The Building Of Effective Organizations
Effective Organizations are built through relationships, not rules
An Organization is a Group of two or more people that voluntarily combine for the accomplishment of an Articulated Purpose. To be Effective, an Organization must be Purposeful. Of the three types of Organizations (Lizards, Bullfrogs and Leeches), it is only the Lizard that will help the Virtuous Leader accomplish his Purpose. The other two will only hold him back because they are in-Effective.
The degree to which an Organization is in-Effective is directly related to the density of its rulebook. The more rules it has, the less Effective it will be. Why? Because Effective Organizations are built through relationships, not rules, and rules drive out relationship.
Before we started F3 I used to work out at a particular gym in Charlotte. I always went to the same gym and I always went there at the same time in the morning. The gym had an automated system that would open the turnstile when a gym member passed his or her card through the reader at the front desk.
Despite this system, the gym also had a guy who sat at the front desk named “Bob” who would greet everyone passing through the turnstile by name with a smile and a wave. I knew that Bob was reading our names off of a screen as we passed our cards under the reader, but I assumed that he had gotten to know the regulars like me by sight over the years. I was there every morning at the same time and I always greeted Bob before he greeted me. I also talked to him a bit on my way out of the gym. I knew he was retired and that this gym gig was a way for him to stay active. I also knew he had grandchildren in the area and what side of town he lived on. I thought of us as having one of those micro-relationships that you develop with people in the non-professional service industry, like with the postman or your barber. I assumed that if I saw Bob in the supermarket that we would greet each other by name but not stop for an in-depth conversation. Although we had a relationship, it did not extend very far past that turnstile.
One day I discovered that it actually didn’t go even that far. This was a morning that I managed to forget my gym pass. As I approached the turnstile I realized that it wasn’t in my gym bag where it belonged. So I said “hey Bob, I forgot my pass this morning” expecting him to manually override the turnstile lock and let me in. In fact, I was so sure that he would that I didn’t even slow down enough to avoid tomahawking over the rigid metal bar as my thighs crashed into it. I looked up at Bob, a little surprised. But knowing that he was an older fellow, I thought maybe he just hadn’t heard me.
“Bob? Sorry, I guess you didn’t hear me? I forgot my pass this morning. Can you let me in?” I asked him, expecting him to nod and wave like he usually did, and let me in the gym. But he didn’t.
Instead, Bob regarded me stonily and responded, “can’t let you in without a pass sir. Those are the rules.”
“Sure, but you know me don’t you Bob? I’m here every morning.” I said.
“That’s not the point,” he said. “You have to have a pass to get in the gym. Now, would you mind stepping aside sir, people are trying to get by.” Huh. With my pass I was Dave. Without it, I had morphed into a “sir”, just a sir.
It took an appeal to Bob’s boss (who looked me up in the computer and confirmed that I was a gym member in good standing rather than a trespasser) to get me past the turnstile that morning. As soon as I received her terse nod of approval, Bob’s attitude reverted back from sir to Dave, but without an apology or any recognition that we had just endured an idiotic officious moment together. Nor did his boss seem to feel the need to at least feign contrition. After all, I was the one who had broken the rules.
I was a bit miffed at Bob, but I soon realized it wasn’t his fault. I had assumed that he was building a relationship with me (as limited as it was) when in fact he was only enforcing the rules of the Organization that employed him. I was the one who was mistaken, not him. I then started noticing other things about that gym that emphasized its preference for rules over relationship. For instance, the walls were covered with signs that expressed its many rules. One stuck out to me, it said: BE RESPONSIBLE: Use only gym-certified personal trainers!”
Funny, but prior to my Bob-moment, I had never noticed that sign, even though I must have walked past it five times every day. Now, post-Bob, I read it and asked myself what the heck it meant. I understood that the gym wanted to restrict the use of personal trainers to only those it had certified, but why would it be “irresponsible” for me to do otherwise? I was curious enough to ask Bob’s boss why the gym had that policy. Her response: “well, those are the rules.”
Interestingly, this wasn’t just a gym. It was also a community service Organization that sought volunteers to help it raise money and work on outreach projects. Periodically, the people working there (like Bob’s boss) would ask me to contribute my money or time to what were some pretty worth causes, and I would always decline—not only because I was a pretty big jerk at the time, but also because I had no relationship with the Organization. It was just a place with rules and a membership fee that I paid in order to work out. After F3 started, I had no more need for it.
