Collaborative Change

“The only thing of real importance that people in business do is to create and manage culture.”

~ Edgar Schein (adapted)

If we believe in the Myth of Leadership, we may leave it up to “the leaders” to lead change. In collaborative organisations, where leadership is more distributed and diffuse, this can be a recipe for frustration, inaction and diffusion of effort.

For some clues on how to procede with collaborative change, how about we take a look at Schein’s culture change actions though the lens of fellowship:

Primary Actions


To what issues, and topics do we wish to pay our (limited) attention? What do we believe is most important? The present or the future? The business or the people? Revenues or growth? The exclusive needs of customers, shareholders, executives or employers, or some balance? The way the work works, or getting work done? Joy or wages? And etc. A collaborative organisation that does not pay attention to where it’s focussing its attention will find itself uselessly spinning its wheels.

Further, what are the limits to our seeing? How can we expand our horizons such that we begin to see things hitherto invisible and unknown to us?

“We do not think and talk about what we see; we see what we are able to think and talk about.”

~ Schein

Reactions To Crises

In times of crisis, how do we react? Do we hunker down and each look after ourselves, or do we rally round and look after each other? What do our reactions tell us about who we are? Is that who we aspire to be?

Role Modelling

People listen to others, and more significantly, carefully watch what they do. In any mismatch between someone’s words and their deeds, the actions generally say more than the words. “Actions speak louder…”.

People also tend to assume that the behaviours they commonly see in others are the accepted way to behave, and thus tend to conform to those behaviours. Are those the kinds of behaviours helpful? Will they lead towards the future we seek?

Allocation Of Rewards

When we’re trying to encourage collaboration, rewarding individuals might seem… discongruent?

Inclusion And Exclusion

Inclusion and exclusion – of people into or from working groups, teams, tasks, etc. – is critical for choosing who does what, and also often seen as a form of reward or punishment. Collaborative groups who lose sight of the kinds of changes they’re jointly trying to effect, and of the kinds of behaviours they’re jointly wanting to strengthen, often forget about the far-reaching implications of inclusion and exclusion decisions.

Secondary Actions

Design Of Organisational Structure

Conway’s Law (as applied to organisational systems) echoes the more familiar ‘function follows form’, and ‘first we create our organisations and then they create us’. The “shape” of our organization will have a subtle effect on how we operate. Organisations seeking to become more collaborative benefit from structure(s) which encourage and enable that collaboration.

Design Of Systems and Procedures

The systems, policies, processes and procedures by which an organisation is run have a wide effect on how people think. Such systems include budgeting, information systems, performance reviews and people-development activities. Deliberate design of these can ensure alignment with collaboration objectives.

Design Of Facilities

The layout of offices, meeting rooms, etc. often reflects subconsciously the values of an organization, both in terms of who sits near whom, and also in the differentiation in benefits that individuals are given. Effective collaboration does not necessarily require strict equality, but have you thought about the implications of these things?

Stories, Legends and Myths

The stories that people tell and re-tell in organisations typically reflect the values and beliefs of the culture. Hence, changing the stories will tend to change the culture. This is particularly powerful as it is spread at the individual level and hence has grass-roots support and credibility. How we choose to describe our histories and events have a profound effect on the emergence of a particular kind of culture. Creating and telling stories together, explicitly, can help us build the kind of collaborative culture we seek.

Formal statements

Formal statements by “the organisation”, although not always as credible as grass-roots whisperings, are the public face of the organisation – both internally and externally. Who gets to write and present these statements? Some individual(s) – or a group/groups?

– Bob

The Antimatter Model


For me, the power of any model lies in its predictive ability – that’s to say, in its ability to help us predict what might happen when we intervene in the domains, or systems, to which it applies.

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

~ George Box

For example, the Dreyfus Model helps us predict the impact and outcomes of training initiatives and interventions; the Marshall Model helps us predict the outcomes of our organisational change efforts and interventions.

The Antimatter Principle

The Antimatter Principle is a principle, not a model.

Principle: a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning.”

The Antimatter Principle proposes a single course of action (namely, attending to folks’ needs) is sufficient as a means to create a climate – or environment – that will lead to groups, teams and entire organisations becoming more effective at collaborative knowledge work.

The Antimatter Transformation Model

Confusingly perhaps (and my apologies for that) I wrote recently about the Antimatter Transformation Model. I’m rueing my calling it a model at all now, seeing as how it seems ill-suited to be labelled as such (having no real predictive element). Let’s set that aside and get on…

The Antimatter Model

In this post I present the Antimatter Model. This model serves to improve our understanding of how the Antimatter Principle works, to help share that understanding with others, and to allow us to predict the outcomes from applying the Antimatter Principle within e.g. collaborative knowledge work organisations.

