based on who actually delivers. The organization is seen as machine to be exploited. Examples are multinational organizations and charter schools.

People [Green]

Green organizations focus on the empowerment of workers (within the hierarchy) as the key for driving success. There are explicit shared values that guide behaviour and decision-making. Green organizations have family as a guiding metaphor. They also have a clear purpose to support coherent activity. Green organizations see a bigger picture beyond profits: workers, customers and their role in the community. Examples include Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s.

Shared Power [Teal]

Teal organizations are decentralized into autonomous teams or groups. Power is shared and people are self-managing. Decisions are made independently – there is no centralized group telling people what to do. Decision-making independence is enhanced with visibility and advice. Trust replaces process. People’s whole selves (mind, body, heart, spirit) are welcomed. The organization evolves through an emergent process since everyone can make decisions. The metaphor for Teal is that of a living system. Examples include: Patagonia, Morning Star,… (more in the book).

Go Read The Book

Creating Organizations Guided by the next stage of human evlolutionThis is the best book I have read in years. It has helped me tremendously in getting a deeper understanding of the work I have been doing with culture for the last few years and helped me see the larger pattern of organizational evolution much more clearly.

In upcoming posts, I will write more about how to use this model and the Teal stage.

 

 

 

 

 

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VAST – Virtuous Cycle for Connection

It’s all about how we show up. If we show up in a way that invites people to connect, to trust, to feel safer than usual, they probably will. And astonishing results will follow. Olaf and I have a vast experience of limiting our results because we didn’t dare to show up, speak up, stand up. We’ve been not daring, not trying, not challenging, most of our lives—like most people! We’ve learned the hard way how to show up in a way that enables connection, and impact.

We use the VAST cycle to increase connection to grow engagement in the workplace. We know safety and trust are important, but that is not the whole story. We need whole humans, intensely connected, to unleash the co-creation of astonishing results.

Joint post with Olaf Lewitz.

VAST Cycle

Virtuous Cycle for Connection

Virtuous Cycle for Connection

VAST =
Vulnerability
Authentic Connection
Safety
Trust

How to use VAST for Yourself

We use VAST as a way to navigate relationships. It works in personal and professional contexts.

Use VAST for introspection: In relation to another, we may ask ourselves:

  • How trusting am I?
  • How safe do I feel?
  • How connected do I feel?
  • How vulnerable am I choosing to be?
  • Am I acting authentically?

With this new awareness, the model suggests a variety of moves:

  • I can choose to be vulnerable and share how I feel. How I am feeling unsafe. How I am not trusting.
  • I can choose to trust the other person and see how my behaviour shifts.
  • I can state what I want. “I want to restart this conversation. I want to focus on how we can support each other. I want to focus on the goal.”
  • I can ask for help.

In our experience, the most powerful move is vulnerability. Owning our experience and how we feel and then sharing it really kicks off the cycle. That’s what we mean by showing up.

I have a short video explanation of VAST in my People over Process talk.

VAST for Organizations

We use VAST to build awareness and choice for organizations. It is especially useful when contrasting with organizational debt (fear, mistrust) as a way of being.

A team, group, or organization may choose VAST as a future way of being. The cycle helps guide behaviour and create ideas for experiments.

We can use it in retrospectives, to collect narratives that demonstrate the behaviour we want. Acknowledge when someone was daring, inspiring us to move forward.

Run a Temenos lab to experience the cycle for yourself or with your team.

Origins of VAST

The VAST cycle is the result of a sense-making journey between Olaf and I over the past years. We have been learning and studying its elements to help ourselves and our clients grow. We didn’t go out to invent something, it just emerged – it’s a discovery. We then noticed how well it explains many beautiful personal and professional growth experiences with ourselves and our clients.

The term “VAST” was created by Anton Gillis-Adelman – who is an expert in turning a jumble of letters into words.

Related Work

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Organizational Debt Cycle

Many consider the modern workplace inhumane and uninhabitable. People are not fully engaged. It is killing our bottom lines. It is putting our organizations at risk. With our prevailing management system we have created a vast organizational debt that inhibits growth and performance.

