Organizational Culture: Why it Matters and How to Improve it

Company culture is often associated with having a ping pong table in your office, after-work drinks on a Friday, or a framed value statement on your wall. But organizational culture is so much more than that, and it is the driving force behind innovation, growth, and sustainability. In this article, we will explore different types of organizational culture that exist and the signs of a toxic one, plus how you can work towards a culture that is more aligned with your goals. 

Read more

Leading Remotely: Webinar

Our theme for April was Leading Remotely, where we teamed up with our trusted partner, Geoff Watts from Inspect & Adapt, who kicked off the month with a video interview. Geoff is the UK’s leading ORGANIC agility® leadership coach. In his interview, he shares his observations on how organisations have been impacted by COVID-19 and particularly how leadership has been affected by the shift to remote work. He also gives advice about what to focus on to better lead remotely.

In the second part of our "Leading Remotely" theme, ORGANIC agility® leadership coach Andrea Tomasini shares his insights of the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on organisations, addressing why some companies have fared better. He also gives tips on how leaders can increase effectiveness when working remotely whilst finding ways to reduce stress levels amongst employees.

To sum all of this up, we hosted a webinar on the 22 of April, which recapped the month and the general discussions, both on social media and also in our Community. Both Andrea and Geoff shared their thinking live, and the amount of people that joined us was fantastic. 

Since the topic is very broad, we chose to have a poll in the beginning of the session, to see where we should start the conversation. The options were: 

  • Trust
  • Well-being when working/leading remotely
  • Practices

The majority of people wanted us to talk about “Well-being when working/leading remotely” and that became the natural starting point of the discussion. However the conversation did cover all three points, as they do go hand in hand. 

Leading remotely is a big topic, and our audience contributed with both good questions, as well as sharing their own valuable thinking and ideas on how they tackled this situation. The webinar was hosted more as a discussion this time around, and the engagement was great! 

If you missed out on the live session, don’t panic! We have the recording for you here to share around with your network. 

For any questions, you are always welcome to contact us!
Hope to see you again next month, for a new theme and new discussions! 

Leading Remotely: Part 2

In Part 2 of our "Leading Remotely" theme, ORGANIC agility® leadership coach Andrea Tomasini, shares his insights of the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on organisations, addressing why some companies have fared better. He also gives tips on how leaders can increase effectiveness when working remotely whilst finding ways to reduce stress levels amongst employees.

You can watch the full video interview below:

Did you observe any particular change in organisations when the pandemic hit?

The pandemic definitely changed the way we are working and the way we are doing things together. In particular, if we think about all the rituals and behaviours which were established before the pandemic hit, when people were still in offices and they had an effective playbook in place, and now being forced to work together remotely, it’s very unlikely that those same established rituals and processes will work effectively. 

Another thing which is different is that the stress levels of people working remotely tends to be very high, especially if people were not used to this before. The reason being that when you work remotely you are always looking at a screen, you are moving less, so your body has less chance to destress, to re-oxygenate. For many of us, working remotely has turned into a series of back-to-back meetings where you don’t even have time between meetings to walk out of a meeting room and to chat to colleagues in the corridor, or just to give your brain a few minutes to disconnect from the topic. This definitely increases stress levels.  

What would you say has become more difficult?

What is really difficult is the level of awareness in terms of some cultures to understand the context switching. When we used to work in physical offices or when meeting clients in different places, our subconscious was used to the switch of context and the environment around us. We also learnt to adapt our behaviour and attitude accordingly depending on the specific client or employee. This is something that is very difficult to do when working remotely as we physically stay in the same place; we are likely dressed in the same way; we are looking at the same screen all day. So switching context when working remotely creates a significant amount of stress as we tend to think a lot more consciously rather than subconsciously about how we should behave.

What can be done to increase effectiveness when working remotely?

So in order to work more effectively remotely, leaders in principle need to continue doing what they have always been doing which is focusing on creating an environment which enables their teams and their people to work more effectively together and to deliver customer value. This in principle didn’t change, however in practice it did as we can’t use all the techniques and tools we used when we were working physically together in an office. We also lost the possibility to just walk around and observe what is going on. 

