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. Read more »
Having the chance to own a house with a small garden, I recently got interested in Permaculture. Indeed, I’ve been interested in Christopher Alexander‘s pattern language already (and I blogged about his 15 principles of wholeness before).
Reading this great introduction about permaculture this morning got me thinking about how this would connect with business and organizational improvement. And, the fact is that it seems to work like a charm!
Here are the 12 principles of permaculture viewed from the perspective of organizational improvement and efficiency (with a twisted view from strength-based Lean…)
- OBSERVE & INTERACT – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This indeed is the first step of improvement: go to the real place (gemba, genchi gembutsu) and look at the process! Improvement is not done in an office remote from where the work or the process is done.
- CATCH & STORE ENERGY – “Make hay while the sun shines.” When thinking of “Lean and Green”, this would obviously make sense of course. But I like the human aspect as well where you need to feel, catch and use the energy of people: what motivates them to do what they do? What’s the purpose of the organization that drives it to deliver its services? What fuels people to work? Before you try to change the processes, you must take great care in not destroying that energy. One could also see in this point the sometimes added 8th waste of “unused employee creativity”: this too is a kind of energy which should fuel an organization.
- OBTAIN A YIELD – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Or “Produce”. The goal of an organization is to service its customers, right? So you need to ship as soon as possible. And the better the quality has to be, though we’ll come back later to this one.
- APPLY SELF-REGULATION & ACCEPT FEEDBACK – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” When you produce, you need to look at what you ship, and self-correct in case of a problem. This pertains to the final client, but of course to internal clients as well, between teams or silos (if your organization is so structured). So, regulation with the previous and later steps in the process (TAKT time, anyone?) and client feedback… I also like the saying about the seventh generation: don’t look just at the next step, for your job might have consequences far beyond further down the process (or in the Client’s life).
- USE & VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES & SERVICES – “Let nature take its course.” Again, I’m not so much interested in material resources (although they’re important of course), but in the human resources: don’t exhaust them but do care for them. Don’t use too much of it that none would be left to let it renew itself. Don’t burn them out.
- PRODUCE NO WASTE – “Waste not, want not. A stitch in time saves nine.” Told you it fits nicely with the efficiency improvement stuff! The link with Lean Waste (Muda) is obvious here. And before reducing waste, there is not producing it in the first place.
- DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS – “Can’t see the wood for the trees.” I read this one as not focusing on the details at the expense of forgetting the principles. The risk here is to improve locally at the expense of global efficiency (the one pertaining to performance from the client’s perspective, and the organization as a whole). So, it might mean to follow the patterns of efficiency (implement them) and then tune the details (adapt them to the local processes and activities).
- INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE – “Many hands make light work.” Back to the silos: you’d better reinforce interactions between the parts rather than growing them apart from one another. This goes also with #4 when accepting feedback from other parts of the organization.
- USE SMALL & SLOW SOLUTIONS – “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Small PDCA improvements. Enough said.
- USE & VALUE DIVERSITY – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If standardisation of parts and processes is key to efficiency, it should not from the perspective of people: valuing and leveraging diversity increases the chances of finding the best solutions. Diversity of minds in a team, and reaching beyond the limits of that team, through feedback (#4 again) from them is, again, key to improvements.
- USE EDGES & VALUE THE MARGINAL – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path.” Here again, we take care of the frontiers of teams and processes and look at interactions to improve. Divergent ideas are valued as a way to further improve. Incidentally, the more your standardized, the more you’ll be able to see divergent ideas. Don’t fright on them as something to be banned, but seek what they might tell you about how to further improve.
- CREATIVELY USE & RESPOND TO CHANGE – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” And the last one: whether your processes look perfect or are still under change, keep an opened eye for forthcoming change and invite, accept it. Change is the only constant thing in the world (Heraclitus).
Cleaning up Notes, I found these I crafted some months ago. It’s about how social links are used in companies based on the maturity level of employees.
- The Psychopath doesn’t have any social link.
- The Bureaucrat will limit social interactions to the coffee machine
- The Pragmatic will use them to exchange information
- The Efficient will use them to accelerate and simplify the job by exchanging pieces of work with others in the organization, or provoke internal collaborative meetings
- The Radical will provoke trans-organizational collaborative meetings to awake true collective intelligence
- The Awaken will work between organizations and won’t even see the frontiers.
