James Carse, in his great book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests,
There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.
The finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play,
...and bringing as many persons as possible into the play.
Finite players play within boundaries;
infinite players play with boundaries.
Let's face it: Most modern organizations have been designed as ‘finite games.’ All the rest of life, on the other hand, seems to have been designed as an ‘infinite game’ — leading to ever-increasing intricacy, resilience, vibrancy and co-creative collaboration throughout all of Nature’s living systems.
Project 10X is an organic strategy and approach to free our organizations from the gravitational pull of the ‘finite game’ mechanistic paradigm toward a new management & leadership model — organizations as conscious living systems.
Leading this paradign shift is not for the fainthearted — and it certainly ‘takes a village’ to pull it off. This is why Project 10X first and foremost focuses on growing highly distributed ‘leadership everywhere’ within and around your organization — leadership that is conscious, committed and courageous — leadership that is highly entrepreneurial, adaptable and systems-minded — leadership that rapidly grows its capacity to lead lasting systemic change and multiply the 'true wealth' the organization generates for all its stakeholders.
Is Project 10X a moonshot? Absolutely — and it’s a critical one for any organization realistic about surviving and thriving in the 21st century. But we also recognize that organization leaders must attend to their short- and medium-term objectives of increasing their organizations’ performance, innovation, engagement and growth — NOW. Project 10X is designed for BOTH-AND: It always begins with the top priority organizational challenge that the organization is facing here and now — and uses this [and other real-life] challenges as developmental drivers to grow leadership and changemaking capacity throughout the leadership networks in the organization.
Project 10X is low cost, can start small, and is designed to become self-managing and self-propagating early on — with benefits growing exponentially over time. The Project 10X approach can be tailored to any size and kind of organization where there is a strong commitment to the action-learning journey implicit in shifting the organization’s management paradigm.
Project 10X is an evolving action-learning initiative of 10X Shift and 10X Changemakers. We are inviting courageous leaders and organizations to partner with us in pioneering Project 10X starting in 2013.
A key ‘presenting problem’ organizations face today is the widening gap between their existing leadership capacity and the exploding demands of our increasingly complex and rapidly changing world. To use a computer metaphor, the old ‘leadership operating system’ is no longer able to keep up — to respond with sufficient agility and intelligence to the growing barrage of challenges and opportunities in the environment. Worse yet, we seem to be at a point where fixing and/or incrementally improving the old system is of little benefit — in fact, it is often counterproductive. The time is ripe for a major upgrade — a paradigm shift.
Before jumping into solutions, it is important that we fully understand the nature of this paradigm shift — and the root causes of inadequate leadership capacity in organizations today. Leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It operates within larger context we refer to as ‘social architecture.’ You can think of social architecture as a purposeful web of social relationships and agreements that shapes how people behave, work, relate, communicate, what they believe and value, how they define success, and yes, how they lead. We argue that it is our dominant social architecture in organizations today (characterized by the Yellow to Red Zones in the figure below) that is the root cause of the many problems we are facing, including inadequate leadership.
More specifically —
- Traditional organizations tend to embody ‘mechanistic,’ control-over-people, hierarchical designs that focus on satisfying narrow (and often myopic) needs of specific stakeholder families (e.g., stockholders, customers.) The ‘cultures’ of these traditional organizations cover the range described by the Red, Orange and Yellow Zones, with the Yellow Zone social patterns generally being ‘as good as it gets’ for such organizations.
- Hierarchical, role-based, individualistic leadership seemed adequate in the mechanistic paradigm — but now we’re learning that it is a poor fit for the increasingly complex adaptive challenges that organizations face today. A new model is needed — one where leadership is a highly distributed, collective process networked throughout the organization’s functions and operations.
- Traditional mechanistic, curriculum-centric, programmatic approaches to leadership development are increasingly inadequate in developing competencies that are so critical for today’s leaders, such as adaptability, self-awareness, systemic consciousness, boundary spanning collaboration, comfort with ambiguity, learning agility, etc.