There are some techniques we can use even today with digital tools, however, the feeling and the way people react to those types of observations is completely different from the one they had when you just walk around the office and have a chit-chat here and there. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that we need to create a higher level of autonomy. When people work remotely and they cannot physically collaborate with one another, they need to be in a position in which they can deliver value and be satisfied with the work they do without too much help. If people need a lot of help to complete their work they end up feeling frustrated - sitting alone in front of their screen and struggling to find answers to their problem. This likely creates that feeling of incompetence, that feeling of being inadequate and definitely increases the level of stress.

Why do you think some companies seemed to have fared better during the pandemic?

I tend to agree with what Geoff said in the previous video that the companies that invested preemptively in creating a higher level of autonomy and nurturing self-organization when they still had the possibility to do so in a physical environment, definitely had a head start when the pandemic hit. However, it’s not impossible to help people increase their level of trust and self-confidence when working remotely by supporting them in terms of mentorship, coaching and even providing them with the opportunity to upskill. 

There are many new skills that we need to learn when working remotely and it’s not as easy as before - you cannot simply send people to workshops or tell them to read a book. As they still need to find the time to do this, we need to be more supportive and empathetic about the new way of working and help them become self-confident to deliver value and ultimately gain satisfaction from the work that they do. It’s also important that they engage with the outcome and the ownership of what they are doing.

You talked about higher levels of stress before - what can be done to reduce it?

In order to help people reduce their level of stress, we can look at ways to give them back that human touch that they might have lost by interacting with people only through a camera. The other issue is that if we keep on planning meetings back-to-back nobody will have the chance to even stand up from their chair, so one thing that I’ve seen being quite effective is to do what they call “speed up meetings”. Don’t do long meetings anymore - try to keep meetings short and make sure there is at least 10-15 minutes between meetings so people have the opportunity to stand up, move around a bit, or perhaps get a breath of fresh air. 

In order to help people cope better with the situation and for you as leaders to understand how everyone is doing, you should consider having informal conversations. The informal conversations we used to have around the water cooler aren't as easy to have in a remote environment. As leaders we should consider having half an hour meetings with the team every week or every 2nd week to just talk about something other than work. Take your mobile phone and go for a walk outside - have a relaxing conversation. Check how people are doing; how their family is; what their interests are beyond work. Give them back that human touch we had in a physical environment.

What didn’t change for leaders then?

At the end of the day what we need to do as leaders still remains the same. We need to engage people, we need to help them deliver the value they want to deliver and we need to be able to do that at a sustainable pace. We have to pay particular attention to the work/life balance of our employees to make sure they keep on delivering value, they remain engaged and ultimately help us in becoming successful. 

Watch the recording of Andrea's webinar on "Leading Remotely".

*Click here to read Part 1 blog post* 


Leading Remotely: Part 1

Our theme for the month of April is “Leading Remotely”. We have teamed up with our trusted partner, Geoff Watts from Inspect & Adapt, who kicks off Part 1 with a video interview. Geoff is the UK’s leading ORGANIC agility® leadership coach. In this interview he shares his observations on how organisations have been impacted by COVID-19 and particularly how leadership has been affected by the shift to remote work. He also gives advice about what to focus on to better lead remotely.

If you have a burning topic you would like us to cover, please do get in touch!

You can watch the full interview recording below:

What impact have you been able to observe on organisations when COVID hit?

One thing that has been really noticable for me since the start of the pandemic just over a year ago, and the different responses organisations have taken, is that the organisations that previously invested a lot more in their individuals, their teams, and their autonomy, have really responded and coped much better. They had less disruption than the organisations that had effectively paid lip service to the agile values & principles. Those organisations have tended to resort a lot more towards micro-management, status updates and check-in meetings.

How has leadership been affected by the shift to remote work?

Essentially leadership hasn’t really changed especially if we work in a complex domain as complex work requires greater autonomy and autonomy still requires competence, confidence and conditions for success. So the job of a leader is to help their team get to greater competence, develop confidence and to create the conditions where they can be autonomous.

