There’s some foundational rumblings happening in Jeder’s Membership lately and some of us have noticed significant changes in Member’s contribution and participation as they “step back” or away from uncomfortable situations, witnessed (or been part of) challenges and grievances which often stay as low-key rumbles, overheard organisational gripes about structure and power and unfortunately, we have not seen many Members coming forward with transparency and authenticity to find solutions together, even when they are named!
I’ve also attended some strategic, next stage organisation style and complexity training over the past few months and have heard multiple times about the different stages of insecurities, or wobbles, that arise as a self-organising organisation grows – and the biggest, toughest wobble is approx. at 70 people & that’s us! That’s where we are at, right now!
Dave Snowden, found of the Cynefin Co and quoted in Forbes magazine says,
“The only time a leader makes a decision in a crisis is right up front. They make draconian, rapid decisions to create breathing space downstream. Thereafter, they distribute decision making and centralize coordination, which is actually what good leaders do anyway,” Snowden said. “Good leaders hardly ever make decisions. It’s a sign of failure if you’ve got to do that.”
At the training I attended with Dave, he quoted “Clans over 100 start to lose cohesion – 60-70 is the wobble – there are usually 5-6 decision makers” and this rings true for the “core” group of Members who “get stuff done” – the difference being that we (the core group) have been complaining about those who are not making decisions instead of owning the space we hold and exploring how we can shift, rotate or re-create that space!
“Dunbar’s Number” is a social network theory which suggests that groups which work cohesively have a limit of 150 relationships and as Dunbar explains it, informally in his book, “The number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.” and a Clan is approximately 50 people.
Interestingly, the 150 factor also shows up when companies exceed 150 whilst trying to maintain cohesiveness and historically in the size of Neolithic farming communities and the basic unit size of Roman armies.
In the context of next-stage organizations, Dunbar’s theory suggests that organizations may benefit from organizing themselves into smaller, more cohesive groups or teams that can maintain stable social relationships within the group. This can help to foster a sense of community and collaboration, which can lead to greater productivity and innovation.
Next-stage organizations often aim to be more agile and adaptive than traditional hierarchical organizations, and organizing themselves into smaller, more autonomous teams can help to facilitate this. By creating more autonomous teams that are connected by a shared purpose or vision, organizations can enable members to work more effectively together, while still maintaining a sense of connection and belonging to the larger organization.
Taking the above into consideration for Jeder, we might look like this:
- Realistic Future (Tribe) 150
- Cohesion Wobble (Current) 70
- Realistic Participation (Clan) 50
- Jedi Participation Members (Super Family) 15
- Rotating Decision Makers (Close Friends) 5
With the current Membership at approximately 70, each Member would then include family and friends, to reach a maximum number of 150 (with some variance) and these relationships all occur within the scope of the roles we host, play and live.
We already have several “Roles” in Jeder. At the start of each meeting we ask Members who wants to Host, Harvest or do Planner. These are meeting Roles. In different teams we see Roles becoming stronger. In CoBu (our community building team) we have The Silver Thread (finding and converging the pieces of loose information from cross pollinating discussions) and The Stitcher (stitching together the loose ends that never get finished) and from an organisational point of view we have the Coaches (for peer mentoring and support) the Nests (a set of Roles that oversee the organisational systems) and The Connector (our inner and outer linker and sharer of information).
The Cynefin framework uses this clip to emphasis the influences we have on each other when Roles are taken away, introduced (or re-introduced) and it’s definitely worth the watch from an organisational development perspective: How Wolves Change Rivers
How might you discover your role? How can you support the creation of intentional purpose in building this living system? What is a role that you might step up and be responsible for?
Our foundations are built upon transparency, participatory dialogue, deep listening and collaboration. The Chatham House Rule is a guideline which encourages inclusive and open dialogue in meetings, so I ask you to set aside your frustration at individual’s actions, or inaction, grumbles or disturbances in the membership and the history of the organisation, and instead consider the patterns, roles and dynamics of the structure of Jeder when it is stretched to a point that it becomes harder to see the other side!
To consider this 70’s wobble of the organisation from a structural point of view, I invite you to reflect on these questions:
- What is a Next Stage Organisation?
- What is your Role in the organisation? (not your job)
- Is there something “stuck” that you haven’t done anything about?
- When was the last time you innovated the structure?
- How well could you talk about the 3 key work areas of Jeder? (hint: they are across the top of the website)
- Have you suggested amendments to Jeder’s governance framework, handbooks or any other significant documents or templates?
