“Your job as a manager is to create a habitat that is optimized for adaptation, exploration, and innovation.” ~ Jürgen Appelo in Forbes
When I hear founders of an organisation talk about sharing their organisation with their employees, they feel like they have to let go their child, their baby. When they founded their organisation, they were inspired by creative ideas that came out of their mind. By thinking that they own their thoughts and ideas, they fear that somebody will harm a part of themselves if they participate in the way the organisation could evolve. Like a lot of mothers that overprotect their child in stead off creating an environment and habitat where they will also be inspired.
When I feel inspiration coming up, I feel myself a channel used by another force. It is like the flow of a river that needs to find it’s way out. I sometimes wake up then (like this night), and I start writing a new song. Sometimes I only write a text, sometimes I do both: a song with text. And then I want to share this with other musicians who can add new sounds, new riffs, new instruments and rhythm to my song. I sometimes also feel when I am presenting the song and they have new ideas “Hey that is my song, do not alter it, it is good as it is”. But when I see that people are inspired by what inspired me and see the end result, I feel happy and let it go. Not always, I have to admit.
Perhaps founders and mothers (I know, fathers and grandparents are alike), should see their organisation and (grand)child in the same manner: letting go that it is their idea or (grand)child, something they own, which makes a part of themselves. It would be better to ensure that the right context is there to let other people be inspired by your ideas and allow the idea to grow bigger, differently and continuously. Or let your (grand)child be inspired by ideas of their own or ideas from other people. Not only your own ideas.
We do not own our ideas, they serve a higher purpose, I believe.
Unfortunately I have not yet written a new hit song, so I keep waking up at night thinking that I’ve found the basis for a new hit. But perhaps this small article will be something that touches people’s souls.
Time to go back to bed I think.
Fréderic Laloux describes in his book Reinventing Organisations the role of the CEO, the founder of the organisation or highest leader in a cyan organisation. They are in a way as well less important as more important than in traditional hierarchic organisations.
They cannot take decisions on their own anymore or block certain decisions. This means that they will have to give up some of their powers, which might feel very frightening for most of the current CEO’s. In most cases the CEO will remain the person that represents the organisation, the head of the organisations whom suppliers, big customers and supervisors want to talk with. But since there are less or even no targets, budgets, no direction team, no top-down strategies, what is the exact role of the CEO then?
Each time a problem arises in the organisation, people will propose well-tried solutions: impose a new rule or control, create a central supervising role and team, take the decision in the highest echelon of the organisation. The CEO is then there to ensure that trust prevails. If somebody commits fraud against a business, you can easily impose a supervisor to avoid this. But this might harm the trust within the whole company. So you have to balance the pro’s and con’s: do you want to harm the trust with all your employees for one mistake of one person?
Role model for self-management
The CEO’s influence is limited because of the advice process. If you want to take a decision you have to contact all people that will be influenced by the decision and subject matter experts. Not everybody has to agree but if their are no major objections, the decision can be taken and adapted when new ideas arise or circumstances ask for it. So they will have to fight against the urge to take the decision on their own. The advice process is also not a consensus. “Consensus may sound appealing, but it’s not always most effective to give everybody veto power. In the advice process, power and responsibility rest with the decision-maker. Ergo, there is no power to block.”
Role model for Wholeness
The CEO should invite people to be their selves by being her- or himself. If the CEO is still focused on his ego (extrinsic motivation like status, money) the organisation will also act in this way. If however (s)he seeks intrinsic motivation like honesty, openness and vulnerability (admitting that (s)he doe snot know everything and can make mistakes), people will feel more confident to act in the same way. Being vulnerable is seen as a weakness, but admitting that you are wrong for the sake of the organisation is a strength and needs courage.
Role model for Evolutionary purpose
CEO’s must be humble and remind people that their work serves a higher goal that transcends their individual. It is not about ruling out yourself at work. At the contrary: being yourself and find your purpose that suits the overal purpose of the organisation. And that purpose is not making more profit or becoming bigger to protect the company against the competitors.