Can you give any advice about what to focus on to better lead remotely?

I’m going to talk about a few areas of many that great leaders can focus on in order to make remote leadership more effective. 


The first one is “isolation”. Now it might sound strange for me to even mention this, as it is obvious that while we’re all working more remotely and we’re not in the office seeing each other day-to-day we are bound to feel more isolated. I think it’s a really important thing to be aware of as we are missing out on a lot of things that we would consider to be our innate human needs. 

We are social animals and by being forced apart from our colleagues we are missing out on the small talk, on the connection, the collaborative problem solving and the informal chats that would normally make up a large part of our day. When we miss out on some of those innate human needs that we yearn for as social animals, we are generally going to be struggling as human beings to be our best. 

So as leaders we need to be aware of that and regularly check in with people to make sure that their needs are being met. Notice that I said “checking in” on people. It is very, very different to “checking up” on people. We don’t need to check up on them, because as leaders we know that people want to be successful, we know that given the choice between being productive or unproductive, people would choose to be productive.


The second aspect is something that has been talked about quite a lot and that is “burn-out” or “overwhelm”. One interesting thing that I’ve observed is that the social cost of giving somebody else a task is significantly reduced if we’re not physically present with them. What I mean by that is it’s a lot easier for me to send somebody an email and ask them to do something than it is for me to look them in the eye and ask them to do something for me. As we are more remote, we are relying more on electronic means of communication. What we are seeing is a lot of people asking for a lot more things from others, leading to those people becoming overwhelmed. 

The other important aspect when it comes to burn-out is the fact that we are spending a lot of our time on screens and in particular on conference calls, which it’s well documented on is more draining than in-person meetings for various reasons. When we’re spending our time on more draining mediums we’re going to make more mistakes; we’re going to take more shortcuts; innovation will be reduced; motivation will be reduced. 

What can we do about it? Well, from my experience, a lot of the time we’re spending on these calls is around status updates and dependency management and usually that comes from being spread across multiple parallel pieces of work. The more pieces of work I am on at the same time, the more dependencies I have, therefore the more coordination I need to do. So one thing I can do as a leader, is help my people reduce the amount of things they are working on in parallel. Help people feel confident to prioritise, to focus, to say “no” or “not yet”. Or “yes” if: I can do that if you take this other piece of work off my hands. 

Giving people the confidence and power to prioritise their workload and to focus, will reduce the amount of burn-out, or reduce the amount of fatigue and feeling of overwhelm. It has a secondary benefit of increasing our chances of getting things done, achieving a sense of completion which is so energising and motivating that it will give us more energy to get more stuff done. Focusing on less stuff, allows us to get more stuff done. That’s going to be a win-win for everyone.


The third area I would like to focus on is “suspicion”. Now this is an interesting one for me. Generally speaking, if we don’t see people, then we think less favourably of them. We start doubting their intentions. We start doubting their perceptions of us; we start doubting their interpretations; we start getting very suspicious about what they are doing and why they're doing it. 

So as great leaders we can try to increase the opportunities for people to actually see each other, to get together, but not necessarily in a formal status sharing session. Perhaps informal coffee chats or building in time at the start of meetings to just talk about non-work stuff. Reinforce, re-establish that human connection again that will allow us to start thinking more positively of each other. As well as that, great leaders tend to role model this view of unconditional positive regard, choosing to believe that people are acting with positive intent. They take that action and they role model that to others to encourage others to choose to believe a positive interpretation of the possible interpretations. 

What is going to be different then, when leading remotely?

So there are many things that will be different while leading remotely, but essentially it’s the same. Essentially what we’re doing as leaders is we’re trying to find anything that is stopping our people, stopping our teams from being and doing their best. And once we’ve identified what those challenges are we can work out a way of solving them together and giving the teams the autonomy, the confidence, the competence and the conditions to be successful.

We hope this video gave you some food for thought during these rapidly changing times. Stay tuned for Part 2 later this month!

Watch the recording of Geoff's webinar on "Leading Remotely".

