Starting a self-organising team experiment — wish us luck…

In the Lab we have been talking about new forms of working for quite a while now. We have been exploring The Future of Work through tracking trends and developing concepts with partners. We have been reading books like ‘Re-inventing the organisation’ and experimenting with how we might communicate better in slack and share our thoughts openly through these SI Lab field notes. Nothing really had changed though.

Some members of the team were re-inspired last month by attending Ouishare so at our team away day this week we set a new intention to try it out in earnest. Here are a few reflections and tip bits from the day, sharing my perspective and inviting other members of the team to share theirs…

Purpose — Why are we doing this? As a Lab we are seeking to provide a space for Forum and others to experiment and look into the next horizon, to foreshadow what new forms of organising might be needed for a system change and a sustainable future. By why might self-organising be important?

“If you want to really restructure a system so that we can have a peaceful, just, or sustainable world — that means changing the paradigm in our heads” (Meadows, 1991:59).

Firstly and foremost if we want to explore root cause and systemic reason for our unsustainability then we need to explore the paradigm that informs our actions. [See also one area of Lab experimentation]. If we believe that much of the complex sustainability challenges are driven by our society losing touch with being in-tune with nature, with living systems rhythms and ways of operating then we need to see if we can operate more like a living system. The process that drive and enables living systems to flourish is that of self-organisation. [Over the coming months we want to articulate this ‘why’ better as part of creating shared intent and communicating it to others].

Structure and processes — The misconception about self-organising is that is it flat. Yes there might be less hierarchy but this is replaced with structure and processes that enable us to relate and communicate with each other. Inspired by this blog and the teal organisation ideas we have set up a rhythm for the team to work together, from daily slack check ins, to being transparent about operational issues and starting face to face peer appraisal.

We also started to look at some of the principles of working — that we need to be honest and authentic with each other, and that includes when there is conflict, to raise hard issues but also to be open to asking for advice, for being supportive in co-developing work together.

Leadership — ‘with freedom comes responsibility’ Laloux.

I know personally this is going to be a challenge for me as ‘Head’ of team. How do I shift the power I hold, how do we all take responsibility for what we are doing? How do I change my leadership style and pay attention to power and the way I relate to people? We are trying out this experiment in an organisation that has different processes and structures — something Laloux says it means it is doomed to fail!

How do we interface as a Lab to the rest of the organisation? How do we provide and invite people (our colleagues and others) into a space that is exploring a new way of working, rather than to isolate ourselves?

I am sure we will stumble and reach about in the dark but hopefully we will learn something that will help us feel more empowered at work and importantly be more impactful at creating the biggest shift required — a shift in the underlying paradigm that is the context of our unsustainability.