All Organizations need some rules. In F3 we only have five of them, which we call Core Principles. To be fair, we are a Group that has no payroll, owns no real property and has a very simple Mission. It would not be possible for a more complex Organization (like NASA or my old gym) to operate like that. But the point remains the same—rule-making, while necessary to some extent, should never replace relationship-building. If it does, the Organization will breed Bobs rather than HIMs, and that will be its downfall from (first) Lizard to Bullfrog and then (eventually) to Leech.
An Effective Organization is a mass of Dynamic Teams led by Sua Sponte Leaders
The reason why Lizard Building is the last QPoint is that the building of Effective Organizations requires the efforts of a Virtuous Leader who has fully integrated all four quadrants of Preparedness into his life. He must first Get Right, then Live Right and finally Lead Right before he can begin constructing Legacy through the development of Sua Sponte Leaders and the formation and deployment of Dynamic Teams—both of which are essential to Lizard Building.
We chose the image of the lizard to represent an Effective Organization because it is light, fast and always either in motion or prepared to move quickly. A lizard has everything it needs to survive and prosper, while being weighed down with nothing it does not need. While it is small enough to be caught in one hand, it must be mighty for (as the proverb goes), it is found in king’s palaces. The lizard represents Movement—action taken in furtherance of Purpose.
The bullfrog projects the opposite image. It is sleepy, slow and bloated. While capable of moving, it is rarely does, other then to flick out its tongue to catch more flies. While big (in reptilian terms), the bullfrog is rarely found anywhere but its customary lilly pad. The Bullfrog represents the Status Quo—the state of non-Movement.
Lizard Organizations are Effective because they exist solely to accomplish their Articulated Purpose, which is their disclosed and primary Advantage sought. If they were to do so, then their existence would no longer be required. In this way, a Lizard is a Movement to something of Advantage, not a place of Existential Continuity.
In comparison, Bullfrogs are in-Effective because their primary goal is Existential Continuity. They may (and usually do) have an Articulated Purpose that sounds much like that of a Lizard, but it’s fake. In truth, a Bullfrog’s existence is driven by nothing more than its desire to continue to exist. Rather than being a Movement to something it is an institution of something, not a Static Plateau.
A Lizard doesn’t have many rules because rules inhibit Movement. The Governance of a Lizard seeks to Incentivize I2 with Carrots rather than inhibit it with Sticks. The Sua Sponte Leaders who inhabit a Lizard don’t need rules to restrain them, they need a clearly Articulated Purpose to guide them toward the Advantage that the Lizard exists to achieve. Knowing that there may be many paths to that Advantage, the Lizard’s Governance depends upon the genius of its Sua Sponte Leaders to blaze new trails. In doing so, it relies upon relationships, not rules.
In contrast, a Bullfrog has an ever-expanding regime of rules that it uses as Sticks to Incentivize C3 and punish I2. Unlike a Lizard, it has no interest in harnessing the individual genius and initiative of its Members. Instead, it seeks obedience. For this reason, there is really no place in a Bullfrog for Sua Sponte Leaders. Why would a man who has been freed to Lead shackle himself to a Group that is determined to remain static?
In order to enforce their rules, Bullfrogs have a complex Organizational structure featuring rigid departmental divisions that are often at odds with one another. The Governance of a Bullfrog sits on top of a line and box pyramid that provides a bureaucratic mountain for its Members to devote their energy to climbing. The best climbers in a Bullfrog are those Members who are the most adept at enforcing the Organization’s rules and devising new ones. Any Member who seeks a Purpose other than reinforcing Existential Continuity will find himself mired at the bottom rung of the pyramid.
That is not at all how a Lizard works. Its Organizational structure is a flexibly amorphous conglomeration of Dynamic Teams. The Governance of a Lizard is itself a Team whose Mission is to provide the Organization the Shared Leadership it needs to Prosper. The Members of a Lizard (who are all Leaders as well) focus their energy on serving the Organization rather than climbing a pyramid. In fact, there is nothing to climb because the Lizard is flat, having neither a top nor a bottom.
Do you want to build an Effective Organization but you’re wondering where to start? That’s easy. Step one is develop Sua Sponte Leaders. Step two is to form and deploy Dynamic Teams. Step three is commit yourself to staying 43 Feet ahead of what you’ve created.
