A self-managing enterprise does not necessarily “always” produce stellar results. First, it takes considerable effort to find the right people. Subsequently, there needs to be repeated, purposeful, and focused attention given to certain basic self-managing principles before a well-functioning sociocultural system takes shape. People accustomed to working in structured organizations have an especially difficult time finding solace in self-managing systems. Hence, the member selection process is one of the key factors for success.
Through multi-disciplinary research and extensive administrative experience I have developed four general principles which provide a firm footing for the creation of a self-managing or socioculturally homeostatic enterprise. One should keep in mind that the dynamic interactive principles portrayed in the figure below are descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Every organization is unique and, therefore, needs to explore and discover how to apply these principles in their own way. We have a tendency to overlook that every organization is made up of different people and, therefore, has its own distinctive social chemistry. This is true even when a venture produces the same exact product or service as another company.
The left hand circle of the figure above depicts the principle of Individual Autonomy. It suggests that an organization should make every effort to recruit people who have a strong sense of their own role responsibility and personal commitment as to what needs to be accomplished for the advancement of the enterprise. Having high levels of empathy and attunement towards one’s colleagues is another prerequisite. Finally, an individual who is asked to join the business must also have the necessary talents and skills to be able to contribute towards the accomplishment of organizational goals.
On the opposite side of the figure appears the principle of Shared Identity. A vital component of this principle is the necessity of the members to have a strong sense of belonging. Ideally, associates should sense that they are part of a closely knit family. Of course, it takes considerable time for such mutually supportive relationships to evolve and flourish. Clearly, such groups need to value diverse individual identities and place considerable importance on mutually beneficial reciprocal relationships. Also, as stipulated before, groups with more than 150 members can seldom achieve the cohesion necessary for the proper functioning of a homeostatic self-managing system. Essentially, the shared identity principle encompasses the integrated body of capabilities and practices that distinguish a group from others and make it effective.
The principle of Challenging Aspirations sits at the top of the figure and is not a standard vision and value statement. Rather, it is meant to encourage members to be on a constant lookout for any new possibilities that might add to the success of the enterprise. Thus, not only does Challenging Aspirations include shared organizational goals and incentives but it also places significant weight on individual goals and incentives. Both need to be well balanced for people to take full responsibility for the welfare of a venture. Finally, reflective thinking is also earnestly encouraged assuring that all members are on the same page and that the business is pursuing meaningful goals and objectives.
The final principle, Dynamic Alignment, is all about catalytic or shared leadership. It stipulates that every member is responsible to take the initiative to lead as a specific situation presents itself to them. Catalytic leadership is founded on expertise not position power. I have defined it as, “Encouraging others to participate in value-added activities that they are either not aware of or are hesitant to initiate action on their own, that would benefit everyone involved.” It is all about value added facilitation rather than attempting to manage or control others.
It is important to keep in mind that all four principles need to be fully in place before an organization is capable to function in a self-managing or homeostatic mode.
Complex adaptive systems’ thinking is vital today in order to properly address never before anticipated organizational problems and opportunities. Where conventional approaches consistently fail to bring success, more pragmatic approaches need to be found based on the latest multi-disciplinary research in such fields as evolutionary psychology and social neuroscience. Therefore, it’s prudent that we place greater emphasis in our organizations on sociocultural homeostasis that benefits all members equitably.
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