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The Need for Leaders of Change

Change is inevitable, and organizations must address this challenge by reinventing themselves and becoming more resilient. A crucial step towards achieving this is to focus on growing leaders of change in your organization.

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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.

 

Literature

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: https://www.forbes.com/sites/estherchoy/2020/01/26/what-is-leadership-storytelling/#313d19f07b17 [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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886314522510.

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, https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2006.21794663.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.002.

Archetypes: mapping organization, culture and leadership

The empirical evidence agile42 has gathered from multiple client engagements, supports the theory that ideal characteristics of a leader are based on archetypes, ideal types of what an organization should look like and their underlying culture. This has led us to observe a very strong relationship between leadership attitude, organizational design, and organizational culture. 

The idea behind ORGANIC agility is that there isn’t any right or wrong leadership behavior, but rather there are behaviors that one can master, and can be appropriately called upon in specific situations within a specific culture: if a leadership behavior doesn’t correspond to the cultural expectations of the people involved, it will very likely cause a negative emotional response, and potentially increase motivational debt.

In this webinar I gave an overview of different archetypes that are expressed under specific conditions and bring leadership behavior, organizational design and organizational culture together. We also explored some methods within the ORGANIC agility framework, that allow you to recognize the archetype to which an organization can be mapped at a given moment in time, and provide guidance for transitioning to a different archetype, while increasing coherence between culture, organizational design and leadership behaviors.

If you missed the live webinar, I have great news for you! Here you can find the recording of the session, available on YouTube. Please have a look at it and feel welcome to share it around with friends and colleagues.

 

 

During the webinar, I mentioned the Archetype Assessment as a part of the ORGANIC agility framework. The archetype assessment is a service we provide either virtually or in-person, and it is an engaging and meaningful activity that reveals what people think about the way leadership achieves results in your organization. It allows groups and leaders to express what combinations (archetypes) they see themselves operating in, what expectations they have of one another, and how they can make changes without alarming and disappointing the people they work with. The aim is to support cohorts going through any sort of change, whether intentional (such as an agile journey) or unintentional (such as a merger). Change creates friction and both leaders, and the people they work with, struggle with knowing in what ways it is useful to change and how they can best reduce resistance and help support growth in themselves and others.

Please have a look at the information, and contact us if you are interested or have questions! 

I mentioned the webinar from our colleague, Lasse Ziegler, in this webinar, about Leadership in complex environments, and I recommend you have a look at that one to get an understanding of the leadership styles mentioned briefly in my webinar. 

You are welcome to  join our ORGANIC agility Foundation valid for Certified Agile Leadership I (CAL1) training to get an introduction to ORGANIC agility and a deep dive into the Leadership framework. The topics touched in the ORGANIC agility webinars are part of this training! 

Here you can also access the slides I used during the webinar. 

 

For more webinars and recordings, please look here!
Hope to see you in the next ones! 

 

Diagnosing and changing organizational culture

One of the main aspects of any agile transformation program is cultural change. During times of working from home it’s even more important than ever. 

Based on the 1st ORGANIC agility principle, “Increase Cultural Awareness and Coherence”, the main challenge is how to understand your organizational culture and how to create coherence based on shared principles without losing diversity.

In this webinar I shared my experiences of using the Competing Values Framework, developed by Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron at the University of Michigan. This framework gives us a model with the purpose to help change agents identify effective ways of diagnosing and changing culture in order to enhance organizational performance.

I am pleased that the topic of the webinar got so much attention. We had people listening from all over the world, and so many questions that unfortunately we ran out of time. We hope that we can continue some discussions with the participants in the future. It was fun and great that the audience was engaged in the topic with comments throughout the session. 

For those who missed the live session, don't panic! Here you can find the recording, and it is also available on YouTube.  Have a look at it and feel welcome to share it around with friends and colleagues. If there is anything we can help you with regarding this topic, feel free to contact us

 

 

If you are interested in the Organizational Scan for your organization, feel free to look into our OrgScan Starter Kit. This is a good starting point to understanding the culture of your organization. More details about the OrgScan can be found here. Don’t hesitate to get in touch! 

To learn more about ORGANIC agility, you can have a look at our webpage. We’re continuing to run the Certified ORGANIC Leadership® Foundations (provides CAL1) sessions remotely, so get in touch if you think this would be something for you and your organization.

If you are interested in reading more about ORGANIC agility, you can buy the ORGANIC agility book from Amazon. 

We have more webinars coming up, and the previous ones listed on our website, so please have a look at them here. More webinars!

 

 

Workers on scaffolding

Building blocks for a resilient organization

It was great to have so many people attending my webinar “Building blocks for a resilient organization” on April 23rd. The subject seemed to be resonating with a big audience and I want to thank everyone for their engagement and questions and especially to the many who got back to me through Linkedin or email: it looks like the community of people who get passionate about ORGANIC agility is growing day by day.

Here you can find the recording of the session, also available on YouTube: have a look at it and feel welcome to share it around with friends and colleagues.

In an era of global challenges, volatile markets and exponentially faster changes, the slow response of decision making and hierarchies makes organizations more vulnerable. Obsessive focus on processes and structures derives from the common mistake of thinking of organizations as machines rather than thinking of them as organisms, social networks of thinking individuals who care about doing a good job.

A new way of thinking about leadership and decision-making is necessary. Instead of a rigid framework you rather need guiding principles to apply in different contexts: don’t copy what someone else has done before and instead find your own solution.

In this webinar, I gave an overview of the building blocks of ORGANIC agility: the leadership framework, principles, tools and practices that help on your journey. With these, you can create an organization that can organically grow and adapt to challenges of the future.

