Transforming systems with Joan Lurie

Joan Lurie

“we need to bring a new set of assumptions to our field of work”

Joan and I delve into the world of organisational ecology and reframing the hybrid workplace . Whilst some of the systemic assumptions have been around for some time, we haven’t really used them in organisations.

How can we work in complexity and notice and influence the patterns and relationships within a system ? We discuss looking at systems through a new lens, being more humanistic, and embedding a sense of improving the system and the relational aspects of the system – listening more intently to what is happening at every level.

The reductionist paradigm of ‘fixing’ systems or people leads to a world of opportunities for reinventing & rewiring the human systems of an organisation.

Joan shares her research, experience and insights from using her methodology to work with businesses and leaders across the globe to reinvent and reframe organisational systems

The main insights you will get from this episode :

  • Organisational ecology: how organisations come together in a market sense, looking at internal and external engagement to view the whole. There are 2 dominant paradigms:
  • Technical: improving or ’fixing’ organisations based on process improvement, restructuring, well-known models, etc. and
  • Psychological: focussing on the people in organisations, on their strengths and weaknesses, personalities, changing/creating awareness.
  • The ‘fixing’ paradigm is reductionist – we must understand how organisations function and cultures develop, and use new language to frame it and disrupt the field using organisational psychology and a humanistic approach to system/relational aspects.
  • The new role of organisational ecologists in a shift towards ‘collective’ will close the intention/action gap between collective and individual and reframe the role of leaders and HR to focus on seeing systemic patterns and diagnose shortcomings.
  • A change in a system/organisation/behaviour requires a change to a person’s role in the system – we must encourage different roles and think of organisations as networks of roles and role relations that have become embedded in patterns that we need to make sense of.
  • Organisational ecology deals with the relations in and between ecosystems. We need to focus more on the system with a ‘me and the system’, not a ‘me in the system’ approach.
  • Many organisations favour this new (reframed) approach of observing the system: systems thinking, systems dynamics/psychodynamics and human systems. Systems develop ‘muscle memory’ that must be countered by meeting the system where it is.
  • The Orgonomix analogy of ‘trying on a new pair of glasses’ to see things differently and experiment is an adaptive toolkit, an invitation to practice and start small.
  • Leaders are used to being sold solutions (best practice) by consultants and relations between consultants and leaders must be repatterned: how can consultants know how the system works? The aim should be to jointly discover the systemic constraints.
  • Leaders have always been expected to ‘fix’ things based on ‘don’t bring me the problem, bring me the solution’, but good leaders should empower people and opt for the better mantra of ‘don’t bring me problems, bring me ideas’.
  • This new type of system leadership requires a different skill set: managing the system, creating space for the system to become visible, teaching how to see and diagnose systems (generate hypotheses), with leaders including themselves in the system.
  • Busy leaders often don’t want to take the time to ‘listen to’ the system, which requires curiosity and a willingness to try something new. Anecdotal evidence from others can encourage leaders who are disheartened after other unsuccessful ‘transformation projects’.
  • Hybrid working post-COVID is a great opportunity to do things differently. This could be allowing each sub-system to decide what is best for them – an adaptive way to build empathy, give ownership to the sub-system level and make it more contextual/relational.
  • We must learn to ask questions of others on a human level and strive for relational and contextual intelligence to capitalise on this exciting opportunity to build organisational empathy and design intentionally for inclusion.
  • In complexity, such work is liberating, achieves commercial results and changes interpersonal relationships within the organisation. Looking beyond or inserting and holding boundaries is important.
  • HR should be a system disruptor, not a reactive service provider that maintains the system status quo. We must reframe our mental maps and shift the network of roles and meaning-making to get buy-in from top management and create space for reorganisation.

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Suzie Lewis

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