Network lighthouses 

 October 31, 2022

In companies, I see two types of leadership and collaboration again and again: on the one hand, strongly hierarchical structures, mostly in - let's say - more traditional organizations. Tasks tumble down the management levels until at some point something reaches the employee and he does this or something similar. Usually, there is a lot of insular knowledge here and experts who fulfill their tasks in their silos.
On the other hand - mostly under the premise "We work agile now. But hurry up." - there are such teams that search for consensus in a sitting circle. Everyone may and must contribute, everything must be said. There is discussion until everyone is happy. After all, we want to be an equal team, no one is disadvantaged. We all love each other - beep, beep beep...
Both extremes have their justification in certain situations, no question. Sometimes it takes a strong crackdown, sometimes it takes agreement.

"We need to network lighthouses instead of building consensus"

Richard Seidl

The dark sides

But there are also downsides. We know the problems of the "old hierarchies" well enough. Upstairs doesn't understand what's happening downstairs. Strategic or status games, principalities, unconscious falsification of orders. On the other hand, the "new" ones, who can spend endless time on topics without making any progress, are detail-oriented, sluggish.
Organizations that oscillate between these poles have it even worse:

    • "We have too fixed structures. We need to become agile."

    • "Agile is far too sluggish, always just babbling - there's nothing going on. As the boss, I have to take action.

    • "Employees don't feel involved, we need more retros."

    • "The experts are frustrated because they always have to discuss everything to the end."

Experts at eye level

For me, there is a lot of misunderstood agility behind it. This poor little word has to be used for a lot of things. And it's also used for a lot of consensus-building. So I'm not surprised that managers eventually lose patience.
I think it only works if we break down the polarity. But how? By networking lighthouses? No, not with smarthome projects in East Frisia. But by recognizing and valuing the strengths of experts, key users, pioneers, knowledge islands and the strengths of all employees. And by creating a framework that motivates everyone to get in touch and network with others in the spirit of the project and company goals. This is what I understand by agility: navigating through uncertainty towards the vision as a community of individuals with courage and trust.

Effort and Mindset

Sounds great? It is. But it's also endlessly exhausting. We don't know it. Sitting circle and hard-hand are familiar to us. Anyone who has ever dealt with models such as Spiral Dynamics recognizes that a new spirit is required here, a more integral way of thinking and acting on the part of the organization, the teams and each individual. And the way there is not done with a side change project of 6 months. It takes more. At all levels. For everyone.

In my opinion, however, we have no other chance if we want to solve the challenges we face today. In this sense: Let's network lighthouses!