The Virtuous Leader stays 43 Feet ahead of his Organization’s Movement
The Ultimate Purpose of the Virtuous Leader is to find and implement the Solution to his Ultimate Life Problem. If he is Effective, he soon discovers that his ULP is something too big for him to solve as a singleton. This leads him to combine with other like-minded men to Move toward Advantage and effectuate the Solution—and BOOM, a Team is born.
Seeking to be efficient and potent, the Virtuous Leader begins developing his newborn Team so that it will be Dynamic and Prosper. Then, because his Dynamic Team will only outlast him if he works himself out of a job, he develops its Members into Sua Sponte Leaders so that he himself is dispensable.
Once he becomes dispensable, the Virtuous Leader is free to move on to build new Teams. Likewise, the Sua Sponte Leaders that he has developed in his original Team can start their own Teams and replicate the LDP and Team Development process that they learned from him. Each new Team that is formed becomes part of the Organization that began with the original Team. Although they are not Proximate, each Team works toward the same Purpose with decentralized and Virtuous Leadership.
This is the powerful Organization-building model that we have followed to build F3. Because it works so well, I wish we could take credit for inventing it. But anyone who has read the New Testament will recognize it as the method that Christ used to build his church. He started with a small group of untrained men, formed them into a Team and then freed them to Lead. He so Effectively worked himself out of a job that at the time of his death his Organization only consisted of eleven men—and yet it spread throughout the world on the backs of the Sua Sponte Leaders that he had left behind. Jesus was the original Lizard Builder.
This method of Lizard Building is also the Organizational model of Special Operations units in the American military, which is where I learned it. No Organizations in the world are more dedicated to the development of Sua Sponte Leaders and Dynamic Teams. At the time, I saw no connection between there being twelve men on the Special Forces A-Team that I commanded and the fact that Christ had called forth twelve original disciples to form his A-Team. Nor when I first began trying cases did it seem significant to me that a jury is comprised of twelve Members who, while strangers at first, eventually grow into an Effective Truth-finding Team. In my capacity as a Bob Dylan Spiritualist (which is what I was then) it just seemed like a coincidence to me.
Now I see that differently. There is significance in the number twelve. It is the amount of people who can combine without straining the outer limits of Proximity. As such, it is the highest number of people who can act as a Dynamic Team before diminishing returns to scale set in. Twelve people acting in combination is potent, but the thirteenth person doesn’t add anything. In fact, in terms of Teamwork, they may detract a bit.
So what does the Virtuous Leader do when his Team grows past twelve? That’s when he needs to form a new Team. If he has done his job, he will leave behind a Group that is Dynamic and, because it is in the hands of Sua Sponte Leader, capable of continuing to Prosper and Accelerate without him. Together with the new Team he Develops, the first Team will then form an Organization—two Groups that, while not Proximate, are both focused on accomplishing the same Purpose.
This Organization, comprised of Dynamic Teams that it is, will still need some form of Governance to maintain its Momentum and Missionality.TEAM. That Governance will be most Effective in the form of a Shared Leadership Team that is just big enough to maintain Mission focus and Incentivize Virtue within the Organization, but not so big that it inhibits the I2 of the Teams and their Qs as they search together for the best way to achieve the Organization’s Articulated Purpose.
The Governance of a Lizard points the way forward for the Organization, but never dictates the path its Teams take to get there. A Lizard operates on a Reverse Flow Incubator principle in that Organizational Outcomes in furtherance of Mission flow from the PAX to the Governance, not the other way around. In this way, the Governance captures the ingenuity of the Organization’s Sua Sponte Leaders rather than fighting against it.
Freed from the restraints of C3, a Lizard Moves fast. So fast, that its Governance may find it very difficult to stay far enough ahead of the Teams to be able to plot the course forward. The Virtuous Leader sees this challenge as a feature of the Lizard rather than a bug. He celebrates the I2 of the Sua Sponte Leaders nipping at his heels and redoubles his efforts to stay 43 Feet ahead by constantly reinforcing his own Guardrails to stay in Relational Rhythm. He never loses sight of the Rock’s admonishment to know his role.
And that role is this: to Live Third—to place himself behind his Creator and the best interests of the people in his Concentrica and the Groups who depend upon his Virtuous Leadership to continue Accelerating.
And above all to love. The role of the Virtuous Leader is to love. If he does that, the great multitude of his shortcomings will be subsumed in his efforts to stay 43 Feet ahead. But if he fails to love, then nothing else he does will matter at all. At the end, just as it was at the beginning, Virtuous Leadership is about love.