three common organisational problems…
…no clear shared purpose
- Uninspiring mission statement
- Strategic Plan tucked in the drawer, not enacted
- Budgets used to control actions
…big egos at Work
- Power games
- Office politics
- Lack of diversity
…structures that stifle
- Disengaged employees
- Exhausted middle managers
- Frustrated senior leaders
- Large ‘control’ functions
…offer three solutions
Context: The Energy of Meaning and Purpose
“It’s the sum total of all our shared stories, the mythology we make up to explain our world to ourselves and to others.”Norman Wolfe
Context, according to Norman Wolfe, includes organisational culture (which is what many people assume) but is also more than culture. However, many organisations see culture as something you create in order to manage change or ensure compliant behaviour from employees. In this scenario, it can be a torturous process of uprooting the existing culture, to replace it with something else, in the hope that it will flourish. The reality is often far from effective.
Instead, Wolfe observes that culture should emerge naturally from purpose and meaning.
This is what Frederic Laloux refers to as evolutionary purpose. When leaders and employees in an organisation are encouraged to listen for evolutionary purpose, and are expected to act upon what they hear, a culture that serves that evolutionary purpose will emerge on its own.
Relationships: The Energy of Interactions
“Relationship energy requires our ability to discern patterns of behaviour, their underlying motivations, and experience empathy… Relationship energy adds to the energy of effort, the energy of the Activity field flowing through the organisation. It has the ability to multiply the sum of all the individual energy contributions.”Norman Wolfe
Very little happens in organisations entirely ‘on one’s own’. We work in teams, we work with others, we work for others. Yet, our workplaces and organisations often promote the expectation that we bring our ‘professional self’ to work, whatever that is. Very few organisations actively encourage people to bring their wholeness to work with them. As a result, we spend a great deal of our energy every day ‘self-censoring’ to make sure only the ‘right-bits’ are on display, for fear of seeming unprofessional or uncommitted. That energy, once spent, is no longer available for activity that serves the purpose of the organisation.
When people are not being whole, we can sense it, and we are reluctant to trust each other, because we are not sure what is being concealed.
Instead, we can create organisations that foster wholeness: quirkiness, individuality, diversity, creativity, spontaneity, authenticity. And as a consequence, we experience the full energy of the relationships between employees, suppliers and customers.
Activity: The Energy of Doing
“It is the energy of ‘what we do and how we do it’. It is the energy that flows from direct effort and the conversation of potential energy into kinetic energy or physical activity.”Norman Wolfe
Most organisations start here. They decide what to do. They identify the task and then they put a team around it, hoping that the team will form strong enough relationships that the work will succeed, and that the team will also find a way to link the task to the mission statement plastered on the posters in head-office.
This preference for task-orientation is understandable. Activity is linear, its easy to understand. It’s also easy to measure. Its easy to systematise. It can be governed by processes, policies, targets and incentives. In other words… it can be managed.
Instead, though, we can flip this on its head, and let the activity emerge naturally from evolutionary purpose and relationships. When this happens, there is no need to manage it, and the friction created by all those policies and processes can fall away.