When the OS is outdated

Carl-Erik Herlitz
8 October 2018

An old smartphone with a loading screen display walking with a cane like an elderly person

Lately I have been thinking about trainings off-site (classroom) versus development on the job (cf. 70-20-10).  An old metaphor that might be useful is that companies and organisations are exploring so many new ways of working, for example open-plan office spaces (for better collaboration), Agile teams, lean and all the way to self-management.

Every company also sends its leaders to courses in coaching and how to give feedback in a good way. Perhaps most of what companies today is choosing and creating around how to work – what processes and structures to use – could be called apps?

And many of these apps are really great, and in line with a modern, empowering, trust-based culture. We believe, however, that they will not work as well as they could if the “Operating System (OS)” of the organisation is not “upgraded.” Neither open-space offices, Agile ways of working, self-management, nor training in coaching and feedback will work well if the OS is outdated.

An upgraded OS is about leader’s ways of BEING, their mindset and a few basic skills that leaders today are not so good at.

An upgraded OS is about leader’s ways of BEING, their mindset and a few basic skills that leaders today are not so good at. I would say that this way of being, these mindsets and these abilities are crucial in having ANY of these new apps working really well. In the old OS, the leader has a tendency to be (in different ways) like a PARENT and an employee often (in different ways) like a CHILD. And we are all blind to this! And when a leader tries, with good intentions, to coach, or lead in an Agile way (even as a Scrum Master) or tries to implement self-management, it doesn’t work because the leader who is coaching and leading has a parent way of being. It is a parent who is coaching, a parent who is being a Scrum Master etc.

To upgrade the OS is difficult and painful. It requires people to see and to unlearn habits and patterns that have worked for them for such a long time. But it is also exciting and fun – and extremely rewarding – when you can catch yourself in your “parent” way of being and begin and choose to be like an ADULT with other adults. You discover how to be an effective (powerful) leader without being like a parent. And this, I claim, cannot be done at work, on the job. This unlearning and discovering has to be off-site in a process where you are helped and coached in a safe, supportive climate where the noise of one’s everyday work life is not so strong. And then the job will be about how to implement and maintain what has been started.

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