We define organizational debt as the baggage that prevents people from delivering astonishing results. The diagram below shows the key problems that impact each human being and ultimately the effectiveness of our whole organization.

Joint post with Olaf Lewitz.

Organizational Debt Cycle

This is how the organizational debt cycle works:

Organizational Debt Cyle

We learn not to trust people we don’t know well, so our first principle is not to trust anyone. We act as if we’re afraid and sometimes we are. We want to be safe, avoid to be noticed, avoid to stand out. The more we cover our *ss, the less we connect. The less we connect, the more we feel alone… and can’t build any trust. The cycle continues.

The cycle works the other way, too: We start being afraid, not trusting people, feeling alone, so we make sure we don’t get hurt…

Impact

There is a direct connection between each of these problems and our organization’s effectiveness. For example:

  • No trust → I will try to do this myself rather than cooperate with you. I don’t believe in my leaders.
  • Fear → I will not ask for help when I need it. I will not take any risks that might improve things.
  • Cover your *ss → I will not report important information. I will not speak up to avoid disaster.
  • Alone → I will disengage. I will be powerless and not valued.

Henry Ford reportedly said that “every pair of hands comes with its own brain”. Many people got used to leave their brain at the door when they came to work. In many organisations people additionally leave their hearts outside. We don’t fully show up at work.
Prominent words like “work-life-balance” only make sense if we leave our life outside when we go to work. This cycle describes how we do that and why we keep doing it. We don’t feel we have a choice.

How We Create Organizational Debt

In organizations we create structures to support it:

  • RACI matrices have single responsibilities → alone
  • Performance reviews → fear
  • Reports are expected to match plans → cover your *ss
  • Don’t rock the boat → cover your ass
  • Gap between what we say and do → Trust no one

As leaders, we may unwittingly create or support an organizational culture where mistrust and fear impair performance.

How to Use this Model

The purpose of this model is to create awareness. When we choose to acknowledge and accept what is actually going on, then new behaviours and choices automatically emerge. Once we decide that we no longer wish to operate in this cycle, we may then ask, “What do we wish for ourselves?”

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Whole Agile – Unleash People & Organizations

Agile missing partsAgile is incomplete. We need to augment it to create the “whole product”. But what is it?

There are many ideas: transformation approach, culture, leadership, but something is still missing.

 

 

Whole Agile

Whole = Agile + People + OrganizationWhole Agile is a holistic way to see the functioning of the entire organization.

In order to fully unleash the potential of workers we need to augment Agile with Valuing People and rewire the Organizational Model.

Valuing People is about building a place where the whole person is welcome so they are fully engaged in work. A place where there is safety, trust and authentic connection.

Organizational Model refers to the approaches we use to run organizations: organizational structure, planning & control, roles & titles, compensation, performance management, information access, leadership and power. These need to shift for us to reinvent our organizations to unleash people’s capabilities.

This is essentially what I have been doing the last few years. Now I have a good name for it. I will be writing more about Whole Agile in the coming weeks but in the meantime, here is a video summary and slides.

Video Summary

Slides

Why “Whole Agile”?

An obvious question is: Why do we need something more than Agile? Why make up a new name?

One answer is that Agile is great at a team level but provides no guidance at an organizational level. We need to replace burdensome organizational processes and with lightweight ones that foster self-organization and engagement.

The most important reason for selecting a name is that we want to create a movement within the Agile community. Not everyone will be interested in building whole organizations and that’s OK.

Here are some alternative names:

  • Holistic Agile
  • Conscious Agile
  • Evolve Agile
  • Beyond Agile
  • AgileAsItWasMeantToBe

Online survey results with comments on names. You can add to the survey as well.

Acknowledgements

First, I would like to thank my dear friend and colleague Olaf Lewitz who has been deeply involved in developing this. Other key contributors include: Melanie Meinen and Laura Powers. Thanks also to those who responded to my online survey: Clint, Jeff K, Fanny, Olivier Gourment, Shyam Kumar, Geir, Peter Trudelle, Frank Olsen, Alistair McKinnell, Justin Reyna.