The ORGANIC agility framework allows different kinds of agility to grow in different environments, instead of imposing a single model on everybody. In this way, it is possible to map existing capabilities to market demands, and evolve following trends, as opposed to implementing a specific organizational blueprint, which might have become irrelevant by the time it is finally implemented.

The first element is the Leadership Framework. It is often the entry point for organizations, both because usually, leaders in organizations have been fighting the uncertainty of the markets for long enough to have an instinctive grasp on complexity and because engagement at the leadership level increases the probability of positive results. There are three key aspects to ORGANIC Leadership: first, it sees leadership as a capability rather than a role. Second, it can be combined with and recognizes multiple leadership models that are out there in the world today and sees their value in context, placing particular emphasis on the complexity-informed models. Finally, this is the only current framework that combines situational awareness, leadership attitude, and organizational culture in order to improve effectiveness with the minimum of resistance, and it is presented alongside an intervention model that can facilitate the transition to a different kind of leadership.

The second element is a set of five principles, which play the role of scaffolding alongside the leadership framework. The principles represent different degrees of complexity and different intervention needs. Scaffolding, in this case, reminds us that the principles are not rules that are meant to be followed forever. There are different kinds of scaffolds: some support the construction of a building whose future shape we already know, some provide nutrients for growth to happen, and some completely disappear once they are no longer needed. The same applies to the five principles: once they have been fully integrated into an organization and become part of its DNA, explicit reference to them is unnecessary.

Principles come associated with tools, the third element of ORGANIC agility. They are meant to help the translation of theory into practice and make complexity manageable. Understanding the present condition, establishing fast and diverse feedback loops, and exploring multiple options are all essential.

OrgScan overview


Remember to sign up to the upcoming webinar, continuing on the same ORGANIC agility pattern. The upcoming webinar takes place on May 22nd. More details and signing up. To learn more about ORGANIC agility, you can have a look at the website.

We created an online SenseMaker pulse that would test the level of resilience of various industries sectors towards COVID-19 and learn how many have been adapting successfully to working remotely. We encourage you to participate in the pulse and share a story by accessing the following link: collector.sensemaker-suite.com/?projectID=BusinessResilience_Master. It will take no more than 10 minutes. You are also welcome to share multiple stories as well as the link with friends and colleagues.

We will prepare a report based on the collected stories, which will help everyone understand more and take inspiration from.

 

Best of both worlds with ORGANIC agility training valid for Certified Agile Leadership

Agile Leadership is necessary for any organization that wants to learn and grow. ORGANIC agility® provides a new leadership approach, models for cultural change, insight into complexity thinking, and addresses topics that are important to every leader in any organization.

The ORGANIC Leadership Foundations Class is intended for:

  • executives, middle management, and other leaders with organizational influence
  • leaders or consultants who support, lead or interact with Agile initiatives
  • any leader sponsoring, requesting, or involved with Agile adoption within their organization

The ORGANIC Leadership® framework supports Leadership growth as a capability, rather than only seeing it as personal development of Leaders. And growing the capability of leadership within an organization requires building it into the organizational structure and culture.

To grow leadership capabilities we need to start building the ability, in ourselves and others, to see the connections between what we do and the effect that has on our organizational culture, our environment and us as a leader. Becoming a true Strategic Leader will allow you to focus on what matters and equip you to head a resilient organization.

CAL I is an introductory, educational course from the Scrum Alliance that consists of in-depth leadership development learning objectives across five categories. The goal of CAL I is to bring awareness of agile leadership thinking, focus, and behaviors; and to start (or meet where they are) the agile leader on their learning journey. CAL I is the first step of the Certified Agile Leadership program.

Starting this year, our Certified ORGANIC Leadership® Foundations Workshop in combination with a 3h virtual training session provides you the CAL I credential of the Scrum Alliance. It is literally the best of both worlds!

agile42 CAL-Educators and coaches will offer multiple classes of the ORGANIC agility Foundation valid for CAL I during 2020, available in Germany (Berlin), the Netherlands (Alphen a/d Rijn and Amsterdam), Australia (Melbourne), Sweden (Stockholm), Finland (Helsinki) and Turkey (Istanbul). See the full calendar to check your closest location. More classes will be added during the year.

You can contact us for further information and to organize in-house classes.

Learn more about the ORGANIC agility Leadership model from senior coach Andrea Tomasini in this video.

brown rock formation

Recording of webinar on ORGANIC agility

On April 8, Agile Gothenburg hosted me for a webinar titled Beyond the Mass Production of Agile at Scale!

The talk highlighted the problems/limitations in the approaches to scaling Agile in organizations that react to increasing complexity by mass manufacturing or mass engineering an organization’s design through cascading layers of processes and frameworks. I then moved on to exploring the holistic view of ORGANIC agility® which allows organizations to grow and evolve like a natural thing. An overview of the Cynefin framework has been given together with an overview of the principles of ORGANIC agility.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJlV7Qzu4Wo

 

The talk then illustrated two unique tools that are inspired by the principles of ORGANIC agility®, namely agile42 Organizational Scan and Agile Strategy Map.

The Organizational Scan is a tool of immense utility in revealing deeper truths about your decision-making processes, leadership style, and organizational culture. On the other hand, the Agile Strategy Map is a real visual map for guiding an organization’s strategy towards specific targets while highlighting the success factors and dependencies that are relevant to moving in the right direction.

Case studies that demonstrate ORGANIC agility® and its tools in action have been shared near the end of the talk.

Here is a list of deepening references: