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The Integral Agile Transformation Framework: An Overview

A complete overview of the IATF, taking you on a tour of the quadrants. Also addresses each holon level, including how they are specifically applied in the context of an Agile Transformation.
This chapter is from the book

Development comes about when we are able to take more perspectives; the Integral Agile Transformation Framework (IATF) is a vehicle to shift our development because it creates a discipline or a platform for us to take these perspectives systematically. It helps build different muscles or capacities both for ourselves as transformational leaders—to help us show up differently to lead our organization through change—and for our organizations in their practices, structures, mindset, and culture. We can easily take a familiar perspective out of habit. The beauty of the IATF, by contrast, is that it gives you a new set of lenses with which to see things that you may have never seen before. It takes you out of autopilot mode and into presence with what is happening in the moment, which then gives you more options in how to respond. Our goal in writing this chapter is to help make that power real for you by applying Integral thinking directly to the tasks of organizational transformation. The IATF can be seen as an organizational operating system for transformation, which, after upgrading your leader’s operating system (LOS), puts you in a good position to fully embrace this approach.

The IATF is an Integral model uniting each of the four quadrant views, the developmental lines within each quadrant, and each of the altitudes expressed for those lines, which can be applied to any level of holon (individual, team, program, organization, and even society). It is a highly robust model, pointing to more areas than we can easily pay attention to in a single sitting but is useful beyond measure in reminding us of what there is to see, practice with, and take into consideration. Recall that we compared the Integral model to a compass and a map: The IATF is both compass and map, helping us see more clearly and act more effectively. The IATF is an infinitely expandable map that accommodates all the approaches we could take to achieve enterprise transformation. In that sense, it is a meta-model and, therefore, not in “competition” with other organizational, process, scaling, or change models. Rather, each of those models or approaches will have a place (one or more “kosmic addresses”) within the IATF and, in turn, a clear relationship with any of the other models or approaches you want to consider, either now or in the future. This allows for comparing and contrasting approaches—that is, where each is strong, where it is missing elements, where it is likely to be compatible with other approaches, and where it is unable to offer an integral, comprehensive approach. You will be able to map your client situation into the IATF to determine the appropriate tools, models, frameworks, and approaches for the situation in which you find yourself.

For you as a transformational leader, the IATF provides a powerful method for working with your organization as a complex adaptive system. But it is equally important to remember that the IATF is only a tool: While it is a way for you to more clearly see your complex system, you should not become attached to your assessment of what you believe you see in terms of quadrant orientations or altitudes. Instead, you should remain curious and in inquiry mode rather than being fixed on your views and attached to your map. When you keep “self as instrument” in the forefront of your awareness, you recognize when your own quadrant orientations, level of thinking, biases, and meaning making are limiting your ability to more effectively work with the organization and with leaders. Furthermore, you are better able to allow for emergence and accommodate what is arising in the moment.

How Do We Use the Map?

Taking an Integral approach to enterprise transformation means that we consider multiple perspectives on the situation or the holon of interest. For instance, what is the primary altitude of the individual person, team, program, or organizational system we are working with? We could say that that is looking at the client or situation. We also want to look from their perspective, through their eyes (looking as) to see what they see. A person who views the world through an Achievement-Orange lens will see the world in a much different way than one who sees the world primarily from a Pluralistic-Green perspective. Of course, since we see the world primarily through a given lens, we also need to be aware of our own biases and limitations. For instance, if we see the world through an Achievement-Orange lens, we may tend to see a project as an accomplishment to be achieved and perceive that we will be “installing” the IATF, or some other framework, that we then hope to implement to make the transformation happen. Conversely, if we see the transformation from a Pluralistic-Green value system, we will more likely be motivated to inspire a new way of being and valuing in the organization rather than just focusing on the “doing” aspect.

In our work, we use our Integral lenses to see more clearly how the client makes meaning of the world (I), how they go about getting things done (IT), what types of structures they build (ITS), and how they are in relationship with others (WE). Asking ourselves these types of questions is what it means to use the Integral Operating System (IOS). (Recall that another name for the IOS is the “all quadrants, all levels, all lines” [AQAL] view.)

To summarize, a given “something of interest”—whether a team, an executive leader, a product development process, an organization’s culture, or its performance management policies—can be distinguished or mapped in relationship to its counterparts, or to any other thing, by assessing four dimensions:

  1. What is the primary holon (individual, team, organization) of interest, or what holons are interacting?

  2. What is the primary quadrant (I, WE, IT, or ITS) emphasized or privileged (since there is almost always a bias)?

  3. What is the primary altitude (or level) of functioning (e.g., Amber, Orange, Green, Teal) being exhibited or acted out of? Alternatively, which altitude values are in conflict (e.g., the Orange goal fulfillment conflicts with the Green need for consensual decision making)?

  4. What developmental lines (lines within each quadrant, relative to the evolution of that quadrant) are applicable to the situation, and how do they help us see where growth could be applied?

Given that this is a framework for Agile enterprise transformations, to be effective for our purposes we also need to narrow the generic quadrants I, WE, IT, and ITS down to more relevant (and specific) designations. We will outline these in the next section at the organization level; later in the chapter, we will look at the team- and program-level designations for the quadrants. We will continue using the altitude designations of Amber, Orange, Green, and Teal, as these have by far the most relevance for organizations adopting Agile. In Chapter 9, we will layer in the concept of developmental lines (how complexity evolves within each quadrant) and our own concept of Integral Disciplines—the primary vectors to focus on in an Agile Transformation.

In essence, we are moving from using a high-level map of the world (the IOS) to a detailed map of our neighborhood, complete with our favorite bakery, natural foods market, night club, and gym (the IATF). Let’s look at the enterprise transformation quadrants first.

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