 

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People over Process – Win with People

Success comes from Valuing People

Woody Hayes, PeopleWhen we simplify the Agile Manifesto’s “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools” we get “People over Process”. Agile is about people. It’s about a people-first culture.

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)

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Letting Go of Agile (Culture)

Letting go of Agile Culture“If you want something very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.” – Harry Kronman

I have discovered the truth of this with Agile. The one time in my whole life I truly surrendered my attachment to Agile, it resulted in a beautiful transformation starting. But most of the time I was too attached to Agile to let it go.

This post is about how we may accidentally harm organizations with Agile and how we can let go so that we may succeed.

Accidentally Harming Organizations

Here is the basic thinking:

  1. Agile is a good thing.
  2. We can help companies if they use Agile.
  3. Let’s do it!

Trap #1: Accidentally introduce cultural conflict

Agile for me is basic common sense – this is how to get stuff done. BUT Agile does not work in most organizations due to culture. Sure there are some small pockets where Agile just works but this seems to be relatively rare – especially now that Agile has crossed the chasm.

Agile is a different culture from most companies, so the first trap is to accidentally introduce organizational conflict. That’s why I wrote “An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Organizational Culture” – to help people notice this trap and avoid it.

My suggestion was to look at two options:

  1. Adopt elements of Agile that fit with the culture.
  2. Transform the organizational culture.

For many, option 1 is like giving up on Agile since they key part of it is missing so many Agile folks don’t like that option.

Increasingly Agile experts go for option #2 instead: Transform the Organizational Culture. I sure did. I set out to learn how to change organizational culture. And I figured it out. But there was a problem. A big one.

Trap #2 Attempt to Transform to Agile Culture

The core of the problem is that Agile is not an end in itself. It is means to an end. Some common goals (ends) are: a quality product, time to market or engaged staff. The problem is not that Agile doesn’t help with these goals (it certainly does), the problem is that people confuse Agile as the goal and often act in ways that undermine the real goal. We see Agile being used as a Whip or a Shield. That is why it’s a good idea to Stop Agile Initiatives. A better alternative to an Agile initiative is to have an initiative around the real goals. One way to get at the real goals is to run a workshop to clarify why people want Agile.

It is a good thing to change culture in service to what organizations really want for themselves. A specific culture is not a goal in itself, but a means to accomplishing something. We may seek a culture of engagement and innovation not for itself, but because we want our organization to thrive in a competitive landscape.

There are many many beautiful, productive organization cultures all over the world that have nothing to do with Agile. The implication is that there are many ways to get to a place where people love what they do. If we really want to help people, then the best move is to work with them to evolve a wonderful culture that is right for them. And for sure it will not be exactly “Agile Culture” (especially since this is not completely precise). If it is a progressive culture, it will likely be Agile-compatible and using Agile to get benefits will be very natural. It’s a win – win.

Agile Culture should never be a goal. If it is, we will likely just cause harm.

Let Go of the Outcome to Find Success

Here is my secret to success: Let go of the outcome.

I wrote a couple of years about about how leaders have a choice between the red pill (deeper reality) and the blue pill (surface reality). I stated it like I gave people a choice. But I didn’t. The only choice I wanted was the red pill. I wanted so much to help the people in organizations I pushed for the red pill. The truth is I cared so much for the outcome which I assumed was best that I didn’t really give a open choice. In subtle and more obvious ways I was attempting to coerce leaders into taking the red pill. Ooops! Coercion is not any part of Agile, but here I was wanting my outcome for others. And it is not just me. I have talked to dozens of professional coaches and this is pandemic in the Agile community.

The solution is obvious. If we really want to stay true to Agile values, we can’t coerce. We have to let the people (especially management teams) make their own decisions and their own mistakes. We have to help them find and walk the path that they choose. This means letting go of the outcome. This means letting go of Agile.

This business of learning to let go is not new. In fact, letting go of attachment is a central message of Buddhism.

To close, the one time I fully let go of Agile it came back in such a beautiful sustainable and lasting way. Time to rinse and repeat.