- According to Gallup, over 70% of the American workforce is disengaged (a whopping 89% worldwide) resulting in tremendous losses in productivity and innovation. Our traditional organizations with their Yellow-Orange-Red cultures have become ‘psychic prisons’ for millions of bright, capable individuals with an innate desire to contribute — to make a lasting difference.
- The Green and Blue Zones describe the social architecture needed to support the kind of distributed leadership capable of surviving and thriving in a VUCA world. However, this territory is largely unexplored. A fundamental leadership challenge of our times is to support and guide our organizations in growing their capacity to cross ‘The Great Culture Chasm’ — to fully inhabit their unique Green-Blue Zones.
- What makes this challenge so daunting is that it involves a fundamental shift in an organization’s patterns of thinking, communicating and working together. This in turn requires that current leaders develop themselves to become leading learners and learning leaders of this pattern-shifting work — and do so while dealing with many crises implicit in navigating “VUCA seas.”
Bucky Fuller famously said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Project 10X follows this brilliant advice by –
- Growing and evolving a new, highly ‘generative’ leadership model and culture within a small, silo-crossing, action-learning network of committed ‘changemakers’ inside an organization (with real life, top priority organizational challenges serving as ‘developmental drivers’)
- Challenging and supporting this network to become the organization’s ‘changemaker infrastructure’ designed to support the organization in crossing ‘The Great Culture Chasm’ and developing responsive, resilient, self-evolving leadership throughout the organization.
The broad design for a Project 10X initiative in an organization includes the following elements and steps:
- Senior leadership is supported in identifying the organization’s top priority capacity building challenge. (E.g., ‘greater agility and responsiveness,’ ‘more distributed leadership and decision making,’ ‘greater customer focus.’) Whatever the challenge, it must be considered a top priority by senior leadership and critical to the organization’s future. This helps ensure a high level of engagement from the senior team throughout the initiative as well as high visibility throughout the organization.
- A ‘diagonal’ cohort of committed ‘changemakers’ is selected. These players are well respected, have high aptitude for change and development work, and are energized by the Challenge. They will be pioneering the new ‘changemaker’ role for the organization. The Cohort fully ‘owns’ the Challenge. All learning and development happen in the context of the Challenge.
- Strong emphasis on growing a truly ‘generative’ 3-way alliance between the Cohort, Sponsors and Providers of development/change expertise. The Sponsors are the organization’s senior leaders who are highly invested in and committed to the success of this pioneering initiative. They see themselves as stewards of the organization’s future. The role of Providers is to serve as ‘social architects’ and guides on this pioneering journey — to support the Cohort and the Sponsors with highly relevant, just-in-time development/change expertise as they grow and tackle various challenges along the Project 10X’s action-learning journey. This 3-way co-creative partnership is a key to Project 10X’s potency and success.
- Special focus on igniting individual growth, developing high quality relationships and evolving a highly generative culture. Cohort members are supported in discovering and developing their deepest commitments and gifts, in growing highly effective relationships with themselves, each other, the Stewards and the rest of the organization, and in evolving a highly generative culture of mutual caring, commitment and collaboration (see Green-Blue Zone culture in the figure below.) A primary task for the Cohort is to come forward with an organic, highly leveraged strategy and their recommended ‘bridge’ across the ‘Great Culture Chasm’ for the organization — in a way that accelerates progress on the Challenge.
- The Cohort is challenged and supported in developing and evolving as a semi-autonomous ‘generative action-learning network’ of organizational changemakers. The ‘Providers’ serve as ‘guides on the side’ (rather than ‘sages on stage’) as the Cohort learns and grows by engaging with the organization, doing their scouting and research, testing their thinking and applying what they learn as they develop a highly generative strategy and path to addressing the Challenge and crossing the ‘Great Culture Chasm’.