*Click here to read Part 2 blog post* 

An agile leadership mindset

Executive Agile Coach, Andrea Tomasini, was invited by “The Product Bakery Podcast” to do a podcast on leadership mindset development.

Empirical process control and understanding people are Andrea’s biggest passions. In this episode, Andrea shares his deep experience and best practices on Agile transitions, the challenges one faces and what companies and leaders can do to better manage uncertainty. Understand what agile is really all about and how to develop and implement an agile mindset in your teams and company.

A fool with a tool is still a fool!

– Andrea Tomasini


Listen to the full interview here:


  • 0:30 – Intro Andrea

  • 08:40 – People over processes & tools

  • 14:45 – ORGANIC agility & understanding people/culture

  • 24:25 – Becoming more agile as a leader

  • 28:31 – Experimenting in safe to fail environments

  • 33:25 – Trust as the basis for change & transformation

  • 42:15 – The 3 focus areas to introduce agility

  • 45:05 – 3 biggest mistakes of leaders

  • 48:25 – Debrief Alex & Christian

A decision making approach for resilience

Decision-making is an essential process in every organization and can be used as a proxy for the level of resilience and agility. There aren't any right or wrong ways to decide and there are trade-offs involved in each approach.

For example, centralized decision-making processes lead to more coherent decisions at the cost of longer information flows and synchronization delays. If decisions are distributed and frequent, the organization might instead be more autonomous and responsive at the cost of process coherence. In both cases the downsides can be partially offset, e.g. by deploying information systems or by increasing the cultural coherence.

In our latest webinar on November 16th, called “A decision making approach for resilience”, continuing the series on ORGANIC agility topics, we explored Principle #2 and how to use a common and transparent framework for decision-making processes which adapts to each specific context.

Using the Cynefin framework as a guide, we have created a specialized approach to decision-making based on the Cynefin domains, separating out two processes, which are both critical for resilience:

  • Situational analysis: this is how the people making the decision perceive the context in which the decision needs to be made.
  • Decision-making: how the actual decision-making is carried out, based on the situational analysis.

Both parts of the decision-making process are critical for resilience. In order to quickly recover from failure and adapt to changing circumstances, the organization must have the ability to manage the trade-off between speed, risk, and anticipated consequences.

We explored how a situational analysis can be done, through both individual and group sense-making, and we provided an overview of possible decision-making based on context:

  • When the problem at hand is self-evident and doesn’t require specific knowledge or expertise, the organization must have defined policies, processes or tools in place, so that every employee knows when such constraints apply, either because they are common sense or because they are explicitly taught as part of the organization's on-boarding process. The way to improve decision making in this context is to hold regular reviews of those policies and see if small changes can improve the quality of decisions. 
  • When some sort of expertise or analysis is necessary to make a decision, then the approach to decision making is to identify the experts in the specific domain, allow them to provide options (vetted through peer review) and then decide based on those options. To improve decision quality, multiple experts can collaborate, facilitated by a non-expert who can introduce naive questions, avoiding the risk of analysis paralysis and a limited expert point of view. If the experts cannot decide between multiple coherent options within a reasonable amount of time, we might follow into the next scenario.
  • When it is impossible to analyze a situation given the high level of volatility and uncertainty, then the approach to decision making is to run multiple parallel probes, in the hope that certain patterns will emerge that will help decision making. Under such conditions expertise doesn’t play a role, and in fact can hinder if experts cannot see beyond the scope of their expertise, and instead of exploring potential patterns they see every new input through their pre-existing mental models (to an expert in hammers every problem will be a nail).
  • When in a true crisis, it is impossible to analyze the situation, because the volatility is so high that even experimentation won’t help. The only way to proceed is to make decisions with authority as fast as possible. A bad decision is better than no decision at all, as it will create some constraints that will allow patterns to emerge in the system. We recognize such situations as chaotic and very energy-draining, but the presence of constraints and creation of coherence will allow us to move back into a context where experimentation is possible.

Last we discussed how organizational Archetypes can influence the way these decision making patterns are implemented in practice.


