3.7 Looking to the South: A Leader’s Role


    EGL Newsletter Volume 3.7

    Continuing in our series on Understanding Organization, we started our walk around the organization wheel in the north, the place of organization wisdom. Our last stop was in the east, the place of how the organization works. From there we continued our journey to the east.

    According to the Medicine Wheel, the south represented youthful energy. The animal of the north was the coyote, and the south was associated with love, growth, and trust. The south, the place of the home fire, represented the safety and enthusiasm of the home fires.

    Here is where our spirit warrior leaders begin to look into the hearts and souls of the organization. Here is where they find the overall culture and the aspirations of the people who live in this organization. They use the south to engage the organization.

    For our corporate shamen, the south represents the real internals of the organization. You can think of this as the home fires of the system. Here is where people live out their values in how they interact with each other, the places they create, and the skills they practice each day. When looking at the dynamics of the wheel, this is where the “current state” of your organization resides, and it looks across the wheel to the north to where the vision and mission lives. There is an inherent tension built into the wheel that represents the literal tension in organizations between overall direction and the day-to-day of “how things are done around here”.

    There are two elements in the south. One is The People and the other is Enabling Support Systems. You can think about this part of the wheel as focusing on where “people live” inside the organization.

    The People – This element includes beliefs, attitudes and values of those who populate the Human System. Their knowledge, skills, and capabilities. Their culture, personalities and diversity. Their career expectations. Their quality of work life expectations. Their support needs.

    The Enabling Support Systems – This element contains the organization’s technical and human process support systems. Information systems. Maintenance and supply systems. Systems for developing personal and organizational effectiveness. Access, control and authority allocation processes.


    The People

    This element deals with the “4-C’s” of people in organization: capabilities, culture, career expectations, and character. It addresses the match between these characteristics and the needs of the system, identifying where you will have to make adjustments to your system or establish developmental plans for the people.

    Capabilities and Needs for Development

    What is the present distribution of existing abilities among the members of your Work unit?

    How does it match up with “your work unit’s plan for skills distribution”?

    What development needs do you have within your work unit?

    How much of the development can be handled by resources internal to your Work unit? How much will require support from learning and development resources external to your Work unit?

    How will the development be planned and coordinated within the Work unit and with development resources external to the work unit?

    What actions do you need to take to set this up? (Further discussion of this question is part of the Enabling Support Systems element to follow.)

    Culture: What You Have Learned in Common and How You Act It Out

    What are the implications of a new culture for your work unit reflected in the work accomplished with the elements of the Wheel so far?

    What are the key attributes of the new culture and what behaviors would reflect them (individual and team)?

    How are these behaviors similar to and different from the behaviors in your culture up to this time?

    What are the “reinforcements” in your environment that will either support or deter the desired behaviors?

    How can you capitalize on the positive and minimize the negative reinforcement?

    How can you reinforce behaviors in your environment that are important to your success and prosperity?

    What actions do you need to take to do accomplish this?

    CAREERS and Quality of work Life Enhancement Opportunities

    The best way for you to tackle the issue of careers for the people in your work unit is to simply ask the question, “What is your quality of work life experience to date, and in what ways can it be enhanced in the future?”

    What are the important future “quality of work life” goals of each of your work unit members?

    What quality of work life enhancement opportunities do you have under your control within this work unit?

    What can you do to jointly optimize your business objectives, your vision of excellence in operations, and your quality of work life goals?

    What actions do you need to take within your work unit to further your objectives?

    What cooperation do you need from your environment to achieve your objectives?

    What actions do you need to take to secure this cooperation?

    What things are so far out of your influence and control that you need to learn to live with them gracefully? (Are you really sure they are that far out of your influence and control?)

    Character and the Diverse Basic Nature of Your People ( Garfield , 1984)

    What do you need to do in your work unit to inspire peak performance?

    What can you personally do to inspire your own peak performance?

    What support do you want from the other members of this work unit to achieve your goals?

    What support and cooperation do you need from outside of your work unit?

    What actions do you need to take to get the desired support?

    Support Systems

    There is a great deal of other work required by your work unit beyond that directly involved with the core transformation processes. This element deals with the processes that provide this technical support work, human administration support work, and the “boundary management” work involved in adapting to present contingencies and the evolving future. Questions about your support work requirements are collected by the elements of the Wheel.

    What support does your work unit require in any of these areas and how will you get it?


    Data management

    Documentation services

    Customer contact or service

    Supplier relations


    Shipping and receiving

    Accounting, finance, budget

    Material control

    Equipment maintenance, calibration

    Technical support

    Safety, health, environmental

    Administrative support


    Will management of support processes be distributed across the work unit or contained in the jobs of a person or sub-group?

    Integration and Coordination Across Your work unit Boundaries

    Given the support requirements established here, what outside groups might provide that service better than if you handle it internally in the work unit?

    What sort of partnerships should be established with other work units to fulfill your support requirements?

    What action do you need to take to secure these partnerships?

    What action do you need to take to establish these process integration stars?

    Next time, we’ll move to the west.


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