In the book Systems Thinking: Managing chaos and complexity, J. Gharajedaghi provides an example of decision-making by indigenous people of North America. The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) had given specific roles to its member tribes, namely Wolves (Pathfinders), Turtles (Problem Formulators), and Bears (Problem Solvers). Solving problems (e.g. governance) went like this:
- Wolves — Set direction, and identify relevant issues
- Turtles — Define the problems
- Bears — Generate alternatives and recommend solutions
- Turtles — Check on the potency of the recommended solutions
- Wolves — Integrate the solutions, keep the records, communicate the decisions
Could this model be incorporated into our current organizations?
The advantages I see with this governance model is that power is distributed but the roles are clear. It also builds in peer reflection through the process.
“Using different attributes and characteristics for each of the three symbols of turtle, wolf and bear, the culture, to its credit, had identified and separated the three distinct roles of pathfinder, problem formulator, and problem solver. The role played by the wolves is that of pathfinder / synthesizer. Wolves display purposeful behavior by setting the direction, dealing with the ‘why’ questions, identifying relevant issues, and defining the agenda and context before they are presented to the turtles, the problem formulators, to define them. The defined problems are, in turn, passed on by the turtles to the bears, the problem solvers. Bears generate alternatives and recommend solutions. Solutions are returned to the turtles to check on their relevance and potency before referring them back to the wolves to check on their relevance. Wolves are finally responsible for integrating the solutions, keeping the records, and ratifying and communicating the final agreements. Wolves keep the fire alive by motivating and monitoring others”. —J. Gharajedaghi
Is it time to retrieve this pre-industrial governance structure for our emerging post-industrial society? Could it be used today or does it need a certain culture?
In The Trust Suite, Charles Green shows that Professors and Experts are not as trusted as Doers, Connectors, and Catalysts. Self-orientation is a prime factor in trustworthiness.
“The denominator in the Trust Equation is self-orientation (the numerator factors are credibility, reliability and intimacy). The higher your self-orientation, the lower your trustworthiness. The logic is simple: if you’re paying attention to the other person (client, customer, friend, spouse, whatever), then you’re probably interested in them, care about them, and have some positive intent toward them.
By contrast, if your attention is devoted inward, you will not be trusted. Why should you be? You’re obsessed with yourself. We trust people who appear to care, and who demonstrate that caring by paying attention. He who pays attention largely to himself is not the stuff of trusted advisors.” —Charles Green
Perhaps we can use these trust temperaments to identify who should be in involved in which part of decision-making, instead of relying on the person at the top of the hierarchy to make decisions from some likely unbalanced combination of these temperaments. Here is an initial idea.
Wolves — Professors, Connectors
Turtles — Catalysts, Stewards
Bears — Doers, Experts
This is a work in progress and I’d like to thank Michelle Holliday for getting me to think about these ideas from 2004 again.