Where do you stand today and what can you start doing now to move on the scale? 😉
- The circles look a lot to me like Systems 1 and a hierarchy of them (super-circles, sub-circles) smells like VSM recursive levels to me. If you add that you can have Cross Link representatives (connecting circles that are not hierarchically connected), that starts to looks like true recursivity to me.
- Then, you have the “process breakdown” part of the constitution that, to me again, is a way to detect unmatched variety at some level and pass it up the hierarchy/recursivity for managing (System 2)
- And of course, the Lead Link/Rep Link roles match somewhat naturally with the vertical channels: the ones going down from system 3 to System 1 and up through System 2 as well.
- Separation between operational meetings and governance meetings would fit well with an S3/S1 separation as well
- Holacracy incorporates some features of the personal productivity method “Getting Things Done” (GTD) from David Allen, and this obviously would make for a very nice addition to a VSM-based organization (or any other one for that matter).
Indeed, Holacracy looks like a very nice way of running a VSM at whatever level you consider it. Where people might mismatch a VSM organization for a hierarchical one, having circles one inside another as a way to feature the recursive nature of VSM and at the same time having each circle functioning as a viably entity in its own would be a great addition. Holacracy doesn’t address the viability of circles explicitly, yet it provides for some nice alerting mechanisms (algedonic signals in VSM terms) that would allow to bootstrap viability.
Where VSM brings a bit more to the picture, to me, is with its specific focus on the Environment (bringing the outside in, something that Steve Denning identified on Forbes) and the explicit focus on the Future and Ethos through System 4 and 5.
What do you think?
Positive Psychology is the study of what makes people happy, instead of “just” studying how to bring them from sadness to a more neutral attitude. Popularized by Martin Seligman, it has now been the topic of numerous researches.
Some of the more known results are the 24 Characters, Strengths and virtues that concur to happiness. I would like to list them here so that we can ponder how we support those in our respective organizations to help foster more happiness at work.
The 24 are hereafter, questions are mine:
Wisdom and Knowledge (strengths that involve the acquisition and use of knowledge)
- creativity: do we foster creativity? (eg through facilitation techniques)
- curiosity: are people encouraged to ask questions?
- open-mindedness: do we listen to uncommon ideas?
- love of learning: do we help learning?
- perspective and wisdom: do we recognize expertise of low ranked collaborators instead of just that (supposed) of management?
Courage (strengths that allow one to accomplish goals in the face of opposition)
- bravery: do we encourage people to step out and express their concern, and then take their voice into consideration?
- persistence: “constancy of purpose” was a motto of Deming. Are we capable of it?
- integrity: do we take care of it?
- vitality: do we demonstrate it?
Humanity (strengths of tending and befriending others)
- love: do we seek to love our employees (which means to seek who they really are, and try to understand them)
- kindness: are we kind and fault tolerant or ruthless?
- social intelligence: do we cultivate this one?
Justice (strengths that build healthy community)
- active citizenship / social responsibility / loyalty / teamwork: are these promoted?
- fairness: are we known for it?
- leadership: do we encourage it?
Temperance (strengths that protect against excess)
- forgiveness and mercy: do we demonstrate these?
- humility and modesty: do we practice these?
- prudence: are we demonstrating it when taking decisions? Do we keep a door opened for opportunities or late advises?
- self-regulation and self-control: do we avoid trampling on others?
Transcendence (strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning)
- appreciation of beauty and appreciation of excellence: do we get out of own way to recognize them when we encounter them?
- gratitude: do we say “thank you” enough?
- hope: can we demonstrate hope in the middle of problems?
- humor and playfulness: can we conjugate work AND fun at the same time?
- spirituality, or a sense of purpose and coherence: how do we collectively make sense of the company’s purpose?
I hope I have given you hope that these soft skills do indeed have a place in organizations. Studies have already shown that happy employees are more efficient, and that happy organizations outperform others (see Gallup annual reports since quite a few years)…
Please take a few minutes to review those exceptional slides on what are Strength-Based Organizations, and why we do believe in their power and the power of appreciating these…