Coda / June 2007

Don Beck and Doug Kruschke, Spiral Dynamics Integral: A Challenge to Leadership, Clearfire Media DVD, 2006.

In slightly more than two hours (longer if you check out all of the links and other material made available as you watch and listen to this program, Doug Kruschke facilitates Don Beck in laying out the story of Spiral Dynamics Integral from the work of Clare Graves and the meme codes of Spiral Dynamics to the integral of this approach with Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrant mapping model. In addition, there are many examples of implementation of the SDi approach in businesses, government organizations, and not for profits.

This is a tight and focused presentation that provides the viewer with the basics of SDi and offers approaches to implementing these ideas in the real world. The different levels in the spiral are described and examples given in the discussion. When it comes to how do you use this information in the real world Beck begins the concept of natural design that fits the tiers and advocates four bottom lines: purpose, people, profit, and planet. These reflect the blue, orange, green and yellow levels. The organization needs to rapidly respond to change and use “meshworks” to integrate these tiers and the levels. This will be necessary for survival.

How leaders respond to these ideas will depend on the levels the leaders are at. Focus is on the issues individuals will face, whether in a local community organization or a multi-national corporation. The key is the question, “How should who lead whom to do what?” Beck describes leadership as the leader-follower connection. Start with the job and build the natural system based on that. What is the nature of the job to be done? What individuals are required based on who can do the job naturally? How can we best train them calibrated to who they are? How do I best manage them based on the job?

They explore teamwork. We cannot train anybody to do anything. He references Adizes life cycle in relation to styles of management. They review the management or “leader” styles at each level, from purple’s tribal paternalism, to a motivating winner in orange, to yellow holding personal accountability and providing access to information while sustaining authenticity. This matches management approach to where people are in their development and what they need leadership to demonstrate. Fundamentally, this is a highly more developed variation on situational leadership.

The conversation is replete with examples from South Africa, football teams, oil companies, banking and the like. One of the important factors was for leaders and managers to learn how to communicate with different levels while recognizing that self-knowledge of level is critical. Beck acknowledges that people change, but that he can’t change people. There are many different types of change. Beck says any normal person can climb the spiral, but there are no guarantees. It is a product of life conditions and pressure of those conditions.

How would we advise leaders and managers in any setting? First, get the system set right. A la Ralph Kilman’s Quantum Organization it is essential to align these systems (rewards, selection, etc.) These need to reflect the business they are in and the values they support. Second, once it is designed keep it running through vital sign indicators of the heartbeat of the company. These need to be current sets of data on finances, etc. Then assure alignment in the company. This creates a spiral of technology, organization and people and these need to be coordinated.

If we are pleasing and polite, openness, autocratic that is based on the trust built by being polite and open. These are universals and people can be trained to do this. Beck then reviews management and international applications of the approach. Finally, he reviews the spiral approach in relation to integral theory and discusses each of the quadrants in the AQAL model. He advocates the value of looking for the third win you win, I win, we all win. The summary concludes:

(1) Understand your personal value system
(2) Realize that people are different than you
(3) Understand the power of the equation: How should who lead or manage whom to do what
(4) POA‑Develop politeness, openness and autocracy in managers
(5) Build in the flexibility for change in your organization
(6) Understand and empower the developmental framework

Keep in mind that the potential for these directives for showing up as flawed advice is high. There is still a lot to be done to develop our capabilities in implementing them. And isn’t it exciting that there is a growing group of people around the world who are doing just that!

^––––––– ^

Phil Rosenzweig. The Halo Effect…and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers. New York: Free Press, 2007.

When it comes to gaining perspective on how we make meaning in the practice, development and study of leadership and organizations, this new book by Rosenzweig weights in at among my top three. The other two are Chris Argyris’ Flawed Advice and the Management Trap and Joseph Rost’s Leadership and the 21st Century. What these three books have in common in that each, in its own way, is iconoclastic and assaults our pretenses of knowing what we are talking about. And that is an invaluable role for anyone or any publication to play.

So much of the literature on these subjects is glib, assertive, assured that the advice and perspectives that are being offered should be taken seriously. I, for one, appreciate the wisdom of those with experience and those who have studied what they believe to be important about these things historically and in their lifetimes—up to a point. All of the counseling around habits and authenticity, and even awareness are important contributions that we can draw on to build skills and competency. They are places to start from, but not places to get attached to. Sure, some of these I think are really, really important and even potentially universal good advice. I mean, who can dismiss the idea that awareness is the number one (or close to it) most important business skill? I am not going to argue with that! But we need to remember the nature of the value of such observations and the nature of advice associated with it.

One of my favorite business writers is Charles Hampden-Turner. He points out that values are not usefully construed as stand alone, independent entities. They are continua or polarities. Every value has an opposing value. And then, on top of that, the importance and utility of some values will vary by context. Isn’t that part of the point in an integral and developmental perspective? Awareness and consciousness are important, but can they also be inhibitors to required action or even knowing when action is required?

Well all of this is something we could probably explore in much further detail. Rosenzweig isn’t directly addressing these questions, but rather the delusions that “distort our understanding of company performance, that make it difficult to know why one company succeeds and another fails.” He continues, “These errors of thinking pervade much that we read about business, whether in leading magazines or scholarly journals or management bestsellers. They cloud our ability to think clearly and critically about the nature of success in business. These delusions are sometimes true and sometimes false. It is our challenge to recognize which.

Here are the delusions:

  • The halo effect: attributing company performance to culture, leadership, values and more based on prior performance.
  • The Delusion of Correlation and Causality: the claim that correlation means causation.
  • The Delusion of Single Explanations: the idea that a particular factor leads to improved performance (like more effective leadership).
  • The Delusion of Connecting the Winning Dots: using best practices data from other companies to guide our decisions.
  • The Delusion of Rigorous Research: data quality is more important than sophisticated research methodologies.
  • The Delusion of Lasting Success: sustaining company performance over time is not realistic.
  • The Delusion of Absolute Performance: many variables, many factors, improving and declining at the same time.
  • The Delusion of the Wrong End of the Stick: sometimes highly focused strategy works, and sometimes not.
  • The Delusion of Organizational Physics: company performance cannot be predicted with accuracy of science despite our grasping for certainty and order.

So how do we lead and manage without these delusions? Here is Rosenzweig’s summary:

  • “Any good strategy involves risk. If you think your strategy is foolproof, the fool may well me you.
  • “Execution, too, is uncertain—what works in one company with one workforce may have different results elsewhere.
  • “Chance often plays a greater role than we think, or than successful managers usually like to admit.
  • “The link between inputs and outcomes is tenuous. Bad outcomes don’t always mean that managers made mistakes; and good outcomes don’t always mean they acted brilliantly.
  • “But when the die is cast, the best managers act as if chance is irrelevant—persistence and tenacity are everything.”

Oops! Well, even iconoclasts may have the tendency to fall into the same traps that lure the rest of us.

> Russ Volckmann