If you want to know more, you are welcome to join one of our upcoming trainings ORGANIC agility Foundation valid for Certified Agile Leadership - Essentials, Teams & Organizations

  • 08 - 11 February 2021
  • 06 - 09 April 2021
  • There is a BLACK FRIDAY discount valid until 27.11.2020



You are also welcome to have a look at our book ORGANIC agility Foundations: Leadership and Organization!



The recording is available online. Feel free to watch it again and share with your network. It is also available on YouTube.


Below you will find the slides, with some further content. Please also feel free to share the slides around.


Connect with us on social media, to stay updated with blogs, webinars, training and other events which support your learning journey :) We hope to see you in the webinar regarding Principle #3 in January

From here you can check out post and upcoming webinars! The list is updated frequently.


Have a great week everyone!

Manage Agile 2020 Conference

Andrea Tomasini & Dave Snowden host the keynote at the remote Manage Agile 2020.

agile42 co-founder, Andrea Tomasini, and founder Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, Dave Snowden, will host a keynote at the Remote Manage Agile  on November 24th from 9.20am (CET). The topic is ’… the one most responsive to change’. This keynote will be held in English.


agile42 is the Gold Sponsor of the Manage Agile conference taking place from November 23rd to 26th, 2020. In order to ensure every participants safety, the conference will be taking place remotely this year. There is a great line up of speakers split across lectures, workshops and keynotes. It will be a great opportunity for our network to meet like-minded individuals.

As sponsors of this event, we would like to extend a discount to our valued network. Please use the discount code, MA_aha_20%, when signing up to receive a 20% discount off the standard ticket.

The program (only available in German) is attached here. We hope many of the topics will be of interest to you.


Also Simon Sablowski is keeping a workshop on November 24th at 10.50am (CET) covering the topic, "Wechselwirkungen zwischen Führungsverhalten, Kultur und Struktur einer Organisation". This workshop will be held in German.


We look forward to ‘e-meeting’ you at the conference, and to discuss how agile42 can be a partner in bringing Agile Leadership to your organisation.

agile42 meets Swedbank – in a webinar

As many of you might have seen, agile42, along with our long-standing client, Swedbank, wrote a Success Story about our journey together. Ever since we've been keen to host a webinar on this, to tell the story! We had the honour of inviting Cecilia Kåhrström to join the webinar with us, where she, together with agile42Sweden's, Giuseppe De Simone, walked the audience through the work we did together. 

The journey has been long: some parts of the work with Swedbank began back in 2014. This webinar and the Success Story, specifically focused on the work with Group IT, which started in 2018. A lot has been done together since then, and we are happy to say that we today can call Cecilia and all Group IT leaders and employees, not clients, but friends. 

In the picture below, Cecilia summarized all the activities that supported the achievement of their current level of agility and we are particularly proud of the bubbles on the right. In fact they show the things which Swedbank continued on their own after we left, witnessing the accomplishment of our mission: grow our clients’ capabilities so that they are able to persevere on their path to agility sustainably after we leave.

The discussion between Cecilia and Giuseppe opened up these topics. 

A particular focus was given to one of the most important factors in this Success Story: how the leaders understood early on that agility could not be achieved just by buying and deploying a predefined process. It was amazing to observe how fast they got this clear understanding compared to other leaders we've met that are just looking for a pre-packaged solution. Every organization that is interested in becoming sustainably agile needs to make this journey on their own: you should not worry about reinventing the wheel, because the journey is more important than the goal.

The slides from the webinar can be found here. You are welcome to have a look at them, and for any questions you have, you can turn to us.

This webinar broke our record with questions from the audience. We had more questions than we could answer. From the recording you can hear the answers that we managed to get to live.

If you missed the live webinar, the recording is available here! It is also available on YouTube. Please have a look at it and feel free to share it around with friends and colleagues.

We hope that you enjoyed this Success Story. For any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

*Follow this link to view upcoming & past webinars on our website*

Archetypes for change – Leadership coaching in complex times

I wrote an article (08/2020) for the Coaching-Magazin Online about "Archetypes for change - Leadership coaching in complex times" and I'm happy to share the content with you here on our blog. The different archetypes are part of our ORGANIC Leadership® framework which we support organizations with.