Virtuous Spirals

The Antimatter Principle basically proposes a collection of positive feedback loops, akin to Peter Senge’s “Virtuous Spiral” systems archetype.

Virtuous Spiral 1

As people attend to others’ needs, they find joy in doing so. This is a typical human response to helping others, being part of our innate nature as social animals (cf Lieberman). This feeling of joy tends to encourage these same people to invest more effort into attending to others’ needs, increasing both the frequency and reach of such activities. And by doing it more often, they are likely to become more practiced, and thus more capable (skilful).

Virtuous Spiral 2

As those other folks see their needs attended to, they will likely feel an increased sense of wellbeing. Not least because they sense people, and the “organisation” more generally, cares for them. This is compounded by a further increase in their sensation of wellbeing as they see their needs actually met. This increased sense of wellbeing also contributes to an increased sense of community, and positive feeling about their social relationships – another key driver for us human social animals.

Virtuous Spiral 3

And as these other folks feel their wellbeing and social connections improve, our strong and innate sense of fairness raises individual cognitive dissonance levels, such that some might choose to reciprocate and attend to the needs of others, in turn. In other words, folks sense they are on the receiving end of something beneficial, and find themselves wishing to see others similarly blessed. And with the Antimatter Principle, they are automatically well-placed to act on this social imperative.

Virtuous Spiral 4

Further, the same sense of dissonance may encourage people to attend more closely, perhaps for the first time, to their own needs.

And the Bottom Line

And, finally, beyond the dynamics of the Virtuous Spirals improving the climate/environment of the workplace and organisation, actually meeting folks’ needs (customers, managers, shareholders, employees, wider society) with effective products and services is what successful business is all about.

Predicted Outcomes

The Antimatter Model predicts the following beneficial outcomes

  • Folks discovering pleasure and delight in seeing others’ needs met – we often call this sensation “joy”.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships and social cohesion – we often call this “community”.
  • Improved self-knowledge and self-image.
  • Reduced distress.
  • Increased eustress.
  • A progressively more and more effective organisation, business or company.
  • Reducing levels of waste and increasing flow of value (i.e. needs being met).
  • Increasing throughput (revenues), reducing costs and improving profits (trends).


I have yet to write about the risks implicit in the Antimatter Model. These include:

  • Sentimentality
  • Indifference
  • Posturing
  • Hubris
  • Jealousy
  • Vigilantism

I will be writing about these risks – and ways to mitigate them – in a future post.


As folks start to attend to folks’ needs, social cohesion and the sense of community rises, folks find joy in attending to others’ needs – and in seeing others’ needs attended-to. Those actively and joyfully engaged want to do more, and those not (yet) actively engaged become curious and then, often, keen to participate themselves. Thus more people choose to engage, more needs get met, social relationships improve, and yet more folks may choose to participate. And so on.

And all the while, the needs of all involved – including those of the business – are getting better and better (more effectively) met, too.

– Bob

Further Reading

Social: How Our Brains Are Wired To Connect – Matthew Lieberman
The Neuroscience of Human Relationships ~ Louis Cozolino
Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread ~ Alex Pentland

The Agile Enterprise Is A Thing But Not THE Thing


A Thing

Many proponents of Agile in the field of software development suggest that the whole enterprise (company, firm, organisation, business) could benefit from adopting Agile – i.e. the principles set out in the Agile Manifesto – across the board. I suspect that most of these proponents have little to no clue about the realities of running a business.

For sure, the idea of a whole business – including e.g. Sales, Legal, HR, Finance, and more again – becoming “agile” sounds attractive. The fourth item of the Agile Manifesto seems most relevant here:

“[We have come to value] Responding to change over following a plan.”

In today’s business climate, who would not wish for a business that could better respond to the vicissitudes of the market, technology and people? That could better adapt its plans in the face of change? That could duck, dive and spin on a dime to keep in the “sweet spot” of maximum customer satisfaction, sales, revenues, costs, quality and profits?

Agility with a small “a” – and the agile enterprise – that’s a thing.

THE Thing

Few indeed are the Agile adoptions – even in the limited confines of the software development business unit – that succeed in a sustainable way. Jeff Sutherland, one of the originators of Scrum, suggests that less than 25% of Scrum adoptions succeed, longer term.