- How well do you honour the minimum obligations of being a member? (one Culture Jedi, one Jedi of choice, one Art of Hosting training and one Gathering)
- Do you reflect on the operationalising of the Pillars?
- Can you name Jeder’s Evolutionary Purpose?
- How can we frame our challenges in a way that helps shift us away from a traditional way of working?
- How can we safely use disruptive thinking?
If we are to be serious about next stage leadership and the intentional growth of Jeder, we need to reflect on some loaded questions and be prepared to sit in the “groan zone”…
To consider where your position in this 70’s wobble might be, I invite you to reflect on these questions:
- What would you tell your best friend about your role? (not your job)
- How would you explain how Jeder works?
- How and where do you share your gifts and experience within the organisation?
- When did you last read about, and reflect on, self-organising processes and practices?
- When did you last attend a Bored meeting?
- Have you stepped up or suggested someone to join the Bored?
- When did you last create change in Jeder?
- Do you regularly contribute to one Jedi?
- When something is NOT working, do you discuss it with other Members, reflect and enact change?
- How do you contribute to Jeder’s decision making culture?
- How would you know if you are stuck in a traditional mindset?
- Could you be mirroring the exact, traditional organisational issues which you came here to get away from?
Over half the Membership participate in the Member Check-in each year which offers some great feedback to the organisation. How else might we gain feedback? How can we create a safe space where Members can voice their concerns? What do we do with our learnings? What are our mistakes that we can learn from? How will we know what to change if Members don’t speak up?
At the Cynefin training with Dave Snowden, he introduced the training with the following concepts, provocations and reflective thoughts:
From a naturalising sense-making lens, how can we frame situations in ways that respect the ecological nature of our existence and co-dependencies and shift us away from the dominance of an engineering paradigm?
Expect some disruptive thinking, such as:
- No more “mental models” and “mindset engineering” – leaders need to take accountability for the starting conditions and stop individualizing the problem. Interactions matter more in a complex system than individual pre-dispositions.
- Stop blaming individuals for the failure of change initiatives –it is more likely that the initiative was too idealistic, too far away from the realities of here and now and often, seen by staff as hypocritical.
- Novel approaches to distributed decision making and collective leadership
- Post-therapeutic techniques have no ethical or appropriate place in leadership, OD/change or coaching practices.
- Drop the 5-year strategic planning process, or acknowledge it for the gaming process that it is. Start journeys with a sense of direction rather than a fixed goal, and then do the next right thing.
- Asking what sort of mindset we want is the type of question which leads to platitudes and culturally specific value statements based on one perspective on how things should be.
As an alternative we suggest that we should look, pragmatically and realistically, at:
- What levels of agency should be given (ideally distributed not delegated);
- What changes are needed to the affordances provided by the system; and
- When, if at all, we can change the assemblages (by which we mean the patterns of narrative and experience which determine how people see the world including path and context dependencies).
Asking these three questions focuses on what we can change in the here and now and focuses the initiative into understanding the system as much as individual responses.
The Board of Innovation says they have learned from 6 key mistakes before focusing their self-organising efforts on their “Circles” (what we call our Jedis) which they used to guide each Circle:
- Learning 1: Give direction and create a shared ambition
- Learning 2: Be serious about giving trust and autonomy
- Learning 3: Increase transparency
- Learning 4: Support decision-making
- Learning 5: Provide space for growth
- Learning 6: Get the right people on board
Based on Laloux’s levels of consciousness in the Teal movement, we aim to “eat the orange” which are often traditional default responses to systems in crisis or growth and we seek how to use that orange space to innovate ourselves into “green”, “teal” and beyond!
If we are truly serious about continuing to grow this way of working, we need to GO HIGH, get out of the weeds, don’t blame each other and instead, consider the structures that can sustain us and can mitigate many of the challenges, keep individual names out of structural issue discussions, grow our roles and Selves and above all, be fully “in” and actively committed!
- Lessons for self organising orgs: https://www.boardofinnovation.com/blog/self-steering-organization-6-mistakes-we-made/
- Enlivening Edge: https://enliveningedge.org
- Dunbar’s Number – 150: https://sketchplanations.com/dunbars-number-150
- Percolab Droplets: https://medium.com/percolab-droplets/whats-all-the-fuss-about-roles-in-horizontal-teams-and-organizations-1ab240d7305
- Cynefin Co: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rewilding-leadership-tickets-486810873427
- Reinventing Organisations: https://www.reinventingorganizations.com