Balance, constraint, and freedom

An inspiring taster of something big clearly brewing

Ryan Behrman, organiser of the Systemic Agility meetup

Thank you Ryan! That “something big” is the Leading with Outcomes module Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale and the model behind it, the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation. By happy coincidence, chapter 2 of the module’s latest iteration (beta 2) is released today.

What prompted Ryan’s comment was a talk I gave last week at the abovementioned meetup – see below for the recording. It draws from chapter 4 of beta 1, which remains available to subscribers until beta 2 gets that far, which shortly it will. Thanks in no small part to the conversations that my talk spawned, I’ll be updating both the talk and the training module – the talk iterating towards a keynote I’ll be giving later in the year, the training material benefiting in the process.

The theme of “balance, constraint, and freedom” comes up both in the video and in a short interlude that follows chapter 2 and is released with it today. The module and its underlying model draw on two perspectives on organisation, namely complexity and systems, and it’s nice to bring the two together:

  • What does it mean to have things in balance with each other – in healthy and productive relationship? (In the talk I expand both what might be meant by “things” and what gets in the way of that kind of balance)
  • What does it mean to have the right constraints – constraints of various kinds that in combination keep us away from unhealthy and unproductive states and steer us towards more desirable states, maintaining our organisation’s coherence all the while?
  • And both the flip side of constraint and the product of those healthy relationships: what does it mean when we have freedom – freedom to do the right thing, freedom to collaborate creatively, freedom to find innovative solutions, freedom to reimagine who we are, freedom to redefine ourselves?

The complexity and systems perspectives each bring their own ranges of tools, but before we get technical, what does that right balance, constraint, and freedom feel like? Already, that’s a starting point for an interesting conversation. A more detailed and theory-informed conversation might be the next step, but don’t neglect the informal opportunities either – sometimes they’re the most revealing.

To the recorded talk specifically, if you detected the hint of a health warning in my mention above of updates and iteration, it is only that in this version I risk getting into more detail than I would want in a keynote. Not that it was a problem here – in fact the feedback was very encouraging. Not for the first time, I’m being told that I’m describing something that is both needed and timely – something that others have been grasping at but didn’t quite have the words for.

Watch to the end for a special offer, and watch out for later versions. I have a good idea already of what the next one will look like.

Stop press: see Upcoming events below, 27th April.

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Leading with Outcomes from the Agendashift Academy
“Leadership and strategy in the transforming organisation”

Leading with Outcomes is our modular curriculum in leadership and organisation development. Each module is available as self-paced online training or as private, instructor-led training (online or in-person). Certificates of completion or participation according to format. Its four modules in the recommended order:

  1. Leading with Outcomes: Foundation
  2. Inside-out Strategy: Fit for maximum impact
  3. Outside-in Strategy: Positioned for success
  4. Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale (parts I and II, a certificate for each)

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