Take up other roles
Beside these roles, the CEO can take up any role that suits her/him. In most cases they will still take up roles that deal with the broadest questions in the organisation: Do we need to launch new products? Do we need to move or build new offices? Do we need a new rewarding system? These questions have influence on large groups of colleagues, sometimes on all employees.
In traditional hierarchic organisations these decisions are taken at the top and the managers push these decision to all echelons of the organisation. In cyan organisations they have to conform to the advice process. So how do they do that? Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg made his blog on the intranet his instrument of leadership. If he has something in his mind, he places it on his blog. All employees are invited to react.
- If their comments point in the direction of agreement, the decision can be taken in hours.
- If the debate is continuing, the decision is amended and again communicated on the blog.
- If the proposal is not yet mature enough, a workgroup will adjust the proposal.
Imagine how long it would take in a hierarchic organisation: preparing powerpoints, long steering committees and board meetings, informing middle-management and top-down announcements to the employees.
“It is a fact that organisations and the world where we live in have become complex systems. It makes no sense to predict the future for these kind of systems and analysing towards the best decision. Cyan organisations have peace with a complex world where perfection slips away from us.” Fréderic Laloux
Last week we had a tem event. The first in 2 years, but it was a fruitful one. People learned to know each other, they were open and we enjoyed a lovely meal at Condacum.
Learning to know each other
We started with a small “learning to know each other”: the teams split up in groups of 2 and each colleague presented his colleague in 1 minute after a 5 minutes preparation.
I had prepared more then 15 topics and the team chose the following agenda:
Starting @Questio & Translucid
We embarked on how everybody started at Questio & Translucid. We shared the reason why we chose to start working here, what values made us to embark with our company and whether these values were still applicable. I had assumed 2 minute per person would be enough, but abandoned that idea quite early. Going with the flow was easier as I thought. The team was very open and we even learned from Raya, our entrepreneur why and how the 2 companies were founded.
Rewards and company values
Then I showed a small video on “Rewarding children”, a 6 minutes excerpt from the video A teal shade of Agile by Tobias Mayer. He thinks it is a myth that people are by nature keen on rewards. It is simply because we raised them like that (“Good girl” if you do something good). Since the parents raise (partially) their children, they can make children more independent and rely on their inner-self. From this video we talked about a new way of doing business, where the person is put central and not the organisation. By respecting your people and letting go of control, strange things happen in your company: happiness, pride, taking responsibility, personal growth, feeling involved, personal accountability and even better sales and profit.
But what about the client somebody raised, since we are all IT consultants, working 100% on a project with our client, some even working in scrum or kanban teams. Will they appreciate if you take each month 2 hours of to improve the communication within the team? Probably not, but if you explain sincerely and honestly why you do this, they might also be stung by the agile bee.
The conversation broadened, and we ended with this flip chart, containing company values that the team found important.
Condacum and Yvan
The manager and self-made grower of old and special varieties of plants and herbs summarised our event smoothly, when he was showing his impressive vegetable garden at Condacum. He was very enthusiastic and inspiring when he told us about his crops, the passion, the life-work balance and how he adapted the strategy of his restaurant to the needs of what people really love in a authentic restaurant. His adagio is “Van Riek tot Vork” (from pitchfork to fork) and that was indeed what we tasted in the restaurant!
Strategy occurs organically, all the time, everywhere, when people play with ideas and test them out in the field. The organisation evolves, changes shape, expands and contracts in response to a collective intelligence. The reality is the great arbiter, not the CEO, the board of directors or a committee. What works, gets momentum and energy inside the organisation. Other ideas do not take root and languish. “~ Fréderic Laloux
“If you care about somebody, you might not say the truth since you don’t want to hurt her. Really caring about somebody however, is telling them the truth with compassion, even if they don’t like to hear it. It gives them the opportunity to become a better person.” ~ Geert Moreau