Busting the top 3 Agile Organisation Myths

Do you hear everywhere that we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – so called – VUCA world?
Or that leaders and organizations need to get more agile?
On one hand you have to be quick and nimble, on the other hand your shareholders (or the board) expect that you don’t jeopardize the success that you have had so far?

And then there are these coaches, advisors and consultants, who tell you about all these great leadership concepts? Ranging from “Agile Leadership”, so “Conscious Leaders” and many more.
There are also great frameworks out there, everyone says, like Holacracy or all the Teal frameworks which we also promote.

So does that mean you now need to start all your meetings with meditation and mindfulness sessions? Do you need quit your job, because the great new organizations of the future don’t need any managers anymore? Do you now only focus on meaning and purpose for your company and let go of margins, revenues and everything around profits?

We don’t think it’s that easy, so lets bust some of these “Future Work” Myths.

Myth 1 – Purpose kills profit

If you focus on purpose and meaning for your organization and your employees, you will ruin your profit. This is what quite some of our customers reply if we talk about purpose. Or they ask things like “Does this mean I should solely focus on purpose and nothing else?”.

In our experience, not only with LIVEsciences, but also with our customers, this is wrong. Of course you need to focus on your business, you need to make profits and you need to earn money. Anything else would mean you are out of business soon.
BUT if you focus on purpose more and take purpose considerations into account for your decisions, you are likely to be much more successful. Simply because employees like to work for a “good” company and have a meaningful job – and most of your customers prefer spending money with a responsible organization too. According to a recent Gallup study (dependant on the country) more than 50% your employees are either disengaged or frustrated with their jobs. One reason probably has to do with empowerment, which we’ll talk about in Myth 2, but the other certainly is “meaning”. As human beings we are always striving for meaning in our lives – and of course this is especially critical for the thing we spend most of our time every day…our jobs!

So, what do we think you could do?
First of all you need to define your company purpose of course – and earning money is not a purpose. Earning money is the tool that keeps you going to fulfil your purpose!

You should then integrate your purpose into your decision making processes, but it should also be visible across the company. Every role or function should contribute to the purpose – if they don’t do, why did you create them in the first place?

Why not also ask your employees why they like the purpose, what they would do differently or where you maybe violate your purpose? Is there anything you can change to do even more for your purpose?

Myth 2 – Lets kill our org charts and everything will be better

Many people will tell you that Agility or Teal Organizations go along with getting rid of org charts and all that – and of course this would be the ideal case, but realistically this will not be possible for bigger organizations with a history in just some weeks.
So why not start with the really important things – discuss the values and culture you want to sustain in your organization, have a look at creating a document like “Leadership Commitments”, review your decision making processes and cut all the committees and boards you have, or maybe just start with reviewing your roles & responsibilities.

All of these are mandatory things to have a look at on the road to true self-organization. You don’t need to do everything at the same time and tackle all the tough questions right away. E.g. how to define salaries in a fully self-organized organization without line managers?

In our experience it’s a transformative journey…and the bigger your organization the longer it will take. An appropriate mean might be to start small with a team of 50 to 100 people. If it is best to start with a innovation team or start with the top-management must be evaluated for each organization individually.

Myth 3 – We don’t need our leaders anymore

If you go all the way to a self-organized organization it will mean to have no org charts and no line managers anymore of course. Does this really mean you will not have leaders anymore?

Of course not! As human beings we are always looking for leaders and there’s always somebody moving ahead and leading the way. Also for decision making or projects or many other things, you need to have a leader. Somebody who is accountable and somebody who can be asked for advice leading informally.
The only difference is that in truly self-organized organizations there’s nothing like a job title or a role called “Line Manager” or “Leader”. This means your whole structure will be a bit more fluid. For some topics people will look towards me for guidance and leadership, for other topics they might look somewhere else. All human interaction networks (also outside the office) will also build informal leadership or power structures. People might look for leadership from subject matter experts, or people who they trust and who provide a powerful vision they like. It’s just naturally happening – and not just because somebody got the job title “leader” or “manager”!

So no worries, this is far away from being total chaos. This system actually works in all of our societies.
Additionally you will have roles defined, where people hold responsibilities for certain topics anyway – e.g. if I hold the Finance role in our small company it’s likely I am also in charge of our bank account and accounting system. People will naturally look for my guidance if they want to make decisions that impact our finances.

There are many more myths out there of course, but these seem to be the three that come up the most with our customers. Let us know if there’s other statements you hear and we might be able to bust (or confirm…) them in our next LIVEnews issue.