You may have noticed that I write regularly about the different mindsets that explain the relative effectiveness of the organisations we work for and with. Things like Theory-X (strong in the Ad-hoc and Analytic mindsets) vs Theory-Y (Synergistic and Chaordic mindsets), and organisations-as-machines vs organisations as social/biological/complex adaptive systems.
One difference I have not touched on much is the part that emergence has to play in the effective organisation.
“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”
~ John Gall
Does Your Organisation Embrace or Ignore Gall’s Law?
Ad-hoc and Analytic minded organisations generally believe that systems are best designed, up front, with acts of conscious will and intent. Be they organisational structure, policies, products or a myriad of other systems upon which an organisation depends.
Synergistic organisations learn, by degrees, that John Gall nailed it – complex systems that work require evolution from simple systems that work. For effective (working) organisations, we need to embrace emergence. We need to allow our systems – and our thinking – to evolve to the point where emergence is working for us. This is hard.
Emergence seems messy. Allowing things to take their own course is hard for folks who seek certainty and control as means to getting their needs met. It can often feel like a crowd of people trampling over your nice, neat, manicured lawns. But the properties of beauty and simplicity can emerge more or less unbidden, too.
Whilst we opposed emergence, we lock ourselves into relatively ineffective ways of thinking, and thus, of working. Only when we embrace and encourage emergence, do we open the door to more effective ways of thinking and working.
One of the fundamental guiding principles of FlowChain is to encourage emergence:
- Emergence of products
- Emergence of teams
- Emergence of methods (“the way the work works”)
- Emergence of systems
- Emergence of priorities
- Emergence of flow
- Emergence of needs (and e.g. stakeholders)
- Emergence of purpose (the “why”)
- Emergence of ideas (i.e. creativity)
Would you be willing to consider, and share, where your organisation is at regarding the role of emergence?
“My ideas have undergone a process of emergence by emergency. When they are needed badly enough, they are accepted.”
~ R. Buckminster Fuller