The digital world is a great source of new potential for organizations to foster a cultural change that is more democratic and more tuned into the future in order to address the challenges of an increasingly complex and dynamic world. In future, culture will be even more important in organizations. Culture fills gaps that cannot be bridged by structures and traditional processes alone.
Virtual organization development – Virtual OD by SYNNECTA – provides sustainable support to this aspect.
Cultural change aims to strengthen engagement, heighten performance, improve collaboration, make effective use of diversity and become more agile. It aims for the sustainable development of an organization. Only those organizations that engage in such continuous development will in the future be able to deal with change swiftly and appropriately and maintain long-term success.
Cultural change can take place from two directions
Approach 1: Central perspective – one guiding theme creates a pervasive common notion that is delivered ‘top down’ in order to integrate differences (different characteristics, metaphors, …). Further along, we see the development of islands that network self-sufficiently and influence the central pervasive message.
Approach 2: Synchronous-lateral perspectives – Useful aspects emerge automatically. Peripheral perspectives emerge laterally and enable the required multi-perspective viewpoint from the beginning. Resonance and successful action foster the emergence of new structures, which in turn resonate again and thereby reinforce each other (spiralling development) – self-sufficient organizing.
This is where Virtual OD by SYNNECTA opens up great opportunities.
Both approaches take place in conjunction in everyday Organizational Development, but are given different emphasis.
Employee community and identification with the organization serve as social glue. An organization’s strong core identity prevents it drifting apart. Communication within a continuous dialogue that provides emotional touchpoints is an essential guiding element here.
Organizational Development today: limits and challenges
Cultural transformations traditionally begin at the »centre«, meaning from an organization’s headquarters and spreading from this »epicentre« to other areas and through the entire organization in order to become »global«. The direction of change therefore goes from »central« to »local«.
In this process, thinking and acting come from the central perspective of the headquarters from the beginning. This means that the process is asymmetrical from the very start, with a decline from the centre to the periphery. Consequences can include:
- Lack of identification in the peripheral areas that are not part of the centre.
- Weaker acceptance and lacking commitment.
- Difficulties guiding the transformation on global and international levels.
- Varying depths of effect and speeds of implementation between centre and regions.
- The differences between centre and regions stay in place and may even be reinforced or increased (insider/outsider thinking).
- Important perspectives and potential from the periphery is not sufficiently included and utilized.
Successful cultural development always includes self-organized dynamics and therefore requires an approach »across the field« that departs from the notions of »top-down« and »bottom-up«, which reinforce a hierarchical mindset. The real force of renewal is therefore found in the periphery. The digital sphere provides an opportunity to strengthen or improve these aspects.
Digitalization can foster a new Organizational Development
Any organization essentially has the implicit knowledge to be sustainable for the future. However, it is often not understood how to explicitly use this knowledge. Virtual OD by SYNNECTA shifts the dynamics from central to local. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to leave to dominant notion of »top-down« and »bottom-up« behind. Organizational Development at eye level!
The three classic levers of Organizational Development are creating meaning, changing patterns and establishing commonalities. These three levers can be expanded by Virtual OD by SYNNECTA. It allows for the guiding theme to be disseminated with greater conviction (see approach 1), but even more importantly, to design self-sufficient organization more effectively (see approach 2).
The greater efficacy of virtual organizational development is mostly created by the following aspects:
- Time and space are opened, so that simultaneous activity is possible and asymmetries are eliminated.
- Synchronous and asynchronous events/communication/collaboration take place at a global level.
- Fast and high degree of networking among people in the digital space.
- The power of weak joints. Weak joints are the basis of prolific cooperation. Virtual OD by SYNNECTA uses the power of weak joints.
- More outcome thanks to focussed collaboration.
- A greater degree of self-sufficient organization, stronger interaction and involvement.
- More effective dynamics permit themes to spread virally faster.
- Creation of virtual communities (of practice).
- Greater use of creative tension through multi-perspective working in the digital sphere (using diversity).
What moves you?
- Remote work will stay with us!
- How will the dominant position of the headquarters be reduced?
- How do we achieve greater and more sustainable employee engagement?
People in organizations expect a credible answer to this question in order to be able to establish a context for their work that delivers a sense of both purpose and meaning. Reacting to such challenges, companies position themselves with a company purpose. Until now, this purpose has almost always been developed from an inside viewpoint. However, organizations always exist in the context of an ecosystem. A meaningful purpose can only be developed in dialogue with the stakeholders of the company‘s own ecosystem. At SYNNECTA, we endeavour to give a truly multi-perspective design to these dialogue processes and thereby foster a deeper understanding of the company’s identity.
