Org Design Evolution – (Hierarchy, Teal, Agile, Sociocracy, Matrix and Requisite) shaped by Memes (culture)

As my company works in the field of organisation design and navigate through the milieu of Agile, Lean, Matrix, Sociocracy and Requisite, I thought a blog on the evolution of structure might be a good idea for providing a balanced view on this topic.

Before starting an evolutionary journey I just want to say organising to get stuff done is a very old human past time.  Structures have evolved over time and mirror our culture.  Culture itself is shaped by human memes, the social equivalent of genes.  The first person to understand this was Dr Clare Graves and his ideas were picked up Dr Don Beck who clearly enunciated in the work Spiral Dynamics. Ken Wilbur later also climbed onto this band wagon.

Culture evolves over time and memes are packages of cultural information (containing templates of fashion, social etiquette, art, design, laws, work, customs, beliefs etc) – our social DNA. We as individuals all carry our social meme package. We can shift between our meme package, but normally have a dominant operating set of values. Not unexpectedly, this has a major impact in business.

The ideas of memes shaping organisational design have reemerged thanks to  Laloux’s book and the so called ‘Teal’ Organisations. While sadly a gross over simplification of the actual evolution of design, it is a step towards understanding how memes shape structure. So here is our journey (thanks Don)

Millions of year to present…

1 – Band – beige. Maslow’s base of his pyramid – survival – food, water, shelter – Maslow and Graves were contemporaries who argued bitterly about what actualisation meant.  – Organisation here was protection and duties assigned by stronger members to ensure food, safety, warmth, procreation. Hunter-gathering – band moved with seasons and food availability.Technology evolved slowly and bands were primary form of structure to get work done and survive.

Transition to next value system took place over millions of years, as we evolved culturally and technologically, but arrived with domestication of plants and animals and first permanent settlements.

2 – Tribe – Purple.  oldest of values systems – organising for safety. Circular around clan, tribe.  Decision making guided by elders, shaman or chief.  Seen as distinct group or tribe – best to deal with threats and focus on survival of tribe / group. Roles determined by age, gender, kinship and power.  Ritual important for coherence and protection. This meme is still very active and has evolved into sport. nationalism etc .

3. Empire – Red.  power gods – leader is all powerful, organised on favour, fear, domination.  emergence of strong egos, self more powerful then group, confront dangers and conquers, struggles over niches, exploitative systems.  Big boss rules through other bosses; communication downwards only, relationships governed by ‘how can I gain?” Modern glimpse – mafia, motorcycles gangs, warlords, despots/dictators.

18th Century to present…. Transition to next value system took place with arrival of industrialsation;   People needed in cities and development rapid as we evolved culturally and technologically. Huge conflict as memes battle for dominance – eg US Civil War, Russian Revolution, Anglo – Boer War, China.  Agricultural Waves vs Industrial Ages.

4.  Authority Structure – Blue, order and progress.  First memes of the Industrial Age. Arrival of the hierarchy – ability to organise on huge scale and assemble resources for mass  production.  Hierarchy brings scalability  – communication downwards and across, people in role – occupy rightful place, wait turn and obey orders.  Person with appropriate positional power makes decisions.  Efficiency and production, but rigid rules for structures, roles and rank.

Figure I: The older but still very active memes and their structures for getting stuff done

 

4. Strategic Enterprise – Orange – Materialistic/Achiever – Strive Drive.  Bureaucratic and status / power  orientated; delegated authorities, communication up, down and across, but evolves… drives results and outcomes, highly competitive. Seeks best solutions, but resource intensive and wasteful. Hierarchy evolves into adaptable and flexible structures.  Status orientated – allows for quick upward mobility and creativity. Durable and powerful Org design structure, gains global popularity for getting stuff done.

1960’s to Present…

5. Social Networks – Green – Sociocentric –  Human Bond – this meme burst onto the stage with the failure/successes  and excesses of consumerism and materialism (Orange meme).  Excesses of hierarchy gives rise to experimentation with this new egalitarian meme which values community, sharing, inner harmony, the team, well-being, balance and collaboration.  New  org models, concerned with equals working for mutual benefit; deny concerns with status and benefits; matrix, sociocracy, holocracy, self managed teams;  ‘the people’.   Leadership and hierarchy not in favour;  group consensus, flat structure and the team are in.

1980’s to Present…

  (TEAL of Laloux’s organisation sits between Green and Yellow.)

6.  Systemic Flow – Yellow – integrative – Flex Flow – this new meme arises due to Green’s inability to resolve and deal with complexity.  Org seen through systems lenses.  Structure as needed; according to task at hand;  Project based; changing functional leadership with decision making.  Connected, fluid, adaptable, intensely pragmatic, technological savvy, does what works – including partnerships, alliances;  walk away from what does not.  Agile and Requisite evolve, now based on natural organic hierarchy of complexity. Shared values sought with ecosystems.

