The making of an agile corporation…

This is the story of what it took for one huge company to transform its leadership and ways of working.

Why is this of interest to me?

It’s another of the “imaginal cells” that are emerging in this time when we see ever-more clearly that old systems are no longer working. As I mentioned in my post on Metamorphosis, I’ve been on the lookout for examples of different ways of thinking and the experiments that are testing these new paradigms.

The first was Doughnut Economics. In that post, we heard economist Kate Raworth describe her vision for an economic model that ensures sufficiency for all without exceeding the limits of what earth can provide. In April 2020, Amsterdam became a Doughnut City. I’ve just received further information about the application of this model for our post-pandemic future…

 In June, the city council of Copenhagen committed to turning  into a Doughnut City—a good life for all within planetary boundaries. Dozens of other cities and towns worldwide have been in touch with Kate Raworth, economist and author of Doughnut Economics, to indicate they are also interested. These commitments demonstrate very exciting and bold examples of leadership in how we can transform the crisis of the pandemic into an opportunity for human renewal.

Leading for agility…

Today’s imaginal cell story is about a huge corporation and its whole-system transformation. I learned about it through an interview on the coaching summit I mentioned last week.

I almost didn’t watch this session, though. The title was Scaling Leadership, Agility and Vertical Development Inside an Organization, and the organization is Hoffmann-La Roche (Roche), a global healthcare company with about 94,000 employees in more than 100 countries.

I’m a fan of localized business and the small is beautiful philosophy, so I was sceptical that I would find anything of interest in this conversation. But they used words such as whole-system, transformation, emergent, and sustaining. It seemed they were speaking my language.

…we will explore lessons learned and emerging insights from Roche’s whole-system transformation of leadership and ways of working. As one of the highest profile (and most currently relevant) organizational transformations taking place, Roche’s unique integration of agility, vertical development, and emergent change has resulted in significant impact across all areas of the business. They will also explore how Roche is sustaining transformation in today’s disruptive environment…

It was inspiring!

So I listened…and was inspired. I’d like to let you hear for yourselves but unfortunately the video isn’t available for sharing. So here are some of my impressions…

  • What Roche wanted was greater agility, which they define as speed and flexibility with stability.

  • Changing “how” starts with mindset, and requires self-transformation of company leaders.
  • The old leadership approach was reactive, trying to keep everything under control and putting out fires as they flared up. Leaders expected that there were right answers in any situation and they were the source of those answers.
  • It had become apparent that the level of complexity they were dealing with very quickly outmatched those traditional strategies.
  • The experiential program that Roche implemented was to shift leaders from the reactive mindset to a creative mindset, one in which they would proactively shape processes and structure to fulfill the company’s purpose and vision.
  • Leaders were coached to notice their reactive patterns, recognize their creative capacities, reconnect with purpose, and remember the key principles of the company.
  • The main competency they were aiming for was the ability to act in the face of limited data, ambiguity, and complexity where there is a high likelihood of not being correct, at least not entirely—and to still do it. In other words, they needed to find their confidence and inner knowing to navigate the predicaments that arise in this complex world we live in.
  • The courage of these leaders was acknowledged—courage to be vulnerable, to go into uncharted waters, to risk taking the next step when there was no clear path or right answer.
  • The benefit to leaders was a huge release of stress when they came from this entirely different place while carrying out their duties.

The language of agility is important…

Here were a few distinctions that were made:

  • invite (to encourage self-authority) …instead of… order or direct (which makes the person subject to someone else)
  • mapping (to see interconnections) …instead of… choosing (A or B)
  • value creation (when we can create value, it is unlimited ) …instead of… value capture (resources are limited and we have to compete for our share)

Summing up this approach…

  • People are invited to choose somethig new. A different way. A more empowered way. A more purposeful way. A less-frightened, more courageous way.
  • According to Tammy Lowry from Roche, “It isn’t about processes or practices, it’s a fundamental change in the way our organization works together. It’s a revolution.”
  • People are invited to courageously step into it and be prepared to do their own inner work.
  • If you’d like more details about what this deep-dive experience looks like, check out this article.

What makes this inspiring for me…

  • The program quickly moved through the company because the leaders who participated were so enthusiastic.
  • There have been measurable results in terms of company performance in relation to its purpose.
  • They are bringing leaders together to have connecting conversation in which they can benefit from learnings across all divisions of the company.
  • The initiators see this approach as translatable into society. It starts with shifting the mindset and creating an opportunity for reimagining how that might work. That is what excites me most!