People need to work in meaningful contexts
The mindsets of societies change and shift in ways that are especially tangible to the younger generations. There is a growing desire and need for meaningful work contexts and an intention to contribute something useful for a greater whole while working. In short: living meaningfulness.
At the same time, societies are asking companies what contribution they are making to people and society. It is a question that both citizens and employees want answered.
Reacting to such challenges, companies position themselves with a company purpose. However, this purpose is still often strongly driven by a marketing outlook. The company purpose is therefore worked out within the old structures: A selected group of managers formulates a purpose that is then communicated inwards and outwards with considerable effort.
A range of perspectives – those that have developed out of the highly diverse employee population, from the clients, sectors of society and the markets – are hardly represented. So far, there has been a lack of real and open dialogue between the interest groups. A shared understanding to provide a basis for a company purpose cannot be developed this way.
Understanding our own identity in the context of the ecosystem: »What are we for?«
Organizations evolve and exist in the context of various stakeholders: markets, clients, competition, partners, society, employees, etc. All of these systems are in continuous exchange and yield an influence on each other. Together, they make up an ecosystem. Since organizations are always part of an ecosystem, they can only arrive at an understanding of their own role within the context of that ecosystem. The identity of an organization is defined through a constant exchange with the ecosystem.
Developing an organization’s identity that can provide meaning and a sense of community must therefore focus on asking:
- What are we for? What is our contribution to our ecosystem?
Any answer to this question that is found only from within the organization will establish a limited and frequently distorted perspective. It is based on hypotheses about the self and the world that were developed along many paths, but never in exchange with that very world, the stakeholders in the own ecosystem.
A true understanding of the own identity requires direct dialogue with the various stakeholders that make up the own ecosystem. It needs to come from a perspective that goes from the outside in:
- What do you need?
- What can we do for you?
- What can we do together?
- How should we be from your point of view, what makes us attractive partners to you?
Dialogue and joint examination of the own ecosystem
We create shared dialogue spaces with the stakeholders of the ecosystem and therefore make it possible to create a joint, multi-perspective debate to achieve a common and shared guiding theme. All relevant viewpoints will find a place where they can learn from and with each other: about themselves, about joint interests, about shared potential. This process then underlies a grasp of the own identity and the own purpose. This guided dialogue allows synergies to emerge. The multi-perspective process expands everyone’s thinking. The processes of creation and implementation come together and establish a high degree of commitment for the joint cause.
- The organization chooses an overall guiding theme for the dialogue in the ecosystem.
- A suitably wide spectrum of various stakeholders is invited to join in and explore this guiding theme together.
- Shared, relevant questions that pertain to the guiding theme are developed together with the stakeholders.
- Further guiding questions will support the moderation of a substantial and demanding dialogue that is fundamentally set out to take in many perspectives.
- Promising impulses from the dialogue can be adopted and can kick off future initiatives and joint projects.
- The stakeholders can develop further individual conclusions and measures from the shared insights.
The choice of stakeholders is essential to the success of the process. A successful dialogue fosters new insights and therefore needs to start from a sufficient degree of difference. It requires constructive juxtaposition. Here lay the great challenges and the opportunities of multi-perspective dialogue processes: allow differences, let them have an effect and develop deeper, shared insights together with them.
How we see the world, and what we know about it, is shaped by what has gone before: it is conditional. The notion that our perception and understanding creates an image of the world has long been doubted. At least since the time of Kant, we have known that perception is shaped by a priori concepts, which include how we assess space and time within our perception as well as, for example, the role of causality in understanding. We shape our perception of reality, we do not make an image of it. Hermeneutics, the philosophy of language, has differentiated further the notion that we shape our perception and understanding. Psychology has revisited the epistemological analysis in addressing the meaning of our individual cognitive and emotional development for the way we perceive and understand an internal as well as an external reality, centring on the idea of repetition. This relates further to the works of cultural anthropologists and sociologists who first identified class-specific patterns in perception, understanding and action (the concept of mentality), in order to subsequently expand this to take in the construction of national patterns of perception and thinking. In our times, radical constructivism has addressed the conditions that shape our access to reality. It significantly influenced what we now define as »systemic«: one of the modern foundations of organizational development.