“If you want Agile very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s there forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.”

(Stay tuned for a follow-up post on Agile as a means of creating freedom by Olaf Lewitz.)

My Apology

I helped a lot of people see Agile as a culture system and learn how to stop causing accidental conflict.

Unfortunately, I also energized a lot of people to seek culture change with the goal of growing Agile. As clarified in this blog post, this was a mistake. I am sorry.

What’s the alternative? For those who want real change, let’s help them meet their organizational goals with culture transformation and let Agile come willingly.

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Transformation Case Study – Video Interview

At Agile 2014, many people were inspired by this case study so Olaf Lewitz interviewed me. Here is what happened.

Slides and Highlights are here.

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Self-Appreciation Game

At Play4Agile, Olaf Lewitz and I hosted an exploratory session on personal growth hacks. Everyone shared ideas and turned into the self-appreciation game.

Purpose of the Game

The purpose of the game is to give people practice at accepting praise and recognition so that we feel good about our accomplishments and successes. This cultivates our sense of self-worth so that we are more resourceful at work and in our personal lives.

Why Play the Game

In our society there’s rarely room to learn how to accept praise and recognition. We squirm and say “it was nothing” because it feels uncomfortable. We have a hard time seeing our own self-worth and feel this disconnect when we receive praise.

This is a great game to help people and teams become more resourceful so they are able to co-create a more positive environment.

It is very helpful if you are working to create a people-oriented organization.

Game Rules

Setup

Form a circle. If you have more than 10 people, consider the option of forming two smaller groups.
Explain the purpose of the game and it’s mechanics.

Mechanics

Self-Appreciation Game
Go around the circle with each person taking turns:

  1. Brag Protocol: Pick something that you are proud of and share it with the group.
  2. Applause: Everyone cheers and claps to celebrate your success.
  3. Soak it in: Let the appreciation soak in like maple syrup in a pancake. Connect deeply and fully with the feeling for 10 to 15 seconds. See Hardwiring Happiness for further explanation of letting in the good.

Go around the circle 2 to 4 times depending on how much time and energy you have.

Game Results

As we went around the circle the connection and trust increased. Everyone left this game feeling awesome.

Why This Game is Important to Me

I am on an epic quest for self-worth so that I can engage with the world from a centered and whole place. So that I carry my own weather around inside me. The game was invented to help me level up on my quest. And it worked. I hope you are interested in similar benefits.

Acknowledgements

We are deeply grateful to the participants of the workshop who helped co-create and test drive this game.

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WholeHearted Manifesto: We Value People

The WholeHearted Manifesto consists on one value statement:

We Value People. (Period)

People are the driving force behind getting results. This is the secret recipe for success.

We value all people. Our customers. Our peers. But most of all ourselves.

It would be a mistake to think this is fluffy bunny stuff. It’s not. It is the hard stuff that makes all the difference.

Wholehearted Principles

The principles of the Wholehearted Manifesto are:

  1. People happen. Not right, not wrong. They will amaze you.
  2. Awesome outcomes emerge from people who truly connect.
  3. Collaboration is our oxygen: we co-create environments for people to flourish and grow.
  4. We all are on a unique journey and help each other along the way.
  5. We love and celebrate people for who they are.
  6. We are open and honest.
  7. We ask for help before we need it.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or enhancements – please add them on the manifesto page.

Help make a difference

If this message resonates with you – please go sign the manifesto. And please share the message. Let’s move towards a better world.

Acknowledgements

The manifesto spontaneously emerged during an intense, emergent collaboration session I had with Olaf Lewitz & Christine Neidhardt. We were not seeking this, it just arrived. So I imagine that many other people must be thinking the same thing. So this is a shared idea – not ours. Not anyones.

A wonderful group of people came together to help build the Wholehearted Principles at Play4Agile in Ruchersbach, Germany. Many thanks to:

We would also like to thank Brene Brown who has greatly influenced with her wonderful books and TED talks. She introduced the term “wholehearted” to describe people who are able to fully love themselves and bring joy to those around them.

