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Integrating the Quadrant Perspectives

The very foundation of the IATF is an Integral attitude, so regularly and systematically taking the perspective of all four quadrants is central, both to provide full understanding of a given context and to uncover all the salient approaches to growing a more Agile organization. No method—not Schneider’s culture types, the idea of being and doing Agile, software craftsmanship, a focus on individual Agile practices, or a scaling process like SAFe—is the final answer. Being Integral means embracing approaches from each of the quadrants and choosing them depending on how they fit with the change strategy, all to get a comprehensive, balanced effect.

One global comment about organizational change and the quadrants: Bob Anderson, an unparalleled researcher in the field of leadership development, observes in his white paper The Spirit of Leadership (2008) that the I and WE quadrants are typically de-emphasized in organizational change initiatives; instead, these efforts are driven primarily by structural and process approaches, leading to failure rates of 85%. This is also what we see in the Agile world, where there is an (over) emphasis on training and implementing Agile practices (IT), and perhaps scaled frameworks and some form of organization design (ITS), with little effective action taken to develop leadership (I) or align culture (WE). Taking Bob’s advice to heart, we have emphasized the left-hand quadrants, since we are steeped in multiple effective, scientifically based approaches that develop organizations within those quadrants. Recall that the right-hand quadrants are no less important, but they are more well understood and already more easily focused upon in our industry.

Now that we have explained the quadrant perspective in the IATF, let’s consider an example that frequently comes up in an Agile transformation. We’ll then put on the lens from each quadrant to examine this situation, providing a sense of integration. Recall a couple of facts about quadrants: They “tetra-arise,” meaning they are all available all the time if we just look; one quadrant impacts the others, so how you see a given situation depends on which lens you are looking through; and to be Integral, we need to look from all four perspectives systematically.

This is a scenario we have seen in transformations, and you may also recognize it: The HR department is not seen as a key player in the Agile Transformation. Let’s look at this scenario from the lens of each quadrant, and consider how it impacts the Agile Transformation effort.

  • Leadership and Mindset: If we look at (from an assessment point of view) the I quadrant, we recognize the need for leadership to develop their own Inner Game, to increase their capacity to support the Agile mindset as well as Agile leadership traits. It might not be obvious to HR or the leadership of the Agile Transformation effort that there is a connection between the type of leadership needed in an Agile environment (typically the purview of Agile coaches) and leadership development (typically within the scope of HR). This is especially true when the transformation is perceived as being an information technology-driven initiative. In contrast, when we look from (as the client) the I quadrant, we can see that the HR leader might feel as if their role is being infringed upon if we bring in a leadership development program under the auspices of the Agile Transformation without considering them as a partner in this effort. Taking both perspectives gives us more information to act on. This tendency to divide up the world—the technology organization doing “technology” things, and the HR department doing “people and leadership” things—gets exposed when we take an Integral view.

  • Practices and Behavior: Looking at the IT quadrant, from an HR point of view, we have seen confusion around the new job roles and descriptions that Agile tends to provoke, where there may not be adequate career paths to support the new ways of working and the new practices Agile brings, and where there is a potential mismatch between current skills and needed skills or roles. Looking from the IT quadrant, we have seen HR folks struggle to understand Agile, the required skills and competencies, how people’s roles will need to evolve, and the fact that a convenient mapping of roles (such as project manager = Scrum Master) often does not do justice to the reality on the ground.

  • Organizational Architecture: Looking at the ITS quadrant, we see HR policies and reward systems—like stack ranking or an emphasis on individual versus team performance—that often don’t align with Agile beliefs or values. For instance, such policies often drive individuals to try to stand out rather than focus on team success. Looking from the ITS quadrant and the HR person’s view, shifting the reward system to be more team oriented will require a big change effort across the entire organization. If HR wasn’t given a seat at the table when the Agile Transformation was launched, this may be a difficult and lengthy process later in the game. Bringing HR in early, and trying to see the world from their point of view, can pay big dividends.

  • Organizational Culture and Relationships: Looking at the WE quadrant, we see a culture misaligned with Agile, along with the typical belief that HR is responsible for culture change initiatives. Clearly, these efforts need to be closely integrated. Looking from the WE quadrant through the eyes of the HR group, they may not see the connection between culture shift and Agile, which results in a siloed mentality—an “us versus them” mindset instead of a shared “we” mindset about how to drive that culture change.

Development within the Quadrants

Throughout human history, human adaptation has been a dance between external circumstances and internal capacity: As external circumstances became more complex, the internal adaptive capacity had to evolve to be a match for that complexity. Likewise, organizations have evolved out of a need to match the complexity of our world. Right now, we are living in a time of extreme complexity acceleration. All over the world, humanity is asking for authentic leadership, the kind able to solve world problems within the context of wildly varied stakeholder views. In addition, we need new kinds of practices, structures, and cultures to fit the level of complexity we now face. The need to evolve has never been greater.

