Rightshifting Transitions (Part 1)

Rightshifting Transitions (Part 1)

[From the Archive: Originally posted at Amplify.com Mar 2, 2011]

The Essence of the Three Rightshifting Transitions

Part 1 – Ad-hoc to Analytic

The Marshall Model proposes that there are three fundamental transitions that any business will encounter on its rightshifting journey (i.e. the journey to significantly improved organisational effectiveness).

Encountering these transitions is inevitable, although businesses generally do not recognise a transition when they (most often, unwittingly) bump into it. And given the low probability of making a successful transition, any one business may repeatedly bump into the same transition some number of times.

The first transition, and the one we’ll discuss here today, is that from the Ad-hoc mindset to the Analytic mindset.

Ad-hoc to Analytic

Few businesses, when starting out, recognise the need for – and value of – discipline. And even those that do recognise this need will, at their outset, likely have few disciplines in place. New and successful ad-hoc businesses can grow for some months or even years before they get to the point where the folks in charge decide that “things just can’t go on any more being as disorganised as they have been”.

At this point the business begins to tinker with introducing some management structure, methods, controls, policies, procedures, oversight, etc, and thus begins the transition towards the Analytic mindset.

For those people in the business who have been used to making things up as they go along – and equally, not used to being held accountable, nor to following processes, conforming to standards, and so on – these changes can be very traumatic. Some of these folks may grudgingly adapt, others may quit, and some may even be required to leave (i.e. fired).

If the transition is successful (and many are not), the business finds itself with a markedly different view of the world of work, where management hierarchy, budgets, meetings, lines of reporting and so on replace the previous free-for-all. It’s almost always less fun, but at least it’s generally a little more effective than continuing in the the near-chaos of the Ad-hoc mindset. Customers are probably a little happier, and growing the business becomes a little more tolerable and predictable once more.

Thus the successful Ad-hoc to Analytic transition educates a business (retrospectively, for the most part) as to the value of discipline. Of course, some things are also lost along the way, most notably in my view, any kind of humanity and respect for the individual.

Next time we’ll take a look at the second transition: from the Analytic mindset to the Synergistic mindset.

– Bob

  1. I wonder if right-shifting isn’t analogous to the way our human relationships work. I.e. Starting a relationship can be chaotic and there isn’t much structure to it (i.e. reading other’s emotions can be confusing and difficult, trust is lacking, etc.). As the company grows, there is some trust among the employees, but not much and so the company puts some hierarchical structures in place. etc.

    Eventually, in the chaordic space, what appears to be chaos, is actually a well oiled machine of like minded, trusting, individuals.

    My question is, could a company ever move from ad-hoc to chaordic and skip a level in between because something increased their trust in one another (e.g. they took a vacation together and learned to fight / communicate well)?

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Each transition will typically follow the Satir J-curve. William Bridges also makes this observation in e.g. “Managing Transitions”.

      Patrick Lencioni explains the pivotal role of trust in e.g. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.

      I’m reluctant to use the metaphor of “well-oiled machine” as the mechanistic view is very congruent with the Analytic mindset, and thus a metaphor for relatively ineffective organisations. I see synergistic (and chaordic) organisations as much more like complex organisms; plants, animals, etc. Learning, growing, self-healing, adapting – all things that machines just can’t do.

      Many folks ask me the question you pose:

      Each transition teaches an essential “lesson” to the organisations successfully making the transition:

      Ad-hoc to Analytic teaches the value of discipline – absent in ad-hoc organisations and essential for increased effectiveness.

      Analytic to Synergistic teaches the value of shared, common purpose.

      And Synergistic to Chaordic teaches the value of positive, intentional opportunism (being oriented and prepared to spot and exploit each new opportunity as it happens).

      So, absent any other means for learning these lessons, I don’t see “skipping” a stage as being very likely or possible. Better to start out at e.g. Synergistic, or at least dwell in the Ad-hoc and Analytic mindsets for as short a time a possible.


      – Bob

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