7.  Holistic Organism – searches for holistic solutions (ecosystem) and guiding principles, the order underneath apparent chaos. blends consensus, competency in global perspective, focus information for insights and greater good.  Able to move quickly, each entity is microcosm of larger system.  Shared values require no harm, zero waste, circular, share.  Social businesses with global thinking and collective actions. Structure as required by the nature of things…

Figure 2 : Active and Emergent Memes and their structures for getting stuff done…

 

Lessons

  1. All org designs have aspects that work; some are robust, principles understood and do work; spot the evolutionary growth of each and don’t discard the good stuff.
  2. Ascertain your culture by looking at what memes are dominant (easy, check the CEO and executive; that’s the windsock to your structure).
  3. Digital transformation depends on yellow, orange and green memes, but mostly yellow.
  4. Oh and of course; people choose products and services according to their dominant memes, but how many marketers know this instinctively? Sort your products and marketing to meme segments

My Defining Moments

Defining Moments. My friend has a blog called defining moments. They are profound words.  To me  they mean “a sharp,shaping event; one that alters your view of the world – an unforgettable learning experience”  It can be for good or bad. I have been thinking about some of my defining events and what I learnt;

1. Sunrise and a New Day
– as a young officer, I remember sun rise after a long and harrowing night in enemy territory. It was a defining moment.  I promised myself to celebrate each new day, acknowledging it as an opportunity to live fully. I sometimes think of the words of John Cougar Mellencamp describing how life becomes grey, blurred, slipping past – same old, same old; – “life goes on but the joy of living is gone” An extract from my journal was “If it will not kill or wound – fear not, be brave.” LIVE while you have LIFE. WELCOME EACH DAY.

2. Physical Well-Being – I had a quadriplegic girlfriend. She broke her neck diving into a wave and had not ventured back into the sea until one morning, I took her out on my surfboard – a calm, glassy day and we surfed together. It was a tremendously emotional and a healing time. That relationship was a defining moment because being physically healthy is as good as it gets. There should be nothing else to complain about. Being really sick or physically challenged puts trivial worries into perspective. HEALTH IS NO 1.

3. I CAN do it – in 1997 my company turned over its first million. That was a defining moment. Many said I was mad to go it alone, and yes, the economy was shrinking, the country in revolt and hey, as the naysayers said; what did I know about business? Being successful is great, but it involves trade offs and a never ending commitment. My diary at that time had a note –  “Funny, the harder I work the luckier I get”   COMMIT FULLY TO WHAT YOU VALUE AND DREAM, BE BOLD.

4. Shit, this is NOT as good as it gets in 2009 I discovered a completely different way to live life. It was a struggle for me to embrace at first, being diametrically opposed to how I have been programmed from birth to live – A defining moment. I realised another much finer world exists and I am moving fully into it.  What that defining moment taught me? BE INQUISITIVE, TAKE RISKS. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF… as Mulder said in the X Files;  “The truth (for you) is out there”.

5. Betrayal – A strong, trusting business relationship shattered some years ago, almost landing in court. It cost me my company, dear friendships and almost my marriage. I was bitter and trusted no one for many years. A defining moment for me, although it shaped a dark journey. Time is a great healer.  TRUST IN YOURSELF. ALWAYS. 

6. Manifestation – you get what you wish and the clearer your wish is – the better your chance of getting it. I have been practicing this for years without realising it.  When I twigged that this stuff ACTUALLY works; it was a defining movement.  I learnt to be mindful in its practice – if your wish  is unclear, you get an unclear outcome; sort of, not quite, often with unwelcome and unexpected side effects.  If  it is a dark picture; beware. My first manifestation was dark and shook me to my core. BEWARE WHAT YOU WISH FOR and DO NO HARM IN YOUR WISHES.

What are your defining moments and what did you learn? 

HBR – providing proof that managing for the long term pays off, but displays Requisite ignorance

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) indicates researchers have finally proven a critical Requisite concept – that complexity, work and time are linked. Good piece of work. The article claims:

* Companies deliver superior results when executives manage for long term wealth creation and resist focusing on market quarterly earnings (eg Unilever, AT&T, Amazon)
The article talks about a long term mindset – in Requisite terms the companies they describe are all operating in Work Themes of Corporate Citizenship (Work Level VI) that requires a mindset of up to 10 – 15 years. The leadership themes for these types of companies is wealth creation and tolerance (we need value creating outcomes.
*Executive feel balance between short term accountability and long term success are out of whack– The world needs long term thinking because long term thinking is by definition connected up thinking and this drives out short term gains to please the market. Requisite is clear – the more comlex the work, the longer the time required to judge the outcomes.
*Resilience – during the 2008-2009 GFC, these companies not only saw smaller declines in revenue, but also continued to increase investment in R&D- on average 8.5% – compared to 3.7% for others. Economic profit increased by 64% in comparison to peers over 15 years. Long term companies added 12,000 jobs on average from 2001 – 2015.
*Unable to measure the cost of short-termism – the article believes an additional 1$1 trillion has been lost in the US economy – but this is a bargain at the prize. Think of the true picture of short term gains and long term losses – think biodiversity, limits of growth, poverty and climate change!

Thinking long term is not ONLY good for business, its good for the entire PLANET.

This graphic, from my 2003 book, shows how Work, Civilisation and and Nature interact -the linking factors are time and decision making and how few companies work in the long time.

Local Governments and Communities need to take a bigger role in the future

A HUGE shift is coming in society – like that of the Industrial Age. I did a public talk recently and spoke about coming job losses as technology wreaks havoc on industries (while governments desperately seek job creation). In the Australian this week was an article on expected industry job losses through technology. Grim reading. Elon Musk is right, do we want the future we are creating? In my talk I asked how will local governments create conditions for prosperity in their communities when employment and meaning (‘flow’) from work dries up? Certainly not from the old economic model. Yesterday, The Australian (pg 2), Ken Henry starts to hit the right notes with article "Locals urged to DIY big projects" – right next to article of keen youngsters wanting apprenticeship, but there are NO jobs. We need to recognise there are NO answers coming out of the broken, squabbling political system, here and globally. Local Communities need to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves!! There is much work to do – a huge transition is coming.