Agile came about in response to this reality, meeting the world’s complexity in the area of software development, an evolutionary adaptation that furthered the ability of groups to collaborate to solve problems and bring products to market that were fit for purpose and met customer needs. This was expressed most commonly as an IT quadrant solution: a series of related practices that got better business results. The trouble is, those practices—designed from the thinking of a higher altitude than previous ways—required corresponding supporting complexity in the other quadrants. For instance, Agile practices (IT) designed from a Pluralistic-Green to Evolutionary-Teal altitude need similarly complex leadership (I) (outcome-creating/self-authoring mind) and culture (Pluralistic-Green culture and human-oriented relationships from a WE perspective). Further evolution of Agile to address large, complex organizations and their need to respond to disruption with their own innovation revealed the need for agility at the organizational level, not just at the team or in the delivery function.

Since Agile is an evolutionary adaptation in a world of ever-increasing complexity, it will help us to have a model of how evolution proceeds within each of the quadrants, so as to have a complete picture of organizational transformation (even more specific to organizational transformation than the picture conveyed in Part I). In our Integral map, recall there is a horizontal element—the quadrants, pointing us to different areas of focus and different methodologies and logics. There is also a vertical dimension that represents the level of complexity, whether of practices, culture, leadership, or organizational structures and systems.

We will continue to focus on four primary organizational altitudes—namely, Amber, Orange, Green, and Teal—held in a generic way across all four quadrants. Again, these colors are semi-arbitrary, designed in the Integral Model to match the colors of the rainbow for easy recall. Recall that each successive level is spurred into existence by organizational (or personal, in the case of an individual) challenges and general life conditions that could not be successfully handled by the previous way of organizing. The new level represents a stable way to deal with these new challenges successfully.

Each successive level of organization transcends and includes the previous level. In healthy development, this means culling the adaptive parts of each level for use at the next level. For instance, at the Pluralistic-Green altitude, we still have the ability to utilize Achievement-Orange negotiation skills in an appropriate context. In unhealthy development, in contrast, we often reject everything about the previous level and see it as wrong or naive. Each altitude has more capacity to deal with complexity than the previous one, which is generally a good thing, assuming that capacity is actually needed within a given environment (for instance, Traditional-Amber may indeed be the most effective altitude for an organization that needs to manage a simple manufacturing environment in a developing country). As people and organizations realize the need for a new way of being to match the world’s complexity, development becomes more possible when we honor what the current way of being allows for, while also recognizing what possibilities it closes down. Developing a new way of being requires honoring what is healthy in the current way and letting go of what is no longer working, which allows for new capacity to be developed.

Addressing the issue of altitude in the IATF, Figure 8.3 shows the four altitude colors applied to the quadrants. Note that evolution happens within each quadrant somewhat independently of the others.


Figure 8.3

The Integral Agile Transformation Framework: quadrants and altitudes

The altitudes used here are highly influenced by Spiral Dynamics. However, its levels represent only one or two (of many) developmental lines, specifically within the I and WE quadrants, relating to how the individual, or the culture, “thinks” and values, representing different ways of being human.

The generic altitude colors attempt to abstract the essence of each altitude to give a sense of how it applies across quadrants; the specific ways in which evolution proceeds within each quadrant are explained in Chapter 9. Here, we summarize the altitudes briefly. These summaries are largely based on Laloux’s research (2014) on Teal organizations and corroborated by the research of Graves (2005) and Beck and Cowan (1996).

  • Conformist-Amber: Traditional, process-focused, right way to do things; seeks order, control, and predictability; structured, fixed hierarchy; formal job titles. Planning at the top, execution at the bottom. Conformist-Amber is a good fit for simple work environments and where order is essential (e.g., the military). Certainty-oriented.

  • Achievement-Orange: Scientific method; effectiveness and efficiency; organization as a machine; management is like engineering. Innovation, accountability, and meritocracy are core concepts. Rational, restrained emotions. Uses goals to control. Budgeting, key performance indicators (KPIs), balanced scorecards, performance appraisals, bonuses, and stock options. Individual freedom. Results-oriented.

  • Pluralistic-Green: Bottom-up processes, consensus-driven decision making, diversity oriented, servant leadership. Corporate social responsibility; organizational metaphor = family. Vision statements, values-driven cultures, worker empowerment, 360-degree feedback, leaders as teachers. People-oriented.

  • Evolutionary-Teal: Self-organization; self-actualization, presence, purpose-driven, whole systems–oriented; locus of evaluation = internal satisfaction; has more capacity for perspective taking; minimal rules, maximal empowerment. Organization metaphor = a living system. No (or loose) job titles; peer appraisals; minimal need for hierarchies or consensus. Purpose-oriented.

We will go into considerably more detail with regard to altitudes in Chapter 9 on the Integral Disciplines and lines of development.

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