Just as individuals develop so do organizations. More to the point, we could say that the ways individuals organize develops. We've all experiencing the difference between a team leader that organizes projects well and those that don't. A big part of the difference, I suggest, is in the way of organizing taken by each leader.
Around 1999-2000, I developed a model for several different styles or ways of leading and organizing that follows the well-understood trajectory of adult development (from developmental psychology). My premise is that the way individuals organize expresses the level of development of their observer.
Here is a high-level summary of the model starting with the least developed way of organizing.
- Assessment responds to the need to ground organizing in our concerns about what's happening
- Vision responds to the need to establish a direction, identities, and offers
- Opportunity responds to the need to make immediate progress
- Task responds to the need for being effective
- Process responds to the need for improving efficiency
- Knowledge responds to the need for diversifying offers and renewing (revisioning) identities
- Compassion responds to the need for placing people (that develop) at the center of organizing
- Wisdom responds to the need for timely action and conservation of energy when acting
- Love responds from the inherent interdependent relationships in which we exist to the organizing challenges
- Presence response from the inherent temporal and spatial co-presence in which everything occurs
Together these ways create and respond to the challenging
situations every leader faces daily. To achieve effectiveness, efficiency,
and the fulfillment of customers and employees in the short and long-term, all ten ways need
to be alive and healthy.
Each of these ways displays different self-reinforcing patterns of awareness and action, of concern and response, of language and practice. Each is way is a different observer of the organization and the challenges it faces. And each way has a different way of responding to the challenges. What is crucial is to match the demands of the challenges that the organization faces with the appropriate response.
Leaders and organizations often struggle because they have mastered one or a few of these ways of leading and organizing but the challenges they face demand a different way of leading and organizing. However, instead of learning new ways of leading and organizing they simply do what they've mastered over and over, harder and harder, with the same unfortunate results. In short, they are stuck and not learning or developing.
Many leaders don't even know that other ways of leading and organizing exist and are possible. And those that see that other ways are possible often don't step into the action learning that is requires to develop those new ways. For sure this is a hard road to walk. Developing a new way of leading and organizing can take years. And in today's business climate, it is rare for leaders to willingly step into a multi-year deconstruction/reconstruction of how they lead and work. However, on the flip side of the argument, the acceleration of change we experience in today's world demands that companies reinvent themselves approximately every 3-5 years. In fact what is needed is to take on the practice of development (of transformation) as an ongoing and continuous endeavor. Indeed, it has always been so whether we've known it or not. Better to take it on consciously that to be dragged kicking and screaming unconsciously into the morass that so often accompanies transformation and deep learning.
One early step to taking on this endeavor is to have a map of the territory and a reading on where you are within it. The 10 ways of leading and organizing provide one good map. More than one map is required. And when using such maps one must always keep in the forefront that "the map is not the territory."
With a map of the basic developmental contour of the territory of leading and organizing, you can make an assessment of which ways have been learned and mastered by which leaders, which teams, which functions. The dynamics are complex between levels of organizing and within the interactions between organizations. As one simple example, teams that are attempting to organizing using a higher ordered way - say Process - will struggle if there management or their collaborators are using a lower ordered way - say Task or, worse, Opportunity. Being able to observe and diagnose such developmental mismatches opens up new ways to respond to organizational problems effectively that didn't exist before.
For sure the description of the map above is insufficient to perform an assessment. If you want to explore performing such an assessment in your organization, contact me.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear what y'all make of this. What new possibilities open up by seeing that there can be developmental mismatches between the styles or ways of leading and organizing used by people.