Aside: I use the term “succeed” here to mean “realise the benefits or beneficial outcomes that people were seeking”.

To understand why the Agile Enterprise is not THE thing, we might do well to understand the implications of adopting e.g. Agile principles.

I have written much about this here in this blog, but to sum up:

Successfully and sustainably adopting Agile ways of working means adopting Agile ways of thinking and being – ways diametrically at odds with the ways of thinking and being typically seen in most organisations.

I describe those ways of thinking and being – ways congruent with Agile – as “Synergistic”, and those ways typical of most organisations as “Analytic”.

These two ways of thinking and being CANNOT exist for long in the same organisation. Sooner or later (with a half-life of circa nine months) something has to give. Most often, it’s the Agile ways of thinking and being that have to go, not least because those who hold the whip hand (shareholders, senior management, the Core Group) cleave so firmly to the Analytic mindset.

Synergism – that’s THE thing.


Whilst Agile hints coquettishly at the Synergistic, Agile memes comprise a very small subset of the Synergistic memeplex. For example, Synergism as a memeplex (a.k.a. mindsetcontains many memes concerning people and their relationships with each other, memes barely hinted at in the Agile memes.

The Synergistic Enterprise

So when we see the advantages of Agile and wish to see those advantages conferred on our long-suffering businesses (and shared with their long-suffering people) we may leap to labelling that “the Agile Enterprise”, but in fact we’re really talking and thinking about something else – the Synergistic Enterprise.

Why does what we call it matter at all? Well, for me it matters because attempting an Agile adoption across the Enterprise, couched in those terms, is bound to fail. Whereas, if we understand what we’re actually trying to achieve – a wholesale adoption of the Synergistic mindset – we may just have a chance of pulling it off.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rightshifting Transitions (Part 2 – Analytic to Synergistic) ~ FlowchainSensei

Do Something

People sometimes ask me why my blog is so negative. I don’t accept that criticism. I always take pains to offer a more effective alternative to whatever’s irking me. But I can see how some folks might take my posts that way.

If there is any doom or gloom it’s because I’d really like to see folks wasting rather less of their time, and potential, at work. Despite an internet full of advice on how to do things that little bit better, there’s one grossly unpalatable truth: Incremental improvement is essentially a huge waste of everyone’s time. My chagrin arises from knowing that, yet being seemingly unable to perceptibly move the needle through anything I write or do. Some call this the Cassandra Metaphor. I guess that frustration comes across from time to time.

Knowing What To Do

Tobias wrote a post today which I found both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring because I share his viewpoint that individuals can make a difference. That it’s down to us. And depressing because it said nothing about how.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

~ W Edwards Deming

Don’t JUST Do Something

So until you know what to do – and my Cassandra-spidey-senses are telling me you’re not going to be believing me on that – may I offer the same advice that some attribute to Taiichi Ohno on speaking to so many of his managers:

“Don’t just do something, stand there!”

~ Taiichi Ohno

Stand there (in Ohno’s case it was a chalked square on the factory floor), and mindfully observe what is happening. For as long as it takes to come to an understanding of what is happening and why, and what needs to change. Not an understanding of every single thing, of course. That could take a life time. Believe me on that, at least. I can vouch.

But at least for as long as it takes to come to some understanding of some piece, some fragment, of the big picture. Then do something. Although I’d call that mindful observing “doing something”, too. Inspect (and experiment) and adapt. Repeat.

What I Know

I know that significant change, change where all our lives will be more joyful and meaningfully spent, absolutely necessitates a shift in our collective beliefs. By all means start with yourself. Indeed, where else could we start?

But the task at hand is to shift – Rightshift – everyone’s belief system. Doing that locally, with a person or team or group, is only storing up problems. Organisational Cognitive Dissonance will do for us every time.

Even doing it for a whole organisation, cross-organisalonal value chain or industry is ultimately doomed. Reversion to the mean will do for us at the larger scale. Unless and until we shift that mean.

Mankind Is Our Real Work

Ultimately. the collective beliefs of Mankind is our real work. That may seem like boiling the ocean for a cup of tea. Especially if all you want is e.g. to have the chance to write some cooler code.

And how can we change the beliefs systems of others, anyhow? I choose to do so by example. And by sharing what I see, and how I feel about those things. This may not perceptibly move the needle. But I have faith it’s making some difference. How about you? Would you like to make some difference?