Archetypes tie together in an intuitive and powerful way a diverse range of concepts that affect leaders and organizations. This article examines the concept of leader and organizational archetypes. Starting from the root of archetype in myth and narrative and combining this theoretical literature with leadership theories and psychological literature on behavior, it discusses the coaching of leaders through the process of changing themselves and their organizations by understanding their relationship to certain archetypes and the effects of their behavior.

If you want to read the story online, you can do so from Coaching-Magazin Online's webpage.


Introduction: what is an archetype?

Archetypes are part of stories: they represent structures or character types that stand for, or even represent, collective ideas, ideals, characteristics, fears, and desires. Some archetypes are almost universally recognizable, such as the self-sacrificing hero, or the loving mother, while others are more culturally specific. It is important to note that archetypes are not stereotypes (Snowden, 2005). People or situations are not shoehorned into them and they are not used for categorization. They just emerge out of repeated collective representations in stories, and we might recognize them when we see them. They also continue evolving as stories are retold or new ones are added into the canon. Because that makes them essentially pattern abstractions with a personality, archetypes can be incredibly flexible and practical: they are instantly recognizable, but rooted in different specificities.

The roots of archetypes go back to ancient Greek philosophy and Plato, who envisioned a world of ‘ideas’, ideal types whose specific reflections make up the real world. They were then picked up in Renaissance philosophy. In the 20th century, the psychoanalysis pioneer Jung gave them clearer shape and much of their modern understanding, identifying archetypes with prototypical images of the world that we all carry around with us, and which are so inherently bound to us that they keep surfacing again and again in our stories. These days, archetypes often feature in narrative research and literary criticism, informing approaches that seek to take a big-picture, comparative view of the word (Campbell, 1968; Frye, 2001).


What do archetypes have to do with coaching, leadership, and organizations?

It is clear then how archetypes might be relevant in approaching a book or film, but what do they have to do with coaching leaders? In fact, there are two major connecting points: one has to do with stories themselves, and the other with the kind of understandings and representations that archetypes can support in an organization.

Narrative has of course become a dominant theme in organizational coaching in recent years, with leaders often encouraged to take courses in storytelling (see, for example, Choy, 2020 or Denning, 2005). In fact, narrative goes far deeper than that. The unstructured, natural stories that are told every day around the coffee machine, the stories of success and failure that circulate and justify organizational practices and choices, the elaborate mythology and grand narratives that make up and support organizational values, all these are part of what constitutes the all-important organizational culture (see, for example, Ravasi & Schultz, 2006 or Gabriel, 2004). And archetypes, once we start looking, are one of the elements that crosscut across different levels and connect them, appearing in different forms in all kinds of stories.

By seeing and understanding those archetypes, a point of access in organizational culture in all of its complexity becomes available, which means that we can start affecting it. Archetypes bring together different elements in a natural way. Those studying the art and science of organizations know that the attitudes of leaders in an organization, the underlying culture and structure, and the response of others to those behaviors are connected: directly, indirectly, and sometimes in ways that we cannot immediately see. Understanding archetypes means that these connections are built into our perceptions and interventions without reducing the complexity of both organizations and leadership.


Complexity theories of leadership

Mentioning this embeddedness of leadership in partly visible and partly understood networks leads us to necessarily discuss a complex approach to leadership in general. Leadership theories can help us understand what archetypes contain. Given the characteristics of archetypes and the way they are used in coaching (to be more specifically addressed in the next section) it makes sense to turn to complexity theories in particular (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). Complexity leadership theories were developed as a response to the changing world of work, from a more structured and mechanical to a rapid-based, adaptive one that is primarily built on human knowledge, relations, and capacities. This modern world of work moreover operates in dangerous, constantly shifting markets, sped up even more by technology. Complexity leadership draws from complexity science, which focuses on large, dynamic systems of interconnected components that evolve over time and are in a constant state of change, even without external inputs. In organizations, those components include people and their networks, which brings complexity to a whole other level.