The introduction of the systemic approach has made it clear, among other things, that the structure of a chain of cause and effect can only provide a limited understanding of individual and collective perceptions, ways of thinking, emotional states and accordingly means of decision-taking and performance. Cause and effect works perfectly on all things that are consciously created and manufactured by humans, but is less powerful when it comes to actions set by individuals and collectives. These require an additional understanding of conditionality. That concept is not as clear-cut as the principle of cause and effect. There is not a single condition that lets us understand a particular mode of conduct. Once again, however, it is a concept that is not new: we find it in Buddhist thought, which may explain why an iterative way of working is so much more easily realized in the Asian context.
Mindset describes what used to be called culture in organizational development. Both terms have the advantage that they are highly unspecific and therefore applicable to a range of approaches. While there is always a marketing aspect to be borne in mind in the evolution of concepts in organizational development, we can nevertheless learn from recent analyses of culture and mindset. We construct our reality both individually and collectively from the viewpoint of our individual and collective habits, of where we have evolved from. In the concepts of radical constructivism that also includes functional adaptation. Our decisions and actions are therefore based individually as well as collectively on a priori concepts: they are shaped by what has come before our current reality.
The more recent work on mindset has the advantage that it concentrates more fully on methods that allow us to focus with greater awareness on some of these a priori concepts that shape us. It is a useful method to achieve reasonably fast results for our own conduct. In doing so, we tend to overemphasize our individual mindset in line with the modern credo that »I am the master of my perception, insight and action«. While it is useful to uphold this notion in order to sustain a subject that is autonomous in action, it also leads us to overlook the collective conditions that shape our perceptions, insights, emotions and eventually our decisions and actions. We need a clear awareness of the collective mindset and, going on from there, methodically expand on its significance. Otherwise, mindset work will remain a limited tool in organizational development.
With #Myndleap, #sisko #oudheusden #muengersdorff are zooming in on methodical work with collective mentalities – mindsets – that enables change. It is the only path to achieving sustainable profit for organizations.
The guiding principle was formulated by Ernst von Glasersfeld in 1987, based on the thesis that we establish the very world we perceive involuntarily because we do not pay attention to – and therefore obviously do not know – how we do so. It is a deeply unnecessary lack of awareness. Radical constructivism, similarly to the critique offered by Kant, states that we are largely able to tap into the ways by which we construct the world we experience. The resulting awareness in our operative actions (…) can help us change and maybe improve. (Ernst von Glasersfeld: Wissen, Sprache und Wirklichkeit, Braunschweig 1987).
The »maybe« that Glasersfeld inserted into his hopeful sentence makes it clear how much all that talk about a growth mindset simplifies matters. Where do we find hope? By individually and collectively becoming aware of the a priori concepts that mostly shape our perception, sensation, decision-taking and conduct subconsciously, we gain the freedom to do things differently.
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The cultural model »Spectrum of Balance« was developed by SYNNECTA in co-creation with partners at other companies. It gives culture a language and thus people in organizations a basis for reflection and discussion. The model is descriptive and not normative. It is easy to understand and can be used in a simple and flexible way. It is available in German as well as in English, now.
At the beginning of a transformation process in an industrial company with more than 30,000 employees, the CEO emphasized: 50% of the success is due to the reorganization and the implementation of the new strategy, but 50% lies in the transformation of the corporate culture! Peter Drucker with his statement »Culture eats strategy for breakfast« sends his regards.
Now, from our point of view, it makes only little sense to set up and implement culture transformation as another change project, according to the principle: 1) analyze current culture, 2) define »to be« culture and 3) implement (s. also blog »Mission Statements in Times of hybrid Societies«). Why?
On the one hand, culture is omnipresent and manifests permanently in our feelings, thoughts and actions and thus in communication, cooperation, and leadership of organizations. On the other hand, culture is intangible, constantly in flux and its effects are often not consciously perceived by people. Much is hidden and part of the relationships. Personal perception and interpretation by individuals and social groups have an impact on experiencing the culture, too. Finally, the context plays an important role. As a result, there is neither »the« or »the right« culture for everyone in an organization, nor can culture be transformed in a mechanistical manner.
It is most appropriate to recognize and understand culture and cultural patterns by reflecting and discussing it with others. This requires words and a common language as well as possibilities to state differences. There are already many cultural models that can be used for this exercise. However, they often use a normative approach (e.g., Spiral Dynamics or the model described by F. Laloux in »Reinventing Organizations«).
