LeadWise Academy Week #1 Reflections

My journey in the LeadWise Academy: Practical Self-Management Intensive started last week. After missing the first run, nearly pulling out of the current one, I’m really glad I stayed on.

Why Self-Management?

The seeds of my interest in self-management started 2 years ago when I was part of the pioneering cohort of U.lab: Leading From the Emerging Future, a MOOC which explored Theory U, an approach to sensing and actualising the emerging future (new systems, organisations, people that cannot be replicated from past ‘best practices’). What I took away we all have agency, the capacity to act and to even create the emerging future. Agency is possible if we are intentional about who we are (Self) and what we do (Work), and if we approach the world with an open mind (to think), heart (to empathise), and will (to act). Theory U also states that unleashing agency is not only possible on an individual level, but on a collective level in teams, organisations and systems. This led me to wonder: how then might we create the right conditions on a collective level for everyone to have agency?

This led me to discover Reinventing Organisations, a delightful read which shares the stories of real self-organising organisations (yes they exist!) that create agency at a collective level.

Soon after, I left McKinsey & Company, a management consultancy, to join Awaken Group, a transformation design firm. I realise now that my transition was in many ways a desire to answer the question I raised above. At Awaken Group, the question that invigorates and keeps us up at night is: How might we unleash creativity and agency in individuals, organisations, and systems? (Its embedded in our 3-part mission)

In my quest to answer that question… I’m now here at the LeadWise Academy! More than being a theoretical download of self-management practices, my experience thus far has been a lived experience of self-management and agency… Here’s the story of Week 1:

LeadWise Week 1 Journey

After the kick-off call, we were randomly sorted into… you guessed it… self-organised teams! With Guita Gopalan, Yves Cavarec, and Sunkyung Han, our first assignment was to create a new organisation and 20 new roles for it… in just 3 days!

Our first task was to answer the question: 
What is our organisation and its purpose?

This question was explored in our first team call, which I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend. From the call minutes, I found out that our organisation was to be a training company. Without communicating with my team, I decided to explore what might the company’s purpose. Through a stroke of synchronicity (meaningful coincidences), the purpose statement I came up with was almost identical to what was discussed during our first team call.

Here’s what is was:
To enable people to thrive and realise their full potential through transformative experiences that reframe the status quo and empower them to make lasting changes to their workplaces.

Our next task was to create 20 roles for the new organisation. The language of “roles” is very intentional, as one of the key steps towards self-management is to structure an organisation based on “roles”, rather than “job titles”.

A role-based structure means:
Thinking about an organisation based on its purpose and all the roles and responsibilities that allow the organisation to meet its purpose;
Leaving behind job profiles and job titles. Different people can take on different roles at different times — there is a flow and adaptability with roles; and
Distributing the authority (decision making power) throughout the organisation via the roles.

Source: Percolab

Without speaking it, there was an implicit assumption that everyone on my team was naturally, creative, resourceful and whole (a term I love from the Co-Active Coaching Model). In that spirit, we built on each other’s creativity and were able to create roles with accountabilities and metrics in literally just 3 days.

Here’s what we came up with:

If you asked me to create this new company today, I would confidently put the above forward as the “role structure” for the company.

Reflections

  • Human beings i.e., us truly do have agency. And to manifest agency, we have to fully embrace that human beings (ourselves and others) are naturally, creative, resourceful, and whole. To me, this is the heart of self-management
  • Creation is scary, and the trick is to just get started. Create, embrace creative tensions and ambiguity, and keep iterating. What’s often holding us back is probably the fear of getting started. The best time to get started is right now