System´s circularity

System´s circularity is as valuable as system change. In modern era, the circle has got bad press compared to arrow: the circle has been associated to middle age and religion (ex. religious rituals), while the arrow has been associated to modernity, progress and development (ex: incremental change). Emerging circular economy ties both archetypes together. This conjunction of both archetypes may give birth to an era shift.

The two organizational learning models I´m authoring – whole identity and six pillars – take into account anthropological circularity as well as change. This is the reason why they are genuinely systemic. Dropping one anthropological dimension is reductionist.

Any learning system acts out circularity. Any failing system also acts out circularity, at least for a period of time until the system goes into systemic crisis:

  • In mediocrity behaviour, we act out the same resistances again and again; we encounter the same problems; we repeat the same errors and we cannot cross over the same threshold. Although there is not consciousness among system members about sharing the same model, individuals and teams show synchronicity.
  • In excellence behaviour, we dialog from a shared model, we do with the purpose of sharing same vision, which require us self-control. As a consequence of this dialog, individuals and teams learn and transfer this learning into the large system, enabling system improvement.

Learning generates openness enabling the circle to become a spiral.

Learnings from Business Future Conversations

Learnings from Business Future Conversations

“Our business strategy was perfect…we have just failed at implementation”.

“We know exactly what needs to be done in this market….but for whatever reason we do not do it”.

“People are not aligned…we need to better communicate our strategy”.

I would like to share two complementary executive development paradigms I´ve been exploring for years with clients when working on business future conversations or business strategy conversations, but also when helping them in executive and/or team development. They are based on alternative beliefs I summarize here below.

Strategy generation and executive development get different status

Executive development should be deployed just after the business strategy is generated and to support the strategy execution. The underlying belief here is that business strategy is usually generated under the “most perfect individual and team conditions” (i.e.: executive team cohesion, good emotions, presence, listening, deep inquiring, commitment, no fight for power at senior level). There is little room for learning under this alternative: strategy generation and executive development get different status, business strategy subordinates executive learning.

Executive development and business strategy should be part of the same generative process

They become allies. This second alternative is supported by two underlying beliefs:

  1. The quality of business strategy generation is interdependent with the quality of the co-creation process, which is strongly linked to executives ability to connect mind, heart and will. In other words, the quality of the output generated (business strategy plan) is strongly interdependent with the quality of individual outcomes (perceived benefits), which again are strongly interdependent with the quality of the co-creation process (presence, listening, exploration, etc.);
  2. The quality of business strategy execution is strongly interdependent with the alignment achieved between the self, the team and the business at strategy generation. There is room for learning here, whether this refers to the self (mind, heart and will), the team or the large system.

What traditional business strategy consultants usually do

While they often talk about complexity, traditional business strategy consultants usually follow the first alternative here above. They are still assessing the single-perfect leader (“God”) as if they were in a simple and predicted ecosystem. Complexity becomes here a “posture”, as French’s say (in Spain, we call this attitude “postureo”). Business strategy consultant’s still assessing organizations under masculine-patriarchal patterns while presenting complexity as a bad mother (feminine-matriarchal) either poisoning her Children with too much uncertainty or hurting their self-esteem by repeating they are not skillful enough to understand complexity.

What organizational learning consultants would actually do

Organizational learning consultants believe the second alternative here above is most appropriate in current times. More precisely we adopt collaborative approaches with the purpose to give birth to triplets:

  1. A committed individual executive, acting as container for subordinates. This is a necessary condition to become an inspiring leader.
  2. An executive team containing individual members and sharing a common vision. This is a necessary condition to become a high performing team.
  3. A business strategy container. This is a necessary condition for promoting people alignment to business strategy.

Aligning the three systemic circles

The three previous complementary containers represent feminine-matriarchal archetypes. We also follow masculine-patriarchal archetypes in the way we articulate the co-creation process (i.e. collaborative conversations) and in our commitment to produce results.

When aligning the threre circles, we see strong connection between thelearningperson from Etienne Collignon, the gender archetypes research from Marion Chapsal, the Collaborative Conversations from Ken Homer and the business futures conversation from myself. We are teaming for giving birth to a joint Collaborative Leadership or Collaboration as Leadership process to align self, team and large system.

Collaboration as Leadership

For further learning, please join us at the Collaborative Leadership Workshop

Collaboration as leadership

Collaboration as Leadership

by Ken Homer Collaborative Conversations

The purpose of collaboration as leadership is to re-humanize the workplace. It is each of us learning how to work and play well with other people when we are not necessarily in a position of authority.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.

