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Connected-Era Responsive Organizational Practices — What Are They Like? Part 2

Part 1 of this pair of blog posts presented principles that organizations willing to adopt Connected Age practices might want to consider and use as motivation for expanding current activities. Part 2 focuses on how to do this.

Most organizations are good at operating in the complicated environments and the organizational practices that most of us are familiar with are geared towards this. These practices however hinder our efforts in complex environments. Learning how to be adaptive when and as needed is one of those key challenges that face organizations that want to become responsive.

Let’s just embrace the slack we have at work and use that excess time for exploration — said no one ever. The team of teams approach, whether inside an organization or working together with partners from other organizations in networks, requires the ability to transition between our assigned responsibilities that everyone is usually 100 % busy with and ad hoc responsibilities.

In his blog post Scaling Agile at Spotify, Henrik Kniberg presents the concepts of tribes, squads, chapters and guilds to elaborate possible dynamics by which individual workers can transitions between roles and responsibilities. Tribes are teams that work together around a certain shared functionality. A squad is essentially a multi-disciplinary team that is aligned around a product. Chapters are based on similar competencies and guilds are informal interest groups. This is not a functional matrix because the organization is aligned around deliverable products.

Visualizing tribes, squads, chapters and guilds. Picture Credit: Henrik Kniberg.

It is possible to use similar practices in multi-organizational collaboration that allow for alignment around deliverables, movement between roles with relevant responsibilities, not only in the directions that are in use at Spotify. The only difference is that participants can come from many organizations that share a common purpose.

Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg emphasizes practices self-management over alignment:

Stanley McChrystal (see part 1)also reflects a similar way of thinking by speaking about the enabling concept of (shared) purpose over the constraining concepts that aim to create alignment in industrial-era organizations (such as strategy).

Value creation and identity are enabling constraints that underlie purpose.

Purpose is one of those concepts that are thrown around a lot these days but not necessarily understood in an uniform manner. Purpose is not only about the identity aspects of individuals and collectives that are characteristics of Teal organizations but also the ways by which organizations create value (of any type).

Optimally value creation, identity and purpose are enabling constraints which allow for equifinality or the possibility for similar results to be achieved with different initial conditions and in many different ways.

August is a consultancy formed by some of the people behind the ResponsiveOrg movement and learning from their newer iterations can provide some interesting insights into how organizations can become responsive. Guiding principles and the subsequent practices that embody the principles are at the core of becoming responsive in any type of organization.

August’s Guiding Principles. Picture credit: Mike Arauz.

Jotting down a bunch of principles sounds cool but as they are quite a leap away from the old industrial age ways of working, a challenge for most organizations wanting to become more responsive is how to change from one paradigm to the other?

How do you change from one paradigm to another? Picture credit: Mike Arauz.

Applying one single set of methods like agile or lean rarely fully enables our organizations to become responsive and employ the full potential of the Connected Age. The greatness of the responsive approach is not to prescribe such single set of methods but promote an approach for equifinality that can employ multiple practices from multiple methods that are relevant to each given context.

Instead of employing methods it might be useful for organizations to look at their capabilities (how a business does what it sets out to achieve using roles, processes, information, and tools) as a whole from a socio-technical perspective that also includes the social systems perspectives to an organization.

An example of how to do this can be seen in August’s Responsive Starter Stack that seeks to add practices to the mix that makes up Connected Age capabilities. The good folks at August speak about capabilities or what they call “practice areas” in terms of behaviors, structures, tools, processes and roles.

August’s Responsive Starter Stack’s practice areas. Picture Credit: August.

The Responsive Starter Stack consists of the principles: open, learning and network which can be implemented in organizations using practices that can be seen in the picture below. The presented practices are borrowed from disciplines like agile, prototyping and sociocracy.

August’s Responsive Starter Stack’s practice areas. Picture Credit: August.

The proposed values and practices provide a starting point. As different types of values and subsequent practices are relevant to different crowds, contexts, networks, and organizations, dialogue and experimentation should be used to uncover and explore the fit for purpose and success of the practices.

ResponsiveOrg Finland on avoimesti toimiva, oppiva ja tekevä verkosto, joka pyrkii kiihdyttämään työn ja organisoitumisen uudistumista. Toimimme paikallisena hubina globaalisti toimivalle ResponsiveOrg-verkostolle. Kutsumme luomaan ja edistämään toimintatapoja, joiden avulla organisaatiot voivat kehittää responsiivisuuttaan muutoksille, ihmisille, tulevaisuuksille ja verkosto-organisoitumiselle.

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Mikael Seppälä

📈 Project Manager #InnovationManagement & #Ecosystems @LaureaUAS | ⚡️ @systemschangefi #SystemsChange | 🔥 #SystemsThinking #Complexity