Leadership, Connectivity, Execution, Organization

Powerful metaphors guide our collective thoughts. It took a long time to understand heliocentrism and then modern science even blasts that model apart somewhat. In spite of all our scientific knowledge, many people still believe in the geocentric model.

Metaphors that provide the common mental frameworks for our organizations are also powerful tools. For example, the company as a well-oiled machine conjures up a certain image. Today, more people are viewing the organization as a biological system, bringing new metaphors that can change the way we think, and act. The Socialcast blog has an infographic that shows what ants can teach the enterprise about teamwork starting with four challenges of distributed teams:

  1. Too much Focus on Technology and Process.
  2. Focus is on Doing, not Goals.
  3. Weak team Cohesion.
  4. Trouble adopting Technology.

One answer is the concept of bioteams, with four key zones that should be supported by the organization.

“We are all leaders. We must keep one another informed in real time. We trust living systems to self-organize”; writes Jay Cross on bioteams. A self-organizing, living system versus a well-oiled machine: pick the company you would rather work for.

My experience with distributed teams confirms these four essential components. I would also add an essential ingredient that strengthens the bonds between these four components and that is trust. However, even with new frameworks and models, the hard work is in changing practice, as those persevering geocentrists show.

7 Responses to “Leadership, Connectivity, Execution, Organization”

  1. Paul Angileri

    Thanks for the post. I agree with much of this, though if the 4 challenges are weighted greatest to least, I would put “Focus is on doing, not goals” at the top. I can’t tell you how many times this one has turned honest wants and needs into good intentions and no execution. It could be the need to change a process, or the want to improve things like documentation and measurement; but at the end of the day all anyone focuses on is doing, because they know that is what is seen most, and what they are judged by on a daily basis.

    Where geocentrism is concerned, I wouldn’t chalk that one up to the power of metaphor, but rather a dose of hubris mixed with some active hostility to science. The power of the metaphor in question can always be attenuated upward by coming up with something ever more fanciful.

    • Harold Jarche

      “The power of the metaphor in question can always be attenuated upward by coming up with something ever more fanciful.” Oh, I like that, Paul 🙂

  2. Richard Merrick


    Really appreciate these posts. Very helpful wih my own thinking, basically that any developmntal focu has to be on individuals, not teams. Given personal clarity and purpose, teams will morph to take care of themselves (not easy, or pretty, but true). External motivation, “team building” and the like are a function of essentially dysfunctional teams.

    Increasingly, we do not have the excuse not to work on things we believe in with those we want to. Again, not easy, but possible. it is fear that holds us back.

    • Harold Jarche

      I agree that individuals are the core of this, but from the organization’s perspective, it’s the team. We need to create environments that let individuals develop and at the same time support organizational learning. It’s a bit of a paradox, I think. Peter Senge’s perspective is to leave individual learning alone: http://jarche.com/2009/10/fridays-finds-23/

  3. Jon Husband

    Here, from ChangeThis November 2005, is The Bioteaming Manifesto

    It was, at that time, I think, ahead of its time in terms of a critical mass of people having some awareness of the types of dynamics and the patterns that had begun to appear.

    One of the co-authors is Robin Good, whom I believe is one of Jay’s friends / colleagues.


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