In the nearly 40 years since I first read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote above, I have spent considerable time in conversations with vastly different people talking about how to leave the world a bit better. The bold idea that success can be equated with making the world a bit better seems to be widely shared and passionately pursued by an astonishing variety of people. Emerson is generous in his criteria for making the world better: a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition, etc. I have tried so often to work on larger scales and in so doing I have overreached and been humbled in my attempts. But still, improving the world at larger levels seems to be called for today. When attempting to work on larger scales I have learned to hold the idea of making the world better as more of a guiding star for my efforts than an actual destination that I can reasonably expect to reach. Being humbled in my grand attempts has led me to believe that if we want to cope with the enormous complexity of the challenges we have created for ourselves, than we need to couple our bold ideas with modest approaches. We need ways of working that are within the reach of ordinary people. Approaches that can be easily to put into practice by anyone anywhere who wishes to help.

The purpose of Collaboration as Leadership is to re-humanize the workplace

Over the past year, I’ve been working with three gifted colleagues: Antonio Linares, Etienne Collignon, and Marion Chapsal on something we’ve been calling Collaborative Leadership – or more recently, Collaboration as Leadership — it’s constantly morphing as we gain more experience with it. The purpose of Collaboration as Leadership is to re-humanize the workplace. We posit that perhaps the most powerful thing we can do as individuals or as groups is to become aware of when we are dehumanizing other people and find ways grant them legitimacy. It’s a bold idea; some might even call it idealistic. However, seeing another human being as a human being is the essence of being human. It takes no special skills. However, it does take courage.

The foundational premise of Collaborative Leadership is that if you give people good tools, appropriate facilitation, and adequate time, they can work together to solve even the most complex challenges. It’s a bold idea that we’ve coupled with a modest approach based on a simple tool called Collaborative Conversations. Collaborative Conversations maps out the four different kinds of conversations required for any group to define a mutually desired future and then plot a course for successfully creating that future.

Conversation is how we create understanding and build relationships. Relationships and understanding are the basis for bringing world-size problems down to human-size abilities.

Collaborative Leadership asserts that if we can learn to master the skills of Collaborative Conversations in handling our daily lives and our routine work, then if we find ourselves called to leave the world a bit better than we found it, we can apply what we’ve learned about small scale collaboration to the larger issues that we’re facing. It begins with the simple yet profound recognition that conversation is how we create understanding and build relationships. Relationships and understanding are the basis for bringing world-size problems down to human-size abilities.

Collaborative Leadership is not a single leader getting others to collaborate. It is each of us learning how to work and play well with other people when we are not necessarily in a position of authority. It is using our personal integrity, reputation, and standing coupled with our commitment to something the whole group is invested in creating, that grants us the influence and the ability to positively affect the outcome of the ventures we are engaged with. Collaborative Leadership is what is called for in times of great complexity and uncertainty. It asks us to step up when we have something useful to contribute and to step back and support others when we recognize that they have a piece of the puzzle that we lack. It also requires us to soak in the often uncomfortable energy of “not knowing” long enough for us to generate viable pathways forward.

Collaboration as leadership recognizes that it is up to us to pull together and find our way through the very personal challenges in our lives and work by creating relationships where we listen to understand, rather than to argue, agree or persuade. Where we invite in and honor the voices that have traditionally been marginalized: women, people of color, the very old, the very young, the poor, those who are not eloquent, those who do not think quickly, but who need time to process, those who ask difficult questions, those who dissent from the status quo.

Collaboration as Leadership invites in and honors the voices that have traditionally been marginalized: women, people of color, the very old, the very young, the poor, those who are not eloquent, those who do not think quickly, but who need time to process, those who ask difficult questions, those who dissent from the status quo.

Collaboration as Leadership flourishes in communities of practice where it is accepted as a given that conversations are how we:

  • Build meaningful relationships with each other (humanize)
  • Explore what is possible together (include)
  • Coordinate our efforts in any endeavor (collaborate)
  • Learn how to improve (build our competence)

Collaboration as Leadership recognizes that perfection is not only unattainable, it also encourages rigidity rather than flow and resilience. It seeks instead to broaden our range of options by playing with the boundaries of our thinking instead of inside of them. It recognizes that people are social, that we all have bodies, and our bodies react according to the emotions that are evoked when we come together. It is undeniable, yet rarely taken into account, that while we are not all subject to the same range of thinking, we are all subject to the same range of emotions, and it is our emotions that bring us together in harmony or split us apart in polarity. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to learn how to foster the emotions that increase our intelligence when we come together in groups, so that we can make better decisions. Such awareness is not something that can be accomplished by thinking. It requires us to attend to the signals our bodies are sending us. Collaborative Leadership is an embodied experience not a conceptual exercise.

It is incumbent upon us to learn how to foster the emotions that increase our intelligence when we come together in groups, so that we can make better decisions.

