Disequilibrium and Self-Organisation

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Disequilibrium and Self-Organisation

Startling, holistic properties rely heavily on creative systemic abilities of organizations. Mere order and stability do not stage an environment for creativity; disorder and instability do. We postulate that complexity theory offers a promising epistemology for the leadership in self-organizing organizations, because it suggests a more dialogic framework for understanding the concept of leadership, and of the context within which leadership emerges.

As Marion and Uhl-Bien argue, the success or failure of leadership in action is ascribable to the capabilities of the organizations that carry them. The complexity of our world calls for an alternative focus on leadership with leaders who enable rather than manage and where the strength of a leader is obtained from the skill to guide rather than to order Plowman et al. Dialogue and developing a common language by using memes is an important tool for the leaders in complex environments. It is the instrument to build in shared-meaning, interdependence, and collective pools of knowledge.

Leading effectively in complex contexts requires the capacity to embrace paradoxes, and going beyond conventional and widely accepted behaviors, which may include combining what is traditionally perceived as oppositional Montuori, These leaders can direct but also follow, can be engaged but observant as well, and can be decisive and also reflexive. Leading in self-organizing organizations can benefit from applying counterintuitive strategies. The strategy of tradition leaders and organizations is to reduce when the situation becomes complex, by dissecting reality into readily understood formats.

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The counterintuitive strategy is to enhance complexity when situations become too complex, by changing the perspective from orderly, homogeneity towards disorderly heterogeneity. We have applied this strategy in prototyping possible future states of an organization. Instead of inviting the management, we asked people not related to the company from different unusual backgrounds to participate in our workshops, with staggering results.

This evolutionary principle allows the emergence of a creative jump, of the emanation of a next level of solutions. Plowman and others conducted a qualitative case study to observe the interaction and behavior of leaders in a complex context. Their case study revealed the significance and potential of the role of leadership as an enabler for self-organizing behavior and that the people who are working in these organizations are engaged and connected, rather than being followers Plowman, et al. As researchers and transformative consultants, we have been actively involved in the process of facilitating and analyzing the emergence of self-organized behavior and self-organizing organizations in The Netherlands.

Not surprisingly, The Netherlands provides a productive breeding ground for organizational change and the redefinition of leadership in the context of self-organization processes. Egalitarian, horizontal organization models based on consensus decision making processes have been a common feature of The Netherland.

Its origin was the instatement of the Dutch water authorities in the 13th century to protect the land from flooding and to manage water-levels in the polders. These authorities were democratic stakeholder organizations consisting of elected representatives from local farming communities. For over years The Netherlands may be described as a highly consensus-based community with a self-organizing tradition covering a wide range of aspects of society. The revival of self-organizing organizations is a visible trend in The Netherlands.

These new organizational models are molded around egalitarian social and ecological values and increased human interconnectedness. These contemporary Dutch self-organizing organizations are radically different from the prevailing organization models, because they have toppled down the power-pyramid and are organized in a peer-based shape. In Dutch self-organizing organizations the traditional concept of employee as the follower has been expelled; with no clear disconnection between private and personal life, people working for these organizations are invited to show up as a complete persons.

The organizational model consists of loose, decentralized and networked units. These organizations function as living, breathing eco-systems. Key elements are: self-organization, agility and adaptivity Laloux, The influence of context is hardly addressed in the analysis. The creation of new organizations — or for transforming existing organizations — on the premise of the principles of self-organization, are not omnipresent in The Netherlands, but are mainly observed in the areas of society that are submitted to major changes.

Since the public domain is all-pervasive in The Netherlands, alterations in public policy seem to create a context for transformation. Self-organization has emerged in the segments of Dutch society where new policy frameworks have been introduced; for example in elderly care and the youth and child social care system. The entry points of most of these new policy regulations are austerity measures to compensate for the financial loses of the financial crisis, with budget cuts amounting to 30 percent of the total budget. The existing organizations in elderly care and youth and child social care systems are immensely challenged by these novel policy frameworks, because they bear the characteristics of large bureaucratic and inflexible organizations.

Hierarchy, transactional leadership and management, substantial overhead, internal rules and regulations and strict protocols define the working processes and the culture of these organizations. Financial acumen to manage cash flow, leveraging expenditure on staffing to enlarge the productivity per employee, and raising the investment in public relations to attract more clients, will not necessarily secure the future of these organizations, since their method of care provision is grounded on intramural practice. In many of the care institutions, the real estate costs amount up to 30 percent of the total budget.

Their long-term rental contracts or ownership of millions of square meters of real estate add to their inflexibility. Within this policy framework and societal context, a crack emerged for new initiatives based on the premise of self-organization to blossom. In this setting, Jos de Blok for example seized his opportunity to start Buurtzorg Nederland in De Blok, a former nurse, founded his organization with a team of professional nurses who were dissatisfied with the protocolled health care delivered by traditional home care and elderly care organizations.

His team introduced a new model of patient-centered care, focusing on facilitating and maintaining independence and autonomy for clients Van Dale, Buurtzorg started as a team of 4 professionals in By thousands of nurses were working with Buurtzorg in self-organizing teams of professionals in The Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, and the United States. Patient-centered care has been rewarded by clients with higher levels of client satisfaction Van Dale, , and is far more cost-efficient.

Buurtzorg and other initiatives breached the walls of the traditional care companies by co-creating new health care organizations, grounded on a new care paradigm and self-organization. This renewal was soon spotted by the Dutch national government as prototypes for the new policy perspective on the quality and the execution of healthcare. At that time, the Dutch government had also implemented a new business paradigm of management into the public sector: New Public Management NPM.