- The Cohort has 90 days to develop and begin to demonstrate a highly generative strategy and path forward that (a) address the Challenge, (b) evolve the new leadership model and (c) grow the organization’s capacity to inhabit their unique version of ‘Green-Blue Zone’ culture. These are the three highly synergistic, mutually supporting areas of learning, development and opportunity seeking for the Cohort. At the end of the 90-day period (which represents Phase 1 of the project), the Cohort presents their learnings, progress to date and their recommended path forward to the senior sponsors in each of the three areas. Together, they decide on whether and how to proceed with Phase 2. Their choices might include growing additional (and possibly more specialized) cohorts, focusing on new critical organization’s challenges, evolving a more elaborate development and change infrastructure in the organization, etc.
NOTE: The following detailed 3-phase picture of actions and outcomes is for illustration purposes only. Each Project 10X will unfold in an organic way that best fits the unique needs and opportunities of the organization in question.
Are There Examples of P10X Initiatives in Organizations? What Might It Actually Look Like?
While the various elements of the P10X approach draw from and have been demonstrated in countless organizational design, development and change initiatives through the years, Project 10X has not been fully ‘implemented’ inside an organization as of yet. (We are looking for 2-3 companies to partner with us in piloting the Project 10X approach starting in 2013.)
So, in response to Polly LaBarre’s challenge to ‘animate’ and bring Project 10X to life, we thought it would be appropriate to draw from the real stories of transformational change from this amazing MIX community — management innovators, leaders and changemakers like you!
One of the most fitting stories that can help illustrate the P10X approach is David Choe’s “How to start a movement in your company.” It describes how a team of highly engaged employees executed a massive business transformation and demonstrated a real cultural change in their company — in less than one year, with zero incremental FTE's and a minimal budget. (We highly recommend that you read this remarkable account of human genius, passionate commitment and highly resourceful and resilient distributed leadership.)
The following elements of David Choe’s story help animate Project 10X:
- David’s initiative started with a very real, top priority ‘impossible’ challenge that the organization’s leadership deeply cared about; addressing it was critical to the company’s success. This provided a solid foundation for a 3-way generative alliance between the senior sponsors (mostly Bill,) David’s growing team, and those who provided necessary expertise (most notably Shiv.) The quality of the relationships between the sponsors and the team members are well summarized by what Bill said to David in the beginning: "I trust you'll figure it out. Call me if you're having problems." Full trust. Full support. Beautiful and powerful.
- Solving the challenge demanded significant changes to the organization’s deeply entrenched cultural patterns of working, planning, decision-making, leading and communicating. In essence, David’s challenge was to shift the culture from what seemed like ‘Orange/Yellow Zone’ to ‘Green Zone’ — but to do so in the context of the challenge, so that the new cultural patterns were immediately integrated in the company’s everyday operations.
- David’s strategy was organic and decisively commitment-based: he engaged and developed relationships with those committed innovators, early adopters and changemakers throughout the organization who shared his passion for and commitment to the initiative and the larger cultural shift.
- Appreciation was a key approach from early on: David and his team set out to appreciate ‘the seeds of what’s right’ — to amplify and build on those behaviors and attitudes that supported the initiative and the ‘new way’ in the organization.
- Action learning, rapid prototyping and experimentation, sourcing innovative ideas from everyone were the modus operandi. All learning happened in the context of the real challenge — no programmatic courses or classrooms. No formal leadership development programs either — everyone learned to lead by leading.
- No predefined change methodologies — David and his team researched and applied just-in-time approaches that best fit the developmental challenges at hand
- The pace of change and the benefits grew exponentially over time (and most likely are still growing) — a beautiful demonstration of the potency of truly organic, self-managing and self-propagating ‘generative’ design
The initiative delivered multiple and multiplying benefits beyond wildest expectations:
- A real breakthrough in the initial challenge — a successful overhaul of company’s order delivery system, with the operating income increasing by a whopping 80%!
