But Why Communitas?

Civilization seems so obsessed with individualism, personal performance, and distinctly partitioned acknowledgement with rewards these days. Why Community, and why now? Many are asking. There is an excellent source of answers from a book published as many as 27 years ago, as of the time of this writing. Multiple extractions from the same book follows:

“Responsibility for the Whole
The freedoms in the first column of our chart – truth and rights, empowered teams, and freedom of enterprise – liberate the power of the individual and of teams and focus attention on the customers. These freedoms can themselves transform bureaucracy, but the transformation will be neither balanced nor complete.

Other complementary forces and institutions are needed for people to connect, collaborate, and give each other community support – especially to get complex and knowledge-intensive work done. Bureaucracies disconnect people. The connecting forces in the Responsibility for the Whole column are conditions for productive collaborative relationship between organizational members and others they work with and serve.

The Power of the internal market must be balanced by the power of the organization as a community. A community cares about all members and supports them with education and a safety net. It has a vision or focus that guides members toward a common goal without compulsion, and it has shared values that define the boundaries of acceptable behavior. A community provides the central governance needed to deal with all the issues (from environmental pollution to the distribution of income) that free markets address poorly.”

pg. 68 from The End of Bureaucracy & The Rise of the Intelligent Organization by Gifford & Elizabeth Pinchot

 “But freedom alone does not produce an effective system. Freedom without a community of common concern and rules of fair play degenerates into the worst aspects of human character: violence, exploitation, theft, and environmental destruction. These can be somewhat held in check by bureaucracy, but only at the cost of innovation, flexibility, and organizational intelligence, customer service, personal growth for employees, and joyful work.
To combine the best of freedom and community, organizations will have to go well beyond what most nations have achieved.” pg. 58

“We cannot order people to innovate or to care. We also cannot order people to use their intelligence; people engage their intelligence when they have reason to care, when they are part of something bigger than themselves and see that their wider interests are served by the work at hand.” pg. 32

“But “community” is not something that can be lowered onto an organization from above. Community is something that by its very nature must be created by the people themselves. The most that can be done from above is to create a context in which people are more likely to create a community.” pg. 56

Isn’t Open Space that very context? If Edward Deming were still with us, I believe he would be the first to ask, “Who’s responsibility is it to effectively create such a context for the work system?” His is a rhetorical question. The Management is responsible for creating, preserving and improving the system, which is the context within which people who report to them work. By sponsoring an Open Space event, executives can inexpensively, non-disruptively, and unobtrusively offer such a context within which Communitas arises. I’ve written about this before in my Dec 10, 2016 Blog entitled, “When Open Space Pulls For Community.”

“Community develops when people find the intersection of their self-interest and the common interest of the whole. Community is established when the bulk of the people take responsibility for working together to design and build a better system, a better environment for everyone. Community exists when high status is accorded to those who give the most to the whole group, not those who have succeeded in grasping the most for themselves. Community is thus rooted in something we might call democracy if the word had not been co-opted by the process of voting for representatives, which is but a tiny part of the kind of popular responsibility that builds community.” pg. 56

Here’s another interesting Communitas thread:
“Anxiety and a false sense of entitlement regardless of results have a lot in common: Both arise from a lack of personal control and lack of support from colleagues and community. The resemblance of a bureaucracy to a disempowering welfare state suggests that real economic safety in the future will not come from dependency on a large organization but from belonging to small autonomous and accountable groups that are open to marketplace feedback.”

We all know that stress comes from being held responsible for something you don’t have authority or capability of controlling or even influencing. Mentally disengaging from those situations is the way the brain protects itself from fraying apart or melting down. In highly social undertakings like super-complex problem solving, which is what Product/Service design and development is, we instinctively know that many people in our workplace will at least need to be Willing to help (aka complicit with our goal.)

To this end, Jim McCarthy and Michele McCarthy created the Core Protocols and Core Commitments. (abbreviated CC|CP) One of which is Web of Alignment protocol. Without the clear signaling of the presence of commitment or absence thereof, our imagination, speculation, superstition, and basic assumptions can become our worst enemies. The Pinchots continue on pg. 199:

“Individual accountability is best ensured through the judgments of customers and enforced by the financial realities of the marketplace and the mutual commitments of teammates.”

The Scrum Guide recently removed phrasing about commitment to a “Sprint Goal.” Now, forecasting is the official term. However, commitment is still a Scrum Value. Why? Because committing to help each other, and to respect each other, and believe in each other’s internal resourcefulness, or at least collective ingenuity is what reliably delivers Greatness, IMO. OSA, Scrum, and CC|CP are fiber interwoven to Invite people into self-management, happiness, and peace of mind.

When I think of workplace communities, I think of very powerful factors of industry; NOT people circled around a campfire with a guitar singing cumbaya to forget the worries of the world and hide themselves in some kind of diversion, however pleasant that may seem. Community is galvanizing force, and the source of progress, innovation, and creative power among people that deliver tangible business results.

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