NPM left more discretion to the managers and care institutions and companies and promoted public entrepreneurship Meurs, ; Van Dale, NPM created, in concordance with new elderly care policy frameworks, a breeding ground for new initiatives. De Blok was adopted by the State Secretary of social care, Jet Bussemaker — who had been active in the same professional network as De Blok in the years before she became State Secretary of social care — as an exemplary case of health care renewal and received oral government support.

This stature aided De Blok in the rollout of Buurtzorg, for example, in negotiating contracts with healthcare insurance companies. Complexity theory informs us of the importance of ephemerality.

It does matter which individual person acts as the nucleus of change, and how he is interconnected with others in the circles of influence. Ephemerality and the fluidity of interconnectedness is precisely what makes each transformation an unpredictable process Bateson, Evidence from The Netherlands also substantiates that leading transformation within a context of complexity requires a combination of leadership styles.

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He also embodies more traditional leadership styles that enable him to play the game in tough negotiations with insurance companies, real estate agents and the government. Leading transformation in complex environment calls for a myriad of leadership qualities that can only be expected from people who possess an inner balance. Self-mastery is the key to growing ones leadership presence, building trusting relationship and enabling flexibility as circumstances change, while staying connected to ones core values Geerlof, Although the Dutch government changed its policy paradigm and policy framework on elderly and youth care, most of the rules and regulation and the liability protocols remained unchanged.

These protocols had stimulated the traditional healthcare institutions in the past to centralize and expand and ended up becoming massive bureaucracies based on the merits of control and lack of professional space Geerlof, The emergence of new self-organizational models in The Netherlands could not have taken place without the leadership of individuals and groups, and the cracks that emerged because of policy alterations. But to capitalize the merits of these new initiatives, a systemic transformation is imperative. The lack of systemic transformation is one of the reasons why most initiatives never reach a stage of maturity.

As scholars and transformative consultants we can learn from these failures. Recently we worked for an elderly care institution in the Western part of our country. Our assignment was to transform the traditional protocol-led working style, controlled by middle management, into a novel, client-centered approach conducted by multi-disciplinary self-organizing teams.

Step one was a sensing journey along the elderly care centers. As workers we participated in the teams and visited the homes as mystery guests.

In these teams we observed how regulations and protocols cast a shadow on the performance of professionals. We witnessed how formalized rules are constructing the inter relation that professionals have with their clients. As a consequence, the care they delivered had become a derived version of the protocols of the national Inspection of healthcare. A second step was the presentation of our analysis to the board of directors. In our power point presentation we proposed a series of pilots in which we would prototype the new elderly care with the professionals and participant from the neighborhood.

Our analysis revealed three pillars of action in turning around the organization: 1 cuisine as the golden tread of daily routine, 2 enhanced neighbourhood participation and 3 the development and implementation of integral accountability based on storytelling, instead of facts and figures. We started with one pilot with an interdisciplinary team by applying transformative tools inspired on the work of Kegan , and Scharmer in a series of workshops. The team was inspired and co-created prototypes that could have been implemented almost the next day. The implementation failed because the board of directors actively disengaged when the going got tough and financial head wind took over the desire for transformation.

The transformative language was widely applied on the website and the folders, but has not been materialized into behaviour and practice. Transforming an existing organization on all levels — vision, structure, human resource management, leadership accountability, communication — into an organization based on the repertoire of self-organization, professional freedom, and person-centered services, requires vision, ambition, a long term perspective, and a combination of leadership styles engrained in the behavior of the governors and managers.

The emergence of self-organization in The Netherlands cannot be understood without the acknowledgement of the role of rapid changes in society. A crucial factor that created the conditions for new organizational models is the changing requirements of clients.

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The baby boomer generation — born after WWII — is retiring. They lived their lives in an era of progress and are the highest educated and most articulate group of elderly people our country ever had. This same conclusion holds for parents who rely on the youth and child social care systems for the support and healthcare of their children that suffer from autism have a low IQ, a mental illness, or who are physically handicapped.

Both groups have been challenging the bureaucratic, rationalized, centralized, and protocolled, intramural health practice of the large-scale traditional institutions, and call for person-centered care that is locally organized Bosscher, The government responded to the needs of their voters by installing a new Child and Youth Law. Since the beginning of , all Dutch municipalities are responsible for the whole continuum of care for children, young people and families in need of support.

Dutch aldermen carry the responsibility for the creation of a new landscape of youth and child social care. In concord, self-organized transdisciplinary local teams are inserted into the existing care system as the major instrument of change. The team members consist of youth health care workers, community education workers, youth psychologists and behavioral scientists.

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The scale of the implementation of the transdisciplinary teams is unseen in The Netherlands. Most of the team members are former professionals working in one of the institutions, and have to reinvent their profession. In the process of prototyping, training and coaching we have encountered many enthusiastic professionals eager to playing a part in the self-organizing organizations, but again the lack of fertile context is worrisome.

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The lobby-work of the establishment resulted in a Child and Youth Law which posits that in the first year of the transition, clients are eligible to a continuation of the youth care provided by the institutions, leaving hardly any space for new initiatives. As a consequence, the new self-organized transdisciplinary teams have to emerge within the context of existing organizations.

Although the established institutions acknowledge the need for organizational change, they are at the same time being confronted with the question of organizational stability, or even survival. Evidently, a youth care team cannot become self-organized without the proper transformational conditions. The process needs prototyping and building experiential knowledge in an iterative learning process facilitated by peer coaching and appreciative leadership that acknowledged the complexity of transformation, and fosters a social learning space in a complex context where the lives of children can be at stake.

The years ahead will inform us whether self-organization will become a cornerstone of the Dutch youth and child social care system. The emergence of self-organization sails on the wave of the reinvention of the professional. Policy documents and the mission statements of traditional health care institutions stipulate the importance of the professional, and vow to create space for professional judgment.