- A robust, silo-crossing, collaborative and highly distributed network of potent leaders and changemakers strengthened by working together on a real life challenge — now serving as a backbone for future complex transformational efforts
- Sprouting seeds of a new, more generative ‘we can do it’ culture of distributed leadership, engagement, ownership, and collaboration
Much of what David and his team discovered intuitively and naturally in their groundbreaking initiative are explicit and deliberate design elements inside Project 10X:
- Project 10X is real. It’s an action-learning journey fueled by real life, top priority organizational challenges. Much is at stake for everyone
- It is an on-going capacity building journey of discovery vs. yet another top-down program. It is a journey from ‘where you are to who you can be’ as individual players and collectively — as a conscious, caring, committed, courageous living social organism
- It is appreciative — building on what is already generative, in a way that ‘transcends and includes’
- It grows a 3-way ‘generative alliance’ between the senior sponsors, the cohort and the external providers. All are learning from each other and finding ways to multiply each other’s contributions
- It is pioneered by the ‘Innovators and Early Adopters’ — propagated in natural ways as experience is gained and capacity developed
- Top management shows up as ‘leading learners’ and ‘learning leaders.’ They are well supported in discovering how to best support this fundamental paradigm shift
- It integrates personal development and organizational commitments naturally and organically — at all levels of system
- It naturally grows agile, silo-transcending, collaborative action-learning networks capable of responding to rapidly changing environments intelligently and quickly
- It is self-propagating, self-improving and self-evolving — both ‘horizontally’ and ‘vertically’
- Low cost – can start small and spread/grow organically; this allows for rapid prototyping and course correction early and at low risk
Project 10X is a highly generative, low cost approach that starts small and grows organically, with benefits growing exponentially over time. More specifically, the following broad outcomes can be expected from a 3-phase Project 10X initiative:
- Powerfully rich, highly relevant, on-the-ground leadership development experience for both Changemakers and Sponsors
- Real and lasting progress on the organization’s top priority challenge(s)
- Organic, self-managing, self-propagating leadership development strategy owned by employees and leadership together — complementary to the existing hierarchical structures — grown in a way that is uniquely tailored to the organization
- Sprouting seeds of a generative organization culture eliciting breakthroughs in creativity, innovation, learning, collaboration and engagement
- Distributed, collaborative network of leaders-changemakers highly capable of leading organization change and development
- More agile, responsive, engaged and change-ready organization
In addition, the figure below shows the very practical implications of Crossing the Chasm — as well as the staggering costs of continuing to cling to the 'Well-Oiled-Machine' ideal:
Project 10X is audacious. It aims to shift the dominant ‘mechanistic’ management paradigm in our organizations. It pioneers new developmental territory. It is no surprise then that Project 10X faces a number of significant (and energizing) challenges. They are listed below — coupled with our best thinking on how to tackle them most effectively.
How can a small cohort of highly committed, bright, capable leaders-changemakers create lasting and irreversible change in the face of their organization’s resistance, busyness, silo mentality and gravitational pull of ‘business as usual?’
- We use Everett Rogers innovation adoption curve as a fitting model for how systemic change might spread most organically in an organization.
- Project 10X intentionally begins with the highly committed Innovators and Early Adopters inside the system — the pioneering ‘diagonal’ Cohort.
- Instead of focusing on changing the minds and the entrenched old patterns of the ‘Majority’ and the ‘Laggards,’ the pioneering Cohort is challenged to find, appreciate and help grow that which is already generative in the organization — those newly emerging, more generative patterns of thinking, working, collaborating, etc. that are highly supportive of and synergistic with the unfolding change effort.
- The Cohort members are also guided to continually attract and grow high quality relationships with other Innovators and Early Adopters throughout the organization who would love to contribute to the P10X initiative, thus continuing to expand the informal ‘changemaker’ network.
- This ‘field’ and community of ‘newness’ and change grow and expand until they reach the “tipping point” — enough momentum to cross Geoffrey Moore’s “adoption chasm.”
What if the senior leadership of the organization resists Project 10X? Is their support really critical? Can Project 10X start on the fringes?
