To create order is to create a structure for control. To release control creates a opening for initiative and collaboration. This is the transition point that modern organizations are passing through from hierarchy to the network.
If you know me, you know that meeting people from diverse walks of life is a passion for me. I find people infinitely interesting, their background, their thinking, how they found themselves doing what they do, their hopes and dreams, and their perception of their strengths and potential.
There is a reality that I see in many of them that is equally interesting. Many of them are unfulfilled in their life and work. It isn't that they don't have a passion for something, or don't know enough about themselves to know what their strengths and gifts are. No, it is that most have never found themselves in either the social or organizational setting where they could flourish as human beings.
As I write this I'm mentally scrolling through the places where I live and work. I'm thinking about the people whom I've met and known over the years. Thinking about common characteristics that distinguish them and united them together.
What are the common characteristics of non-fulfillment and of life fulfillment.
Here are three.
Do you have a purpose, a mission, or a calling? Can you define this as something more than what you do as an activity, and more as something you create and achieve?
Do you have a supportive, encouraging, open and honest network of family and friends? Are there people who understand you, who stand by through thick and thin, who believe in you, your mission and the impact you want to achieve?
Does your workplace and home life provide a context where your purpose and your relationships can flourish? Are you constrained by the structures that frame your life? Or, does the lack of order within your calling mean that there are opportunities that you fail to achieve?
My observation is that these characteristics are in descending order of occurrence. More people have a sense of purpose, fewer people have a truly healthy social network, and by a large margin, the fewest people work and live in social and organizational contexts where they can flourish.
The Circle of Impact
For a decade, I've been using this diagram as a conversation / thinking tool to help leaders and their organizations understand where the gaps are in their business. Here's a simple description of what I see.
Leadership is a function that every person can perfom to take "personal inititative to create impact."
I am not defining leadership as a role or an organizational postion. Like many leadership theorists, I see these roles as management, rather than leadership.
Therefore, the Three Dimensions of Leadership that every leader must address are Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structure. Ideally, every person within an organization takes personal initiative through their ideas and relationships, within social and organizational structures to create impact. As a result, a company becomes a leader-filled organization, rather than one starved for leadership.
The four Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact provide the glue, the ligaments and tendons that create the wholeness of an organization.
Each of the three leadership dimensions must be aligned with one or more of the Connecting Ideas. Here's how.
The social and organizational structures are aligned with the organization's purpose. If these structures aren't, there is conflict and fragmentation.
The relationships within an organization are aligned with the values that create a common identity and character as a community of people.
However, it is not enough, to have values. Many organizations have a strong value system, but lack purpose. A community of people need a vision for how their purpose that makes a difference that matters. It must challenge them to grow, to remain open, and to inspire leadership initiative all with their community.
The Connecting Ideas permeate all aspects of an organization. Every person, every unit, office, group, committee, or board needs purpose that guides, values that unite, a vision that inspires, and an understanding of impact that defines the future of their organization.
The Structure Dilemma
Having been working with this perspective for over a decade, I've come to a challenging conclusion.
The problem in most organizations isn't the attitudes and behaviors of people. The reality is that people are products of their environment, or the social and organization structure of your business dictates what attitudes and behaviors fit within that system.
Most organizations work from a hierarchical stance. There are bosses and managers who direct employees work. This industrial model of management worked well when the tasks of work were non-creative, repetitive and mechanical skills based. Today, we live in a world of creativity, information and the skills require are for human interaction, communication and collaboration. The old structure doesn't align well with this new reality.
As I wrote in The End and The Beginning, this shift from hierarchy is an epic one. As I said recently, "Imagine Proctor & Gamble without bosses and managers, just leaders."
The emerging structure for organizations is the network. Each person participates by their own initiative. Each person contributes through their own unique offering to the network.
I call this "leading by vacuum," which simply means that people do what they are gifted or able to do, which opens up the environment for people with different talents and skills to contribute.
In an hierarchical structure, the efficient ordering of the parts and their compliance are primary. This structure is highly susceptible to fragmentation, compartmentalization and corruption through concentrations of power.
In the network, personal initiative, collaboration and communication make human relationships central. This is an emergent reality, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The power resides in the network and those who know how to engage more people to contribute. It is a leadership of facilitation and ingenuity, rather than control.
I first saw this reality in mid-1970's when I heard the Modern Jazz Quartet in concert. Sitting in a large concert hall with these quiet instruments I saw these four musicians communicating through them. Here is MJQ playing one of the signature tunes, Django. Watch for how their unspoken communication and timing work together.
Each person in the band is essential. Each person has their part to play. The impact is a sound which transcends one instrument, and blends the four into something evocative.
The Quest for Wholeness
If you know that your business or organization is fragmented, splintering apart, difficult to hold together, then what you are experiencing is the end of the viability of a traditional hierarchical structure. You feel it before you can truly see it. By feeling it, you know that others do too.
Bringing wholeness to your structure begins with the Connecting Ideas.
Reaffirm your purpose.
Identify the values that build connections between people.
Create a vision that inspires personal initiative.
Define the difference you seek to create so that you and everyone else can be absolutely clear as to what your impact is.
Begin this process in conversation. Use the Circle of Impact Conversation Guides. Hire me to come facilitate the conversation, if necessary. I'd welcome the opportunity to work with you and your leaders.
Creating a network business structure starts with establishing relationships of respect, trust and mutual reciprocity. Out of those healthy relationships, the network emerges to provide a platform for leadership initiative to create impact.
As the network grows, allow it to establish the organizational structural components that it needs. Remain open to change. Stay vigilant in affirming and acting on the Connecting Ideas.
The future is the network. And the future is now.
Creating a Network of Relationships
Here are some additional conversation guides that can help you understand how to create your own network of relationships.