The fact that this is happening in a huge company—the fact that almost prevented me from listening—turns out to be the convincing aspect. If this new mindset can permeate a large corporate culture, where else might it percolate? I wonder…

Metamorphosis

In school, I learned a simplistic version of how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly—it hangs from a branch, spins a cocoon, and then a butterfly comes out after a process called metamorphosis. I took this description at face value and didn’t think much more about it until I became interested in transformation.

Butterfly

It’s actually much more magical than I was told…

Inside the chrysalis is where the magic happens. The caterpillar disintegrates, except for a few key cells—the imaginal cells. They are the essence of the completely new form that is about to emerge. How a caterpillar totally rearranges itself into a butterfly is described in this passage from Scientific American.

First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.

But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess.

Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth—discs for its eyes, for its wings, its legs and so on.

…Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth. …One study even suggests that moths remember what they learned in later stages of their lives as caterpillars.

Don’t I have more important things to think about right now?

After all, our economy is being decimated by a pandemic of epic proportions, and long-standing injustices have come to a head, catalyzing violent societal upheaval.

From my viewpoint, metamorphosis is highly relevant at a time like this. Humanity is in the midst of transformation—experiencing disintegration of the systems that created the structure of who we thought we were.

We’re in the soup…

Beliefs we held dear, things we were sure were true, our unconscious biases—these are being challenged and, in the process, losing their power to hold our societal structure in place. At the moment, it all seems like an amorphous mess.

The good news is, our society is sprinkled with citizens who have been inspired to see a more beautiful world and develop their ideas into the beginnings of better systems that are waiting to grow out of this mess, to form something completely different. These are the imaginal discs of human society.

Butterfly or dead caterpillar?

By the way, most caterpillars successfully transform themselves into beautiful new creatures, but not all. Those that don’t…they become dead caterpillars.

We are at a choice point in our transformation. We can try to go back and seek comfort in what was familiar but not serving us well. The consequence will be similar to that of the unsuccessful caterpillars.

OR we can each do our part to help the imaginal cells flourish. This time in history is calling on us to become more conscious…

  • to become better humans by examining our behaviours and the unconsious beliefs that are driving them, and
  • to believe that constructive change is possible. The power of thought is stronger than most of us are willing to acknowledge because we don’t want to take responsibility for what we create. But whether or not we admit it, our thoughts give energy to what happens around us.

What do you want your thoughts to energize?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of what is in the chrysalis and ready to emerge.

Beautiful & Hopeful

The unrelenting upheaval around us has finally got to me. I am aching for something, anything, that is beautiful and hopeful. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Two images stay with me…

Two images have been with me since 1994 on my first trip outside North America. I landed in England, made my way south to the city of Exeter, and took a walk to orient myself.

Before long, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a plant growing where none should be able to, in a very small crack between the pavement and adjoining stone wall. And not only growing—it was flourishing—a 2-foot-high ball of beautiful pink flowers. It seemed almost magical. It makes me feel hopeful.

Further along the street, I saw this walkway.

It intrigued me because the angle at the end creates a sense of mystery. What is there? Unknown. Can’t know until you get there. And yet, it feels friendly, not ominous. It gives me a sense of possibility and hope.

Where do you find possibility and hope?

Why not start over?

I have long been interested in the big picture of life and its events. I often ask myself: What is the point? Why am I doing this? What exactly is going on here?

While teaching a college course about issues in consumer economics, I couldn’t confine my curriculum to simply talking about the technicalities of money management and buymanship. It seemed obvious to me that how we think is the driver of the choices we make, and that conscious choices serve us better than mindless ones. So that became my underlying theme as I discussed the practicalities of navigating the consumer culture.

I wrote a book called Conscious Spending, Conscious Life, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I see this pandemic—an event which is affecting everyone on the planet—as part of our human journey of consciousness.

And I’ve been doing energy work for years, learning various methods for clearing my energetic clutter as the practices of energy medicine and psychology have evolved. So dealing with the unseen is familiar to me.

In the blink of an eye…

Here’s what I know to be true in the realm of energy:

  • We are all connected.  See psychiatrist Carl Jung and the collective unconscious, physicist Fritjof Capra and The Web of Life, biologist Rupert Sheldrake and  research on telepathy, journalist Lynne McTaggart’s Intention Experiments.
  • Things can happen in the blink of an eye. Witness the world-wide spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19.
  • There is an air of mystery. A virus is frustratingly intangible to our usual senses.