Collaborative Leadership eschews the judgments of right and wrong, substituting instead the inquiry of, “Are we making things better or are we making them worse?” And it follows that question with: “What are we learning together, and how do we adapt our actions based on what we are learning in order to leave the world a little bit better for our having lived?”

We invite you to come and join us in exploring how to apply and embody Collaboration as Leadership. We have two workshops coming up in Europe in May 2017.

Click below for more information.

May 18 and 19 in Madrid Spain

May 29 in Paris France

Systemic Diagnosis

Systemic diagnosis

In my newly issued book, El Liderazgo Colaborativo, I introduce four interdependent systemic approaches to carry out diagnosis and five system containers to facilitate organizational learning and collaboration.

Systemic diagnosis assumptions

Classical diagnosis approaches set that “causes” precede “symptoms”; therefore, they have  different status. Causes are usually part of “evidence”, while symptoms are usually part of “interpretation” of the evidence according to a model; interpretation is a kind of explanation.

Systemic diagnosis sets four assumptions:

  • The first assumption sets that system adaptation is an ongoing opening up and learning process happening at individual, teams and large system levels. This process is strongly connected to a closing up process happening at the same three levels.
  • The second one sets that learning (opening up) and resistance (closing up) to learn and adapt go together, also at the three levels. Both are system active processes: although people may feel not so satisfied/happy with current business culture, they are more resistant to losing this reference than to co-create a new business vision that increases their future utility. Systems culture is antagonistic to systems vision.
  • The third assumption sets that individual and team learning should happen within a number of system containers or platforms that set collective direction and subsequently provide shared purpose or shared meaning to them. Aligning people to brand values, as a business container, doesn’t mean building an obliged hierarchy but a commited network.
  • The fourth one sets that any emergent agent should pay attention to learning and to resistances at the same time. This dual or ambivalent focus falls under the adaptive complexity, a sort of empirical term many use without a clear understanding about the meaning.

Many system leaders end up by adopting linear approaches, very disruptive for people and teams.


The full identity systemic model

The full identity systemic model

Seven years ago, in my book Identidad Completa (2010), I introduced a systemic model named the Full Identity (FI), applied to organizational learning and transformation. Full identity sets that any human system –individual, team and large system- behaves under the influence of feminine-matriarchal patterns and masculine-patriarchal ones; whether system members are conscious or not this is another story.

FI model is based on a combination of field experience and bibliographic research. The field comes from years of executive coaching, team coaching an intercultural experience. The bibliography comes from imaginary anthropology and gender studies. FI is also my singular way to explore the collective intelligence, a sort of phantom concept we hear about a lot in business…but never see. I have to say that according to imaginary and gender research, there is a difference between gender and sex. Many people either reject or do not understand this hypothesis about differentiating gender and sex…maybe another phantom idea…maybe a resistance due to our mental model.

The FI model assumptions

The first assumption sets the antagonistic relationship between the two patterns: feminine-matriarchal and masculine-patriarchal. When a pattern becomes official (dominant) in the system in terms of influencing attitudes, behaviours, habits or corporate policies, the antagonistic pattern can be observed as symptom. As an example, when an organization becomes too much competitive, demanding, performance oriented, oppressive and vertical (masculine-patriarchal), people show symptoms in form of rumors, stress, boycott and relationship violence (i.e. humiliation, harassment, threat). On the opposite side, when the organization becomes too much social, friendly, caring, protective, easy going, inclusive, tolerant, mystic, patient, slow driven (feminine-matriarchal), people show symptoms of annoy, sadness, mysticism, dispersion and a sort of frustration due to lack of challenge.

The second assumption sets the importance for people to access to shared purpose or shared meaning. Both require inclusion and co-creation, both reduce people anxiety and uncertainty, and increase people commitment. System change implies building a shared understanding and exploration about what behaviours and mental models require to be re-assessed (i.e. which ones need to be abandon and which ones to be reinforced). Systemic crisis may happen when the dominant pattern is unable to provide, not just shared meaning to system members, but also sustainable results for teams and for the large system. As an example, the recent economic crisis represents the failure of the neo-liberal ideology to provide shared purpose to millions of citizens. On the antagonistic side, the collaborative or social economy represents a pattern reversion; digital collaborative technology behaves here as enabler.

The third assumption sets the importance of combining patterns, which means combining combative and collaborative leadership processes or, as Adam Kahane says, combining power and love, vertical execution and horizontal coordination, individual performance and team cohesion, divergent scenario exploration and convergent operating decisions, etc. Adaptive complexity derives from this assumption; adaptive complexity is connected to the way the system learns whether at individual, team or large system level, but also connected to the way the system deploys natural resistance to most of the learning initiatives.

I´m very glad my SOL colleagues, Marion Chapsal and Ken Homer, are exploring the gender field to support system learning and transformation. They will apply their model at the Madrid Collaborative Leadership Workshop this May.