This article was first published in our Cocooners N°9
This is the story of a continuous oscillation between fragmentation and coalescence. A young and well performing organization which felt the need to find new centers of gravity. It’s a story where many polarities — strategy and operations, internal and external, people and tools — bring about a new step of evolution.
Non linear path
After participating in the Organization Design Masterclass with Paul Tolchinsky and Stelio Verzera, one of the founders of a small but excellent tech Italian company decided to join our Open Governance. He spent some months with us, sharing our Jam and participating in our meetings, until he decided to experiment Nalu, our spin-off dedicated to personal and professional growth, with the aim of helping people in his company improve their facilitation skills. The Nalu experience gave them the need to advance at the organizational level too. All this began as a non-linear path, which sounded to us like a beautiful starting point that just needed to find its center of gravity.
There were different topics they were dealing with. That’s why, even though they had some preference on which challenge to face first, they happily started with our usual iteration 0, a first set of activities in which we usually go in depth on what the organization is in that precise moment and what it could be in the future. Working with people, we dive into the processes, the culture and the relationships with the ecosystem and we take a lot of information about the identity and the trajectory of the organization itself, preparing the ground for the first operational step together.
A system of forces
One main aspect arose from iteration 0: the high fragmentation of activities and energy. This was a problem to face by itself but also a cause and consequence of two other key topics: unclear strategy-making dynamics and unbalanced people involvement. Thanks to iteration 0, we had a clear picture of the system of forces in place and how to organically evolve the organization. The main challenge for us was to provide the minimum set of practices able to irradiate new competences and cultural traits. We decided to shift the focus from the entities to the relationships, and, in this way, overcoming the fragmentation on all levels.
We started iteration 1 with a Warm Data Lab, a methodology that helped them to see their own organization from different perspectives, using the lenses of unusual contexts, like happiness, family or education. This created the openness needed to introduce the first operational changes.
First, we gave them an approach to visualize and evolve how they can organically participate in the key narratives in their ecosystems. Then, we supported them to find the key activities to work according to the relationships between them: a system that we call Priority Mapping.
Evolve your sight
The work on the key narratives and the Priority Mapping laid the foundation to start closing the gap between the strategy and the operations. It gave them the opportunity to view why and how the complexity became too high to be sustained, and, above all, it gave them a new direction. It is, in fact, in the way you evolve your “sight” that the deepest evolution happens. The work with this organization is still in progress, and, as it has started with a non-linear set of events, it has evolved with the same spirit, staying open to the emergence of this turbulent time and generating new opportunities together.
This story reminds us of a simple truth: complexity and simplicity are not opposites. In fact, they are symbiotic and enable us to keep evolving.