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The Business Case for an Authentic Workplace

People are messy: they have personalities and emotions. In this post we explore how we can embrace people’s messiness for advantage rather than have it act as a drag.

Default Business Model is Mixed Engagement

Workers are DisengagedA recent study from Carnegie Mellon Training shows that there are very mixed levels of engagement from workers. See diagram to right.

Current estimates are that staff disengagement cost $11 billion from turnover alone. If we include the costs from low productivity, then $11 billion looks like pocket change.

One challenge with the traditional business model is that it denies people’s individuality and feelings. People put on an “office persona” for how they think they need to be to fit in.

In our workplaces, we do not dare to show our true and whole self. We do not feel welcome, and co-create work environments where sub-optimal results and shared ineffectiveness are normal.

The Authentic Workplace

An alternate model for our work environments is to invite people to show up as themselves – as the wonderful human beings that they are – and fully welcome them.

We might imagine an environment that allow us to:

  • Relate and connect authentically.
  • Share and acknowledge feelings.
  • Trust each other
  • Feel safe
  • Be vulnerable

Typical vs. Authentic Workplace

Consider the following diagram illustrating difference between these models:

Authentic Workplace

In the traditional workplace we create a work identity that is often a shallow project of our true self. Our minds our filled with distractions from our life outside of work. We put in effort to create a distortion field around ourselves to that no one sees our true selves or our distractions.

In an authentic workplace we welcome each others dreams and ambitions, personal history and most importantly our feelings.

Authentic Workplace Benefits

Here are a few benefits:

  • People are motivated when they feel valued and connected at work
  • “Distractions” can be dealt with so people can focus
  • Emotional support for challenges so people get unstuck
  • Better decisions since people are safe to share information

Authenticity is a Spectrum

It is valuable in this discussion to keep in mind that this is not a black or white situation: traditional or authentic. We might imagine measuring or sensing the level of authenticity in a given environment. I am not thinking of metrics but guideposts such as: Do people talk about their emotions? Do people feel a sense of community and support? The 12 Questions from “First Break all the rules” can be a helpful here.

How can we develop the skills?

Below are three ways that I have been developing these skills in my own life and practice.

#1 Authentic Connection Circle – Toronto

This week I am starting an Authentic Connection Circle in Toronto as a way for people to build capacity for authentically relating to one another. We will do this by talking about the stuff that scares us to build trust and create a safe environment.

Some might dismiss this as fluffy Bunny New Age. It’s not.

It’s about character.

Mastering out own patterns and history so that we can engage effectively with others is hard work. It takes character to be authentic and welcome what shows up in people.

#2 Temenos Workshops for Trust and Connection

Temenos is an experiential workshop that invites us to experience connection, openness and trust on a level that’s not accessible to us in daily life. With Temenos, we can safely test more effective methods of relating with others.

Temenos provides a safe setting to explore this space to develop our existing skills. We discover that we can open up to people and learn that this satisfies a deeply rooted human need.

With this experience, we may dare to treat each other more openly, truthfully, and effectively than before. We’re more aware of who we are, and what we want.

Upcoming workshops:

#3 Core Protocols

The Core Protocols are a set of rules designed to support high-performance teams. Some of the protocols are very supportive of building an authentic workplace. I will briefly highlight a few of them here:

  1. Check-in. At the start of a meeting or day everyone shares their emotional state so that there is awareness around how people are entering this context. A simple format of: I am … <glad> <sad> <afraid> is used.
  2. Check-out. People check out when they feel they cannot focus and be productive.
  3. Alignment. People share what their personal development goal is and lets others know how they can help.

Leaders Go First

In “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, Stehphen Covey talks about this as “Victory begins at home”. If you want to see these changes and benefits in your organization, you need to go first. Leadership in organizations comes from all levels. Be the change you want to see.

Acknowledgements

The primary source of this thinking for me comes from Brene Brown. Olaf Lewitz and I have been collaborating on the developing these ideas and applying them in workplaces. Parts of the text around Temenos were co-written with Olaf. Pascal Pink contributed key ideas in helping explain what Temenos really is about.

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