Leadership for an evolving dynamic system should be evolving and dynamic itself or fall behind and desperately try to maintain control of the uncontrollable. In this environment, flexible leadership (now meant as a quality and a dynamic, and not as a position of power or a job description) can create the right conditions to enable responsive evolution, and therefore resilience, and trigger the evolutionary potential of the system without directing it, focusing on speed and learning over efficiency and process control. In order to achieve that, a high degree of well-connected autonomy will be necessary.

Because coaching a dynamic is generally rather difficult, in this article reference will often be made to leaders themselves, with the understanding that they are especially well-placed to influence how leadership is exercised. The rest of this article will focus on how coaches can facilitate through archetypes the emergence of coherent autonomy in a context that enables evolution.


Complex-friendly movement through change and coaching for awareness

So how do coaches put that to good use in the process of organizational change, and what does it mean for coaching leaders through it? There are processes for extracting the archetypes that are present in different parts or groups of an organization (see for example Snowden, 2005): contrasting those reveals unarticulated, sometimes critical, variations in perspective. Here, however, we will propose using a series of pre-existing, high-abstraction organizational archetypes that can then be given specific form into the context of application. These high-level archetypes bring together leadership attitudes, organizational expectations, and culture, as well as levels or types of structure and autonomy present in the organization.

The last point is critical, because the range of autonomy levels represented in archetypes makes them an ideal transition tool. The proposed archetypes start from The Expert, characterized by a leader who is the primary decision-maker and communicator with the team. Relationships are one-to-one with the leader and the culture is focused on control. All five high-level archetypes proposed will not be outlined here, but they move in increasing levels of autonomy from The Expert, through The Co-ordinator and The Peer (includes collective decision-making, solid feedback loops, increased responsibility for personal action and a collaborative culture). Finally, at the higher levels of autonomy there are The Coach and The Strategist archetypes, where ultimately leadership is distributed instead of concentrated on the person of the leader, in true complexity fashion, and the leader as a person acts as a strategic conduit between the team and the organization.


Identifying relevant archetypes and using them to better understand autonomy

So how does a leader, a team, or an organization know which archetype they can identify themselves with, and use that knowledge to intervene and gradually increase the level of autonomy, and therefore adaptability and speed of reaction, in the organization? As a coach, the process can start with facilitation: in a workshop, people from diverse perspectives share stories of success and failure in the organization and then map those on to archetypes. This shows the coach, not only which archetypes are more typical of the organization, but also which ones people feel more comfortable with and which they consider more effective. Comfort levels are something to take into account in leadership coaching, because pushing premature change will only get rejected and lead to conflict.

Using the most common and successful archetypes as a guide, leaders can start seeing a possible evolutionary path, from the existing conditions to greater autonomy and interconnection within and between teams. The path however is not to the archetype representing the highest possible level of autonomy: it is to the next most autonomous archetype from the one the team is at right now, whatever that is. This is where leadership coaching becomes most crucial, because the key to triggering change are leadership behaviors.

For the practicalities of coaching, leadership behaviors can also be distilled down to six major categories, which of course subsume a whole range of actual actions. These behaviors exist simultaneously in various dimensions, from the perspective of the leader, to the perspective of the team, to ideas of how work gets done and what constitutes success. These overarching behaviors can be described with words like directingdemandingconducting, or catalyzing. Behaviors and archetypes are mutually reinforcing and feed off culture: a leader’s behavior shapes the culture and archetype, while at the same time being affected by it.


Coaching leadership through behavior and contextual awareness

From a coaching perspective then, the first step would be coaching on Emotional Intelligence (Beldoch, 1964; Goleman, 1995), observation and awareness. Beyond the debate on the general validity of Emotional Intelligence as a concept, it is used here as a tool that can be particularly helpful in making connections: the leader can observe the way their own emotions trigger their actions which in turn shape the impact they have, so that they realize this chain for themselves and, through practices such as journaling or regular coaching and reflection sessions, build the capacities for observation.



