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I disagree: self-organization is NOT hard (reply to @bud_caddell)

I think you will spend 170 seconds reading this post

This is a reply to Bud Caddell‘s article here.

First, I’d like to say that I agree with most of the content of the article, especially the stuff on Holacracy being complicated stuff. I come from Lean management coaching, and I can say that Lean is complex too. Indeed, we see similar problems: some companies succeed in implementing it, some don’t. Most don’t by the way.It seems (I haven’t found studies on that, though) that what works most in companies is when people grow their own culture and practices instead of trying to transplant a new one. Indeed, this is what Taiichi Ohno advocated for: don’t replicate the Toyota Production System, build your own (or the japanese Ohnism way: mono zukuri wa, hito zukuri – To make things is to make people first).

Holacracy One and those few companies that help build the model before wanted to change and develop new ways of functioning. The Holacracy constitution didn’t appear all at once: it slowly grew out of experimentation.

Besides, where do organizational cultures come from if not self-organization? Granted, these cultures aren’t thriving and engaging (see figures on their homepage) and we should strive to improve them. But self-organization does appear, and quite quickly indeed.

Should I have the opportunity to propose and test something new, I wouldn’t go for a huge organizational overhaul, but instead I would seek to:

  1. find where people are happier and look for the behaviors that help, to make them explicit and do more of them
  2. find what prevents those successful behaviors from happening and propose to make experiments to restrain them, and, maybe later stop them

People don’t change because they read about a new (soft) technology. They change because something either works better for them, or they want to move away from something that doesn’t work (the former is indeed more attractive than the latter). Of the few people that change out of reading, say, a constitution, they are the Innovators. These should be promoters of new practices, to attracts Early Adopter, and then only, move the Early Majority. But most of us aren’t innovators (or the corporate world would be Teal already!)

Trying to force the whole to change at once, without it having co-created the Why, the How and the What they want might be possible, but it’s so risky and costly that I wouldn’t even try to do it (and indeed understand why a manager would be reluctant do go for it). Indeed, that other article from Caddell clearly states the situation (other great sayings at the end too):

The average employee is already overworked and undertrained; asking them to learn the management equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons on top of their workload is foolish, if not inhumane.

In a pure Solution Focus way, I’d try to find the smallest step that would make a difference, like: do whatever you want without asking for authorization as long as it doesn’t costs anything and your work doesn’t suffer. For managers it would mean to: 1) give air for employees to breathe 2) give permission to employees to experiment.

Besides, you can also make the promotion of Holacracy, Sociocracy, Sociocracy 3.0 and Teal organizations so that people can pick up new ideas to experiment with. But they shouldn’t be mandatory.

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2 Responses to “I disagree: self-organization is NOT hard (reply to @bud_caddell)”

  1. de Gromard Brice says:

    Hi Nicolas,

    I absolutely agree with the below statetement : “Change shouldn’t be mandatory”.
    In my point of view, the Zappos difficulties described by Bud are mainly issued by the mandatory change engaged by Tony Hsieh.
    As you say experiences should be led by volunter people, it is the best chance we can give them to be a success.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Brice 🙂

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