It is true that change can be initiated anywhere and by anyone in the organization. It is also true that many brilliant management innovations emerge from the most unexpected places throughout the organization — from its “fringes.”
However, if achieving significant and lasting shifts in an organization’s managing culture is the goal — as in the case of Project 10X, then securing strong support and knowledgeable engagement of senior management will be critical to success.
This is why we strongly emphasize the importance of the ‘3-way generative alliance’ between the Sponsors, the Cohort and the Providers of generative change expertise. Note that this strategy transcends the either-or-ism implicit in choosing a ‘top-down’ vs. ‘bottom-up’ approach. We strongly prefer ‘we-are-all-in-it-together’ or ‘together-we-can’ as far more generative alternatives.
How the 3-way alliance begins and evolves will be unique to every organization. For example, if Project 10X begins “on the fringe,” the pioneering ‘co-founders’ will need to challenge themselves to enroll 1-2 senior leaders in their cause — at a stage in the project that feels most appropriate. We see this a worthy and important challenge for any entrepreneurial leader and changemaker in the early stages of their transformational venture.
Real learning, real challenges, in real time?
A key design features of Project 10X is that all learning and development happen in the context of the organization’s real life, top priority capacity building challenges. While this approach is highly effective in growing the organization’s leadership and changemaking capacity, it presents significant challenges:
- Project 10X is not a traditional, packaged training solution with predefined outcomes. It is more akin to an action-learning expedition to discover (and become) a more adaptable, nimble, creative and thriving organization. True expeditions of discovery are rarely linear and predictable. Often they are accompanied by unexpected setbacks, detours and frustrations — all precious opportunities for deeper learning, resilience building and changemaker development. High quality external support is critical in order to learn to grow from those obstacles.
- Project 10X operates “in the belly of the beast”; it deals with very real and urgent challenges; it aims to shift deeply seated (and often unhealthy) organizational patterns of working, communicating, collaborating, etc. While we believe that operating at such depth is the only way to create meaningful and lasting change, this journey will certainly test the commitment and resolve of everyone touched by the effort on many occasions — especially existing leadership. The good news is that every such test is an opportunity for a major and lasting breakthrough.
- Project 10X aims to attract the best and the brightest in the organization as part of the pioneering Cohort. These current and future leaders and changemakers are inevitably already overloaded in their day-to-day jobs. Managing both their current responsibilities and their new roles within the Project 10X initiative is a significant challenge.
- This may be obvious, but still worth emphasizing. Project 10X requires high level of engagement from the organization’s senior leadership throughout the entire initiative. Unless the senior leaders recognize that they are part of the ‘problem’ and thus part of the ‘solution’ — and are willing to learn and develop themselves accordingly — there is little chance of meaningful and lasting change.
- Distributing leadership will undoubtedly challenge the existing power and control arrangements in the organization. What might be a harmonious and co-creative relationship between the existing hierarchy and the emerging, more organic leadership & changemaker networks? How might positional leaders rethink their roles, relationships and contributions in order to support the new leadership culture? The organization will need to action-learn its way to finding its own answers to these questions as a part of their Project 10X journey.
- Those invested in the more traditional pre-packaged approaches to leadership development will be challenged to explore and adopt new developmental approaches that are more ‘generative,’ i.e., more self-managing, self-propagating, self-sustaining and even self-evolving. They will be challenged to find ways to weave the work of leadership development throughout the fabric of the organization’s life. This shift lies at the heart of escaping the gravitational pull of our more mechanistic approaches to people development.
The Good News:
- Our organizations are not machines. They are ‘social organisms’ that have the mostly unrecognized and underdeveloped potential to self-evolve to ever-higher levels of ‘true wealth generation,’ where ‘true wealth’ includes all dimensions of wellbeing for all immediate and extended organizational stakeholder families.
- Though most people don’t like to be changed, they mostly love to have the opportunity and support to be challenged, to learn, to develop, to contribute, to collaborate, to appreciate, to be part of something larger than themselves, to co-create and to make lasting contributions.
