3.6 Looking to the North: A Leader’s Role
EGL Newsletter Volume 3.6
Continuing in our series on Understanding Organization, we will start our walk around the organization wheel in the north. In using the Organization Wheel, we start our journey in the north. Again, the Organization Wheel is built on the Medicine Wheel, our first peoples’ mandala of ancient wisdom.
According to the Medicine Wheel, the north represented age, and with that age, wisdom in the form of timeless knowings. The animal of the north was the white buffalo, and the north was associated with purity and renewal and was viewed as a place from which to draw physical strength. Warrior energy was drawn from the north.
Transformational leaders are the spirit warriors of today’s world. They seek to take on the tough issues, to look for the new lands and the new frontiers, and to enlist others to do the same. They constantly transform themselves, and in so doing, transform the organization around them. To do so, they start in the North.
For our corporate shamen, the north represents the overall available collective wisdom of the leaders and the visionaries of the organization. Within that, we represent the power of a vision and mission. This signifies our overall knowing of “why we are here” and “what it is that we are to do together”.
A bit more explanation on the Organization Wheel. There are two elements in the north. One is Alignment with the Environment and the other is Clarity of Purpose.
Alignment With The Environment – This element focuses on the wants, values, and quality criteria of the organization’s major stakeholders. The organization’s competitive position and the quality of its relationships and transactions with the major stakeholders. The dynamics and future trends in the environment and the implications of those trends for the organization (its strategic drivers).
Clarity of Purpose – This element includes the organization’s defining values, core mission and vision for the future. Its strategic intent in relation to the strategic drivers in its environment and the critical success factors for achieving that intent. Its strategies and plans for achieving its goals, and the qualities of its core products in relation to those strategies and plans.
These are separate, but absolutely interdependent aspects. They are shown with a line to other quadrants, indicating their secondary interdependency. For Alignment with the Environment, the line extends to the west into Reflection, while Clarity of Purpose extends to the east into Systems. We will talk more about that, but just know that an organization is a system. When you make changes in one area, you will immediately begin to experience a push-pull between these dynamic areas. As a leader, it is your role to recognize this and then use the subsequent exchange of energy for constructive purposes.
In each of the areas, we use the art of meaningful questions through dialogue processes with committed members to create shared meaning. In the north, the questioning process can look like this.
About the stakeholders in your environment
Who are your principle direct investors, customers, suppliers and outside regulators of your organization’s core processes?
What do they expect from you and what do they value that leads them to have these expectations? (The latter half of this question leads to insights into why they want what they say they need, and opens possibilities for meeting their more fundamental requirements in better ways.)
What do you want from them and what do you value that leads you to want these things?
What is the quality of your transactions and working relations with these principle stakeholders?
What is your present and historical performance in meeting their expectations?
About your organization’s sense of purpose
What is the mission and vision of excellence for this organization?
What core values (business, process and quality of work life) are represented in your vision?
What are the critical success factors for accomplishing your mission and realizing your vision?
How well are these things understood across your organization, and how influential are they in guiding the day-to-day actions of your people.
About the dynamics and trends in your environment
What dynamics and trends in the environment may be important to understand and track given your sense of purpose?
Which of these do you believe to be the really significant “strategic drivers” in your environment?
Does this change what you just identified as your critical success factors? How?
About your strategies and plans
What are your strategies and business plans for living up to the critical success factors you have identified?
How well are these understood across your organization, and how influential are they in guiding the day-to-day actions of your people?
What is your present and historical performance in meeting your objectives?
Summarizing misalignments and gaps
What misalignments, gaps or unknowns exist regarding your intentions and the demands of your environment?
What are the highest priorities to address given your understanding of the strategic drivers in your environment, and your critical success factors?
Are you facing systems improvement or fundamental renewal?
The last thing about this, is that as a leader, this is NOT the time to fix these. Seems interesting, but most of us who have been successful in organizations have well-honed skills as problem-solvers, and this is when those really kick in. As a leader, your job is to build the energy and commitment within the organization to move in a constructive fashion.
Your job here is to get clear and to get into alignment as a leadership force as much as possible around these issues. Then, you recognize that your leadership group represents a microcosm of the organization and is simply a sample of the overall level of alignment or misalignment in the larger system. Your role is then to carry that dialogue back to the organization to spread that wisdom and renewal through the entire system. Then, you will begin to truly feel the drive for change from the rest of the system and will be time to take a walk to the east. More to come…