Rüdiger Müngersdorff therefore designed a non-normative cultural model based on five cultural aspects or dimensions, which was elaborated in an internal SYNNECTA project group. It can be used in discussions with individuals and small groups on an ad hoc basis or in a more structured way in workshops and large-scale events. In the context of a cultural transformation process, it may serve as a basic model. It can be customized in terms of content and language as well as methods and processes. We have already gathered many positive experiences with its usage in various organizations.
In addition, we further developed the model with partners (see below) from various HR and OD departments of the Bosch Group. After several iteration loops, the »Spectrum of Balance« cultural model consists of six cultural aspects:
- Openness (aqua)
- Autonomy (yellow)
- Community (green)
- Motion (orange)
- Structure (blue)
- Energy (red)
To each aspect or dimension an aspect card give a concise description of the content and an evaluation card sketches possible expressions, how people may experience the respective aspect in a positive (healthy) or in a negative (unhealthy) way.
Furthermore, the original model includes change cards, which provide initial ideas and indications of what can be done, to strengthen a particular cultural aspect in an organization, depending on the current situation / cultural balance.
The model has been used in workshops, large scale events as well as so-called Open Office events. Therefore, different scripts are available.
Our co-creative development partners: Germán Barona (Bosch Corporate – Leadership, Learning and Organization Culture), Harald Baumann (Bosch Rexroth, Deployment Business Excellenz), Benjamin Berger (Bosch Powertrain Solutions, Divisional Business Transformation), Laura Heim (Bosch Corporate – Leadership, Learning and Organization Culture), Sybille Payer (ETAS GmbH, Personell and Organizational Development), Anna Prieschl (ETAS GmbH, Personell and Organizational Development). Photo: Paul Hanaoka by unsplash.com
The phenomenon of the crowd became the focus of theoretical thinking in the beginning of the last century. Beginning from Gustave Le Bon’s theories, Elias Canetti, Hermann Broch and Sigmund Freud were among those who addressed this new fact in politics and society. Even then, the crowd was already posited against a strong trend for individualism. Most writers on the topic are primarily concerned with crowds being directed by emotion, appearing unreasonable or even against reason. Canetti adopts a more ambivalent stance, as illustrated by this quote:
»There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown. (…) It is only in a crowd that man can become free of this fear of being touched.«
Being freed thus comes at a price: individuality and differentiation are wiped out.
The turn towards individualism was opposed by national-conservatives and later on especially by the Fascist movements. History had opened an opportunity to choose individual life designs, to live difference; that apparently roused that fear of the unknown that Canetti had addressed. When the NSDAP was elected in Germany, the liberal project of freedom was put to an end. Crowds gathering to be addressed, staged aesthetic productions visibly completed the process of de-individualization. This movement was supported by a new medium: it is unlikely to have been a coincidence that the mass medium radio was given the German name Volksempfänger – the people’s receiver.
How about now, in the early new twenties? A message to facebook, instagram or any other social network – a friendly automated answer: »thanks for sharing«. Whatever you may have individually or specifically said or wanted is irrelevant, your individual voice doesn’t count. The network won’t pay attention until you are part of a socially, economically or politically relevant cohort. The network won’t notice you, it will only notice the forming crowd. That is when it reacts: you are not there, you are only of interest as part of the crowd.
In contrast to their propaganda that social media provide a space for the expression of each individual, they are where we see the very opposite: a process of de-individualization. Only the crowd and its staged production is of relevance. Digitalization has become the tool of a development that endangers the hard path Europe walked to win individual freedom; it lets humans become a manipulatable crowd again. Like during the early decades of the last century, there is an opposition to the trend of a liberal, individualist outlook that is especially prevalent in the metropolitan regions, and this opposition is supported or even enabled by the technological potential of digitalization and social networks.
The system of social networks, whose community standards are guided mostly by conservative, evangelical and American »values«, is supported by a large network of informants. Posts abound with calls to report something or other that might contravene standards, which incidentally are quite vague. There is a depressing parallel to the block warden snooping in German cities and communities during the Nazi era. Back then, these standards were termed »good manners« or even »the people’s will«.
In the midst of this development, the naturally splintered, liberal and individualistically guided forces are helpless, for how can individualism be formed into a relevant crowd? In the democratic primaries, the more liberal candidates are not defeated by the crowd of right-wing conservatives, but are thwarted by their own voters, unable as they are to cover every single one of the highly diverse concerns.
The new twenties will be facing the task of teaching digitalization to do individualism, and it will be a great challenge to join together as a liberal community of individuals, finding a way out of a process of self-destruction.
Photo: Davide Ragusa by unsplash.com