This is a guest blog by Brain Robertson, a previous speaker on the series, and founder and creator of Holacracy.
Much of the focus in the conscious business movement today is on waking up organizations by developing more conscious leaders. If only we can get a significant minority of leaders to realize a new level of consciousness, surely that will lead to more conscious organizations transcending our current global challenges… right?
Well, maybe. Though when I talk with those doing leadership development work, they often express a frustration that, while the work has a positive impact on the individuals, true organizational transformations rarely follow from more conscious leaders. As a friend of mine said about going through leadership development programs early in his career: no amount of transformational experiences out on the ropes courses or in a retreat setting, however powerful, change the fact that the team goes back into the same context, with the same processes, power structures, and patterns at play – and transformations soon atrophy.
So what is the committed conscious business catalyst to do? I think achieving true whole-system transformation requires broadening from just developing conscious leaders to developing the concrete organizational structures and systems themselves to allow a conscious organization, not just conscious people within a conventional organization. In other words, they’ll need to upgrade the way power and authority formally get defined, the way decisions get made, the way meetings happen, the way the organization is structured, and the processes used to define and execute day-to-day work. They’ll need to help the organization wake up, not just the people.
Without that, the power of human consciousness is severely limited. Consider that we humans have an incredible capacity to sense things – challenges to address, opportunities to grab, potentials to harness – all of which I simply call “tensions”. And the more conscious we are, the more tensions we will sense. Yet, in most organizations today, we rarely have forums where we can reliably process the tensions we sense into something useful. So the organization loses one of its most powerful forces for conscious evolution, and we humans are forced to hold these tensions – in our minds and our bodies – where they fester into frustrations and eventually apathy or burnout.
So, what new capacities could an organization harness if anyone who sensed any tension, anywhere in the organization, could rapidly process it into some kind of positive change? If everyone in an organization could fully use every bit of their consciousness and capacity to its fullest effect? That’s evolution in action, one tension at a time. And conscious individuals aren’t enough to get there – it will take concrete organizational structures, systems, and processes, which enable a conscious organizational response to whatever arises in the organization’s reality.
That’s easier said than done; getting there will take an entirely new “operating system” for structuring and running an organization, and new habits and discipline to use it effectively. I work with the Holacracy™ organizational operating system, which is one approach for “waking up the organization” and allowing tensions to be dynamically processed into organizational evolution. You can learn more about it at www.holacracy.org.
Whatever system you use to get to a conscious organization, here’s the ultimate irony of this approach: With a conscious organization at play, developing conscious leaders becomes both less necessary and more impactful. Less necessary because the organizational system itself can manifest a conscious capacity; and more impactful because well-developed leaders now have an organizational container which both embraces and reinforces their deepest capacities.
Brian Robertson is an experienced entrepreneur, CEO, and organizational pioneer. He is most well-known for his work developing Holacracy™, an organizational operating system that concretely embodies the new capacities called for by many organizational thought-leaders today. Brian appeared on the Waking Up the Workplace interview series on March 31st, 2011. You’ll find the recording of our interview with him in the downloads section (register for free to receive the link in your inbox). For more information about Brian and Holacracy, be sure to check out www.holacracy.org!