Recently i shared the earliest iteration of a new body of work around ‘The Learning Organisation’. It centred around five aspects of the Learning Organisation [‘Evidence Informed’, ‘Reflective and Measured’, ‘Capability Building’, ‘Adaptive and Evolutionary’, ‘Framed and Looped’], surrounded by two aspects of context [‘Dynamic’, and ‘Permeable’].
This next iteration is in response to a challenge from Mark Oehlert: to plot out some countervailing forces. To reflect on how systems and norms tend to reassert themselves, and how this may challenge our evolution of the Learning Organisation.
Well: i’m not sure i’m really up to the task, but here’s a sketch. I’ve added in eight factors or forces at play. Some are structural, some more philosophical.
PAIN FREE: an easy countervailing force is to be pain free. Dreaming of change, but nowhere near uncomfortable enough to engage in it.
DOMAIN HEAVY: in my broader work on the Socially Dynamic Organisation i contrast the Domain organisation with the Dynamic one. Heavy reliance on domains leaks through to inform opportunity, power, and reward, and hence makes the Organisation monumental, and fragile.
ELITE CULTURE: success can breed elite culture, and elite cultures can be impermeable to expertise, which is a core feature of a Socially Dynamic one. Pride in achievement and status, but humility to listen.
CAGED COMPLEXITY: fast growing Organisations can rely on ‘caging complexity’ to use rules, regulations, and structure itself, to try to contain complexity and guard against risk and ambiguity. But the Learning Organisation we seek will be fuelled by these things. Hence the cages that should keep us safe can constrain us.
CURRENTLY OPTIMISED: a lot of leadership behaviour that has been well rewarded by the market revolves around optimisation, both of system and process, and through extending the value chain and stripping out cost. That optimisation means that the change we seek will sub optimise the system, and hence come at a cost.
CULTURALLY COHERENT: whilst a strength in many ways, cultural coherence can silence weak voices, and challenge the top tier activity of ‘looping’ through sense making and adaptation. Essentially it silences voices either directly, or by causing self censorship.
POWERFUL IN THE MARKET: Organisations that start at challengers, or emerge as Unicorns in previously unknown markets/spaces may become constrained by the Dominant Narratives that they helped to write/embody.
INTUITIVE LEADERSHIP: leaders who act on intuition alone may resist or challenge an evidence informed approach, or struggle with reflection outside of known norms.