We want, need, a better life at work and I’m saying the only way is to understand what’s going on with the Universe and live a better life as an example to Mankind and hope it all works out? Sorry if you thought it was going to be easy. At least we’re in good company. The Buddha, not least.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~ Margaret Mead

– Bob


The Antimatter Transformation Model


Lean bugs me. For no other reason than its blindness to the social sciences. Yes, Toyota and Lean proponents pay lip service to the “Respect For People” principle supposedly at the heart of Lean. But how often does this actually happen in any meaningful way?  And I have issues with the idea of “respect” in any case. I much prefer the idea of empathy to respect.


Maybe ignorance of psychology is not seen as an issue in the world of manufacturing. But I’d suggest application of psychology seems quite relevant in e.g. software development, and in the knowledge-work space more generally. Seeing as how knowledge work, and in particular collaborative knowledge work, involves, you know, people – and relationships.

It beats me why so many folks have this blind spot to applying 100+ years of psychology research to the thorny questions of making our efforts at knowledge work more effective. Not to mention more rewarding. And more joyful.

This is one of my key issues with the whole Lean thing. Its blithe disregard for applying know-how from psychology, sociology and other related disciplines. I’m guessing that disregard comes about not least because Lean implementations are most often left to the auspices of engineers. Folks who inevitably tend to see the world, and the organisation, in terms of a machine metaphor. And people, mainly, as cogs in that machine.

Lean Is A Busted Flush

I’m with John Seddon and his assertion that “Lean is a busted flush”. (Seddon & O’Donovan, 2015)

To illustrate my case, how about we take a look at one of the central planks of the Lean approach, the Lean House:


And specifically, John Shook’s Lean Transformation Model


Here’s the five elements of John Shook’s Lean Transformation Model:

  1. What is the purpose of the change–what true north and value are we providing, or simply: what problem are we trying to solve?
  2. How are we improving the actual work?
  3. How are we building capability?
  4. What leadership behaviors and management systems are required to support this new way of working?
  5. What basic thinking, mindset, or assumptions comprise the existing culture, and are we driving this transformation?

The Antimatter Alternative

I offer by way of contrast the Antimatter “Bear sitting under a tree” Transformation Model. Here’s a Chinese pictogram which represent the idea of human relations. I like to see it as a bear – wearing an asian conical hat or dǒulì (斗笠) – sitting taking shade under a tree.

Basic Lun
The Chinese pronounce this symbol as Lún (Hanyu Pinyin). Which means, amongst other things, “Human relations”. I like the image for its organic connotations (bear, tree), compared with the stark, mechanical, engineered “Lean House”. And for the relationship between the bear and the tree – both living things. And for evoking the idea of planting a tree under which future generations might take shade.

“A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

~ Greek proverb

The basis of the Antimatter Transformation Model is the application of aspects of psychology and sociology to the challenges of making our organisations more effective, more (emotionally) rewarding places. And more joyful places. These being entirely complementary aims. The Bear-under-a-tree Model consists of five questions:

  1. What would we all like to have happen?
  2. How do we all feel about the way the work works, now and in the future?
  3. What are our needs, collectively and individually?
  4. In what ways do we all relate to each other presently, and would other ways of relating better help meet our needs?
  5. What do we believe about the nature and purpose of work, generally, and would other beliefs serve us better?

In Detail

Let’s take a look at each of the five questions in a little more detail:

Lun-31. What would we all like to have happen?

In Synergistic organisations, everyone is more or less on the same page with regard to what we’d like to have happen. This shared, common purpose provides the crucible within which productive dialogue can take place, and meaningful relationships can be created and developed. And let’s not talk about problems we have, but rather the way we would like things to be. Maybe some Solutions Focus perspective can come into play here – looking at what’s working well already, that we’d like to see more of.

Lun-42. How do we all feel about the way the work works, now and in the future?

What if we encourage folks to explore and share their feelings? With a safe environment where people feel comfortable and happy to do that. Positive feelings highlight needs that are already being met (and that we’d like to keep right on meeting), while negative feelings point to folks’ needs, often unrealised, that we’d like to start attending to.


Lun-53. What are our needs, collectively and individually?

Discussions around feelings lead naturally into discussions around people and their needs. Here also we admit the needs of the organisation itself. When we’ve an honest view on the needs people have, we can use these needs to guide the work we have to do. There’s not much point spending time and effort on meeting needs that no one has, or on needs that are already being well-met.



Lun-24. In what ways do we all relate to each other presently, and would other ways of relating better help meet our needs?

In collaborative knowledge work, the most significant factor is how folks relate to each other. The canopy of our tree provides the shade in which we can kick back and take the time to build these personal relationships. We might also like to ask ourselves whether our present ways of relating to each other complement or undermine the things we’ve decided we’d like to have happen.

