Guest Post – When Hierarchy and Unintended Consequences Stifle Humble Leadership
Ed & Peter Schein make a great thought leadership team, This father-son duo draw from their experience and study of business and organizations to bring a much needed perspective to both disicplines.
In celebration of their new book “Humble Leadership“, Ed & Peter Schein have been generous to share this post. This is an excerpt from their book -enjoy!
It was tempting to write this whole book around the amazing stories that are surfacing about Humble Leadership and the creation of Level 2 relationships in very hierarchical organizations. Retired general McChrystal in his Team of Teams (2015) and Chris Fussel in One Mission (2017) make it very clear that organizations now have to replace the efficiency of the linear industrial factory model with agility and adaptability as the problems they face become what we have repeatedly called complex, systemic, interconnected, and multicultural, that is, messy. Dealing with customers in an interconnected multicultural world will become as complex as dealing with fluid, invisible, polymorphic enemies. O’Reilly and Tushman (2016) make a similar point in their argument for organizational ambidexterity in that the economic and market forces are similarly fluid and unpredictable, requiring organizations to develop distinct subgroups that can respond differently as market and competitive conditions change.
McChrystal points out correctly that what makes the difference is not technological superiority but “the culture,” by which he means the degree to which the troops are trained not only to be precise about those things that really need to be standardized, but to be able to think for themselves and self-organize in those areas that require a new bespoke response. The stories reviewed here are all built on that assumption, but we have added that “the culture” has to be a
Level 2 culture and that transformation is only achieved by a certain kind of relationship building.
To create the agility needed to respond to a volatile and chaotic environment, McChrystal emphasizes empowering local units to be coordinated by a team of representatives from those units. The solution of having each team have a representative at a coordinating meeting to create “the team of teams” only works, however, if each representative has spent time in each team and established Level 2 relationships within each team. Otherwise it is inevitable that each representative would feel the need to argue for the values and methods of the team from which he or she came (in other words, digging in on one side of a technical, transactional negotiation).
Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.