Introducing The Age Of Sustainability

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This article is part of a series titled A brief History Of The Organization

So far, I have discussed a bit about how organizations as we know them are a by-product of the industrial age. I have explained why industrial organizations are not fit for purpose in an era of uncertainty, volatility, and complexity. I talked a bit about agile. Why it’s awesome. Why it’s not enough.

And Now For Something Meaningful

Agile, and most movements like it, position the need for this kind of thinking from the perspective of market success, as a component of cooperate survival.

Go agile or you will go out of business.

Shift your mindset or your competitors will eat your lunch.

Modernize or become irrelevant.

Be human, or be left behind.

This is not enough. If we want people to truly shift their mindset, I think we need more. We won’t and can’t make an enduring, and compelling change with such an offer by itself. Not one that is as deep and meaningful as moving from an Industrial Organization to a Human Organization.

And the very motivation to move to the human organization exists all around us.

We are facing perhaps one of the most critical points in our history, an inflection point if you will. Global warming, environmental disasters, social unrest, extinction, inequality, pandemics. Pick your poison. We are facing an unprecedented wave of social, political and ecological threats.

the world is demanding more from it’s institutions

And the industrial organization is a first class contributor to these issues. Study after study shows that trust in cooperate, government, and social institutions is declining.

Interestingly research shows that the general public is increasingly looking to business CEOs to drive positive social change in the world. Business, is starting to take notice. Their is a conscious shift from the focus of merely profiting investors to the far more expansive view that organizations need to benefit the entire planet.

It could be stated that we have moved on from the needs of the age of complexity. We are now coming into the age of sustainability. An age where organizations treat financials and positive world impact as complementary not contradictory. Where we move past thinking about shareholders first to creating a positive impact across all stake-holders within your organization’s ecosystem. Where we consider the entire life cycle of a product, and deliver value in a way that addresses the entire system, from creation to recycling.

And again, the ability to navigate the balance required for sustainable value creation is not something we can relegate to a machine, a rule book, or a few smart leaders. It will require a lot of smart people putting their heads together to solve some very intractable problems. It will require a new way of organizing, what I like to call Organizing Forward, towards the age of sustainability.

Three Principle for a more humane organization

Organizing Forward Towards the Age of Sustainability.

Organizing Forward is my take on how organizations are elevating to a higher state of being. It’s how we can connect to and build on the benefits of agile to evolve

It is a set of principles that can help us allow us to organize around our innate humanity, at scale.

We Organize Around Purpose when ground the very core of our organization in purpose that is meaningful and authentic enough to motivate people to collaborate on impacts with maximum autonomy.

We Organize Through Choice when put an environment of fairness, trust, and safety in place so that we can facilitate greater self-organization, self- management, and even self-direction at all levels of our organization.

We Organize For Change when we put mechanisms in place to maximize transparency, feedback, and flow so that we can continuously adapt and evolve our organization.

In Summary

  • Agile is frequently marketed as an enabler for business success, which is not a compelling enough reason on it’s own to move from an Industrial Organization to the Human Organization
  • The real reason to move to a more human organization that places people first, is the very survival of our planet
  • We are now in the age of sustainability, organizations are now being tasked with the virtuous and responsible creation of value
  • We can build on the principles of agile and other modern management movements to embrace a new paradigm that balances purpose with profit
  • Organizing Forward is an articulation of the principles we can use to organize in a way that takes maximum advantage of our innate humanity.

Up Next: The Three Principles Of Organizing Forward

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