Lun-15. What do we believe about the nature and purpose of work, generally, and would other beliefs serve us better?

The trunk of our tree acts to support the way folks relate to each other, and also as a prop to 1-3 (the bear leaning against the trunk). This is the collective set of assumptions, beliefs and memes (a.k.a. memeplex) held in common across the organisation. These beliefs can either  contribute to, or detract from, the things we’ve decided we’d like to have happen.


Designed For Adoption

The Antimatter Transformation Model is not a prescriptive implementation approach, but rather a set of fundamental questions which, if considered and discussed amongst all involved, in the form of an ongoing dialogue or series of conversations, can lead to a fundamental transformation of thinking, and thereby, of organisational culture.

It is not a value-driven approach, but rather a needs-driven approach. Needs always trump value. It makes no assumptions about the efficacy of process, management, or any other concepts in common currency in organisations today. (I call these baggage).

More fundamentally, it builds on research from a range of social sciences, in the belief that this offers an approach much better suited to successful adoption by us fallible, fragile, vulnerable, flaky, human beings.


By working through these questions, any organisation can examine its fundamental assumptions and concepts, maybe for the first time ever. Whatever comes out of this collective self-examination will be a context-dependent outcome closely suited to the needs of all the folks involved.

Finally, I leave you with a couple of Chinese proverbs which resonate with me and with the Antimatter Transformation Model:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

~ Chinese Proverb

“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

~ Chinese Proverb

– Bob



Rightshifting the HiveMind


This is the first in what may become a series of posts charting the Rightshifting journey of the HiveMind Network.

I’m feeling somewhat uneasy about the idea of embarking on such a rightshifting journey. Personally, I prefer to travel in company rather than alone, and I prefer to enjoy the journey rather than look forward to a destination. Will fellow travellers emerge? Will they also find more joy in the travelling than in anticipating an arrival? I guess we shall see.

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Early Days

I know relatively few of the circa two hundred HiveMinders in person, and I have as yet had very few conversations with anybody about what their needs might be. So I’m uncertain as to the appetite for seeing HiveMind rightshift, and indeed the degree to which folks might want to get involved in that.

I’m guessing there’s a wide variety of degrees of interest in getting involved:


NB. I’d place myself in the rightmost decile, here.

Still, I feel upbeat about asking the questions, and at the very least it might afford me an opportunity to make some meaningful connections with fellow (sic) HiveMinders. I suspect that, at least, will not be too unwelcome or burdensome.

Rightshifting the Consulting Game

For the benefit of any HiveMind folks that might read this post, I’ll just set out the core Rightshifting proposition, and place it in the context of all consulting firms. Here’s what I suppose to be the distribution of consulting businesses (red curve) overlaid against the global distribution of knowledge-work businesses (blue curve) and set along a horizontal scale of organisational effectiveness:


This illustrates that, unsurprisingly, the distribution of consultancies pretty much tracks the distribution of their markets. To see why this might be, here’s the Marshall Model overlaid on the above chart:


This (matched) distribution of consulting firms is predicated on the assumption that to win business, a consultancy must demonstrate an understanding of the collective mindset of its customers and potential customers. How likely is it, for example, that an Analytic-minded client would seek help from an Adhoc-minded or Synergistic-minded consultancy? Where would be the necessary credibility? A consultant or consulting firm might be able to paper over the mismatch for a while, but given their advice would be coming from a different place (a different worldview), I suggest it would not take long for the client to wake up to, and become increasingly unhappy with, the mismatch. (See: Organisational Cognitive Dissonance).

This all raises a number of questions about where HiveMinders might want or need the HiveMind Network to be, on the above chart. In other words – how effective? Near the peak of the blue curve, for maximum sales opportunities (albeit to Analytic-minded client organisations)? Or somewhere further to the right, where the opportunities are fewer, but the client organisations are more in tune with what the HiveMind Network has to offer, and the experience of working with such clients more “sweet”?

What Do We Believe?

As a loose affiliation of more or less independent “experts”, from a wide range of domains, I wonder if there is (yet) any “collective mindset” as such in the HiveMind Network? Maybe such a collective mindset has not coalesced as yet. Or maybe there are a number of more or less disjoint nodes, perhaps reflecting the social and geographic distribution of the “network”, each node with its own distinct collective mindset (a.k.a. collective psyches; memeplexes; sets of shared assumptions or systematic patterns of thought about the nature of work).