With awareness heightened, conscious behavioral change can be possible. Going back to the evolutionary path that archetypes have helped us recognize, coaches can associate the present and the desired archetypes with specific behaviors (which are already part of an archetype’s constellation). Each archetype involves multiple different behaviors and these partially overlap between different archetypes, so for the leader the key is to start adopting some of the new behaviors of the desired archetypes, while maintaining those among the old ones that are still present in the goal archetype. This continuity is an important element for change to be accepted and happen naturally. So, for example, if an organization or group is trying to move from The Expert to The Co-ordinator archetype, a leader might still use demanding-type behaviors, but they will no longer be dictating every detail, and will instead move to a higher-level co-ordination. As the leaders’ behavior changes, the structures around it will start shifting as well, as people and structures around them respond to the changed leadership behavior and new rituals and practices (that can be reinforced to support the change) emerge. The key here is that instead of forcing organizational structure to change in appearance only, the leader uses this heightened awareness and sense of direction to change their own actions and practices, and magnify that impact.


The letting go of control and its rewards

This process sounds theoretical, but in its application on the ground it has the advantage of making the abstract immediately specific and graspable by honoring existing knowledge through the intuitive connections embedded in the idea of archetypes. This means that the leader isn’t being aggressively guided to unravel everything and break it down into constituent parts in order to make a difference, but they are being given a way of seeing things that offers power and understanding over their own actions.

The implication here is that the leaders’ control primarily extends to themselves and what they do, as well as what they are able to observe, which sometimes might be hard to accept. It means that leaders will have to recognize that deliberate changes in organizational structures, or stating ideal company values might have very little effect. They will have to recognize that their control over others’ actions (except in the most direct and damaging way) is very minimal. The coach can encourage that process by emphasizing why it is worth it for creating the kind of impact most leaders dream of having on their organization through the cumulative power of small interventions. So what they can do is take action themselves, encouraging the direction they have chosen, as the archetype of their organization changes more smoothly around them, alongside the stories people tell.



Beldoch, Michael (1964). Sensitivity to expression of emotional meaning in three modes of communication. In Joel R. Davitz et al. (eds.), The Communication of Emotional Meaning (pp. 31–42), New York: McGraw-Hill.

Campbell, Joseph (1968). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Choy, Esther (2020). What Is Leadership Storytelling, Anyway?. [online] Forbes. Available at: [Accessed 23 July 2020].

Denning, Stephen (2005). The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Frye, Northrop. (2001). The archetypes of literature. In Vincent Leitch (ed.), The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton.

Gabriel, Yiannis (ed.) (2004). Myths, Stories and Organizations: Premodern narratives for our times. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lavine, Marc (2014). Paradoxical Leadership and the Competing Values Framework. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 50(2), pp.189–205.

Goleman, Daniel (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Jung, C. G& Franz, Marie-Luise von (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell Pub. Co.

Ravasi, Davide & Schultz, Majken (2006). Responding to Organizational Identity Threats: Exploring the Role of Organizational Culture. AMJ, vol. 49, pp. 433–458,

Snowden, David (2005). Stories from the Frontier. E:CO, 7(3–4), pp. 155–165.

Snowden, David (2002). Narrative Patterns: Uses of Story in the Third Age of Knowledge Management. Journal of Information & Knowledge Management, 1(1), pp. 1–6.

Tong, Yew Kwan & Arvey, Richard D. (2015). Managing complexity via the Competing Values Framework, Journal of Management Development, 34(6), pp. 653–673.

Uhl-Bien, Mary; Russ, Marion & McKelvey, Bill (2007). Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), pp. 298–318.

Oh you agile Augustin! Business agility in the age of COVID-19

I first met leadership and agile consultant, Dr Siegfried Kaltenecker, in 2009 and immediately adopted Sigi as my mentor.

During the past ten years, we have shared many experiences, notably designing and delivering a novel training programme named Leading Self-Organising Teams.

Fast forward to 2020. Sigi recently published an article based on conversations with clients and colleagues during this period of uncertainty and ambiguity since the arrival of COVID-19 in our lives.

I read the original in German and immediately called him and suggested he publish an English version. This idea grew to not only translating the article, which you can read here, but also to take the opportunity of lockdown to record a Zoom conversation about our respective experiences during this time. This is now published in the agile42 YouTube channel below.