We are being invited…

This crisis is inviting us to transform—our selves, and therefore our world. We have been propelled into a situation we can’t back out of. The only way out is to navigate through. And that navigation depends on engaging our consciousness in ways we wouldn’t have if we’d continued on our old familiar paths.

Caroline Myss is a five-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally renowned speaker in the fields of human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health, energy medicine, and the science of medical intuition. All of these areas come together in her big-picture view of what this pandemic is calling forth in us, individually and collectively. She says: “We’re going to evolve out of this. It’s a journey of consciousness—together we have the chance to create a better world.”

Key thoughts from Caroline Myss…

This experience that we are sharing has the elements of the larger context of mystical transformation. 

  • First, the nature of a sacred journey is that we never get to decide when it’s going to start, how it’s going to start, or what will be asked of us. We never get to make that decision – it simply ignites. 
  • The second thing is we never get to choose the components – they just arise out of the setting of our lives. 
  • Third, transformation accompanies some kind of trauma. There is something that has to be changed.
We have to now go into deep reflection and ask:
  • What is it within myself that I need to transform?
  • What is the person I need to be as I go forward for the rest my life?
  • Is there a part of me that instead of being a hoarder, could I be more generous?
  • Instead of being impatient, can I be a better listener?
  • Instead of wanting to be first, can I embrace being second?

What is it in you that needs transformation? Because there’s something in all of us that needs transformation. Otherwise we wouldn’t need to be here now.

Life After…

We’re all getting restless, I notice.

Aching to get back to normal after six weeks of carefully following some pretty restrictive rules.

But…

Do we really want to go back? I wonder if it makes any sense to return to doing the very things that created systems so fragile they failed us at the time we needed them most?

This new coronavirus has shone a spotlight on the flaws and weaknesses of the systems we’ve created over the years—health care, aged care, business, economics, education. We have become painfully aware of their flaws in both structure and underlying philosophy.

What would be a better way?

Is there a better way? And how will we get there? There is no doubt we need a major revisioning to create systems that are resilient, humane, and sustainable—which is not true of how we’ve been living.

Fortunately, we live in a non-linear universe, and there are people who have been working on how we could design systems to be more resilient, humane, and sustainable.

Non-linear reality…

In the mid-1990s, I spent time at Schumacher College in the UK. I was intrigued  when I learned about the implications of living n a quantum reality. The discoveries of quantum physics in the twentieth century blew open the scientific world—suggesting previously unimagined possibilities. The idea that a system could be flipped from one “basin of attraction” to another caught my attention. Apparently, this happens when the system is operating at its edge, which is where chaos occurs. In such a state, even a small perturbation (disruption) can provoke the system into a whole new way of operating (another basin of attraction).

Such descriptions of energy are abstract and often confounding to our literal, linear ways of thinking. Yet I find it comforting to know there is more to life than meets the eye—making a lot possible that I’d never think of.

Peter Merry is one of the people who does think about how things could be done differently. He is a Fellow of the Center for Human Ecology in the UK where he did his MSc with a thesis on the future of work and economics. His thesis was recently published as a book under the title Why Work?: Economics and Work for People and Planet. The description reads, in part:

Why Work? shows us how we can change our policies, take action directly in our communities to carve out the space for us to reclaim our humanity, and engage in activities that reward our deeper needs, our communities and our planet as a whole.

It is the nature of non-linear change moments, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that we can’t predict what the future is going to be that emerges from it. According to Peter Merry, the key is to notice what is breaking down (systems, structures, ways of thinking, ways of doing things) and help them let go gracefully—while, at the same time, putting in place the conditions that will accelerate the new solutions that are emerging. In the process, we will see two responses: Regression to fear-based, contracted reactions, and break-through to more integrated wholistic responses.

In the interview which follows, he elaborates with examples from healthcare, business, and education. I found this discussion rich, practical and hopeful.

More info…

Peter Merry spoke about a new initiative, Humanity Rising, which he described as an on-line experience bringing together speakers with alternative plans for creating a future we will feel proud of. It will highlight both new ways of thinking and concrete solutions that have been worked on under the radar for the past twenty years or so. To find out more, go to http://humanityrising.solutions. The on-line event begins May 22, 2020.

For more about Ubiquity University go here.

Life can be surprising…

We haven’t got it all figured out yet. This is our chance to rise to the challenge.