The name HiveMind does at least lend itself to considerations of collective mindset. At this stage I’m wondering what sets of assumptions folks hold – both about the nature of work in general, and the way HiveMind should work, in particular. Will folks be willing to air and examine these sets of assumptions? Would that serve as a place to start?

Shared Purpose

And let’s not overlook the question of shared, common purpose. Quoting from the HiveMind Constitution:

“HiveMind’s purpose is to find, channel and reward the experience, intellect, ability, passion and creativity of the smartest business and technology experts from around the globe, and in so doing help our clients and each other to prosper in the modern digitally connected world of technology enabled business.”

Personally, that doesn’t grab me at all as something I can get behind and live every day. Conversely, I find the informal purpose I have heard to be very compelling, and close to my own needs, and heart. Something like:

“To have a better experience of and at work.”

I guess you know that as a Rightshifter I can so get behind that.

Stepping Out

So I begin this journey as a sole traveller. And I invite folks to come wander – and wonder – with me. Do you need to see HiveMind get better and better? To serve its clients better and better? To provide a better and better experience to all who come into contact? What does “better and better” mean for you?

And would you be willing to get involved in any way? Would you be willing to get in touch for a chat, or to mention this to others who just might be willing, too?

How about we take a stroll out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing? To that field. Maybe you know it? I’ll meet you there.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

– Bob

Further Reading

Joy, Inc. ~ Richard Sheridan
Creativity, Inc. ~ Ed Catmul
Maverick! ~ Ricardo Semler
Open Minds ~ Andy Law

Head, Heart And Soul

How many organisations have you come across with a heart? And with a soul? Personally, it’s been precious few. Yet for those rare encounters, it’s a palpable joy, isn’t it? Precious indeed.

I’ve been writing about Rightshifting and the Marshall Model since circa 2008. In that time I’ve explained how to bring about awesomely effective organisations. Organisations where it’s joy to come to work, and with whom it’s a joy to come into contact.

Explaining the Model

I’ve often felt that people don’t really get the model, and attribute that to my explanations coming up short with respect to their needs. Put another way, I’ve tried to describe the model logically and rationally. Perhaps that has helped some, but I’m always looking for other ways, other metaphors.

Hence: Head, Heart and Soul.

The Marshall Model posits four distinct mindsets, or memeplexes, for organisations. In order of increasing effectiveness: Ad-hoc, Analytic, Synergistic and Chaordic. Let’s leave aside the ad-hoc mindset for this post.

Let’s focus on the three relatively more effective organisational mindsets: Analytic, Synergistic and Chaordic.

Causation Not Just Correlation

The Marshall Model not only describes the observable correlation between organisational effectiveness and organisational mindset. It also claims a causation – that any given organisation’s effectiveness is a direct function of its collective mindset. Of the specific memes that comprise its current memeplex.


When I look at organisations, I see many – those of the Analytic mindset – acting from the Head. Analysing, thinking, intellectualising, rationalising, using logic. Maybe it’s because us humans are spectacularly poor at this stuff (cf. Kahneman, Ariely, etc.) that the Analytic mindset is the least effective of the three we’re considering here. Oh yes, it can get the job done, just about, but at what cost to the people involved, to wider society, and to the planet? Not to mention the bottom line (that’s an appeal to the head).


More rarely, I see organisations acting from the Heart. Where people are regarded as valuable precisely because of their individuality and humanity. Where the organisation, it’s structure and rituals are geared, more or less, to creating a joyful experience for all concerned. Marshall Rosenberg might call this a Giraffe organisation. An organisation where empathy and compassion come before intellect and logic. I see it as no mere coincidence that these heartful organisations share the Synergistic mindset. Causation, indeed.


Rarer again, are organisations with a Soul. I have seen maybe one or two examples in my whole career. How does a soulful organisation differ from its (less effective) heartful cousins? I see heartful organisations focussing on people, on joyful relationships, and on compassion. Soulful organisations (those with a Chaordic mindset) remain joyful, compassionate, and empathetic. But they add something else. A sense of their place in all things. Chaordic organisations transcend a static purpose, and seek to become. To become all that they can be. To find their connection with all things. To develop an understanding of their place in the Universe. If that sounds bizarre, alien, laughable, worrying, nonsensical, spiritual, then so be it. Chaordic organisations are all those things. And so far removed from common mental models of what organisations should be like as to be rationally, intellectually and logically ineffable.

– Bob

Further Reading

Spiritual Basis of Nonviolent Communication ~ CNVC article


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