- The journey will be very rewarding. Though exploring and pioneering ‘Green-Blue’ patterns while in the middle of a ‘Yellow Zone’ organizational culture can be scary and uncomfortable at first, it can quickly become fulfilling and energizing — when the guidance and backing are there.
- The significance of these early payoffs is HUGE. Designing the early stages of this transformational journey to be immediately promising and rewarding can produce ‘multiple and multiplying’ positive ripple effects. The true potential in most organizations is like a sleeping giant. Awaken gently. Provide it a good breakfast. Turn it loose on a giant-sized challenge — and help clear the path forward.
Project 10X begins with a round of in-depth exploratory conversations with the organization’s leadership to determine whether the initiative is a good fit. Criteria for the ‘good fit’ include:
- Innovative, dynamic, fast paced culture; operating in a rapidly changing, highly competitive environment/industry
- Deeply committed to developing ‘leaders-changemakers fit for the future’ – growing leaders who are highly creative, systems-minded, relationship-centric, deeply committed stewards of the organization and its stakeholders
- Ready to invest in growing a truly generative culture of creativity, contribution, resilience and aliveness
- Recognizes the strategic importance of building systemic capacities (e.g. innovation, responsiveness, learning, adaptiveness) — not just individual skills
- Sees ‘capacity-building capacity’ as a crucial collaborative advantage in the fast-changing world
- Committed to purposefully developing its people — unleashing their 10X potential; sees it as key to success
- Disenchanted with traditional, packaged, classroom-based development and is willing and ready to pioneer a more organic, open-ended, commitment-based, action-learning centric approach
- Senior leadership willing to invest themselves in fully understanding the implications of the Project 10X approach and committed to playing a key role in shifting the organization’s patterns — to be full participants in a P10X pathfinding action-learning journey
Next, senior leadership is supported in identifying the organization’s top priority capacity building challenge, followed by selecting the volunteer ‘diagonal’ cohort, as described above.
We are grateful to Nick Petrie and his colleagues at Center for Creative Leadership for their tremendous contribution to the field of leadership development. Nick’s white paper “Future Trends in Leadership Development” both inspired us and validated many concepts and ideas behind Project 10X.
John Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change was another important stimulus.
Tom Atlee's Social Systems and Transformational Change is but one glimpse at his rich and deep thinking on the relationship between transformational change and our capacity to change our social systems. His body of work has been both foundational and inspiritual to our many initiatives.
David C. Korten's Sacred Earth, a New Economy and the 21st Century University powerfully reinforced our conviction that turning the corner on our many global crises is dependent on our being able to re-purpose our organizations — which in turn requires that we greatly expand the role and nature of organizational leadership.
Dr. Joel and Michelle Levey's Resilience: The New Sustainability at Work, summarizes our challenge (and opportunity) in its first sentence. "As tsunamis of complex change flood through our lives, world, organizations and communities, the need to develop greater change resilience, sustainability, and capacity to learn at every level becomes ever more clear."
The 10X concept was originally inspired by Bill Veltrop's work with James C. Selman. This discussion paper, Leadership and Innovation: Relating to Circumstances and Change, will give you a glimpse at the depth and breadth of Selman's thinking and work.
John Renesch's The Great Growing Up: Being Responsible for Humanity's Future provided us a powerful way of seeing and thinking about this evolutionary instant. Project 10X is intended to provide organizations, of all kinds and sizes, with a co-creative way to navigate through a systemic rite of passage.
We invite you to explore GlobalGEA.net where you will find Project 10X FAQs as wells as many ‘lenses’, concepts and tools essential for any social architect serious about designing and leading generative and lasting social systems change.
Other materials highly relevant to this entry:
Center for Creative Leadership, Future Trends in Leadership Development. Available at http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/futureTrends.pdf
IBM, Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study. Available at http://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03297usen/GBE03297USEN.PDF