Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Holacracy, Polarities, & Human Maturity (Part II of II)

Transcript of an interview with Brian Robertson & Beena Sharma, recorded on April 12, 2011. See part I



Brian:  Welcome to the next call on our series on Holacracy and Human Ego.  Today, we’ve got Beena Sharma joining us again for an encore presentation after a very well-regarded call the first time around.  Last time, we started diving in talking about human maturity and polarity and paradoxes, how all that shows up in Holacracy, and how it holds and integrates different poles.  That call was fascinating and deep and rich, and we could have kept going for quite a while.  So I thought why not have you back, Beena, and continue the dialogue in a slightly different direction.  So, thanks for joining us again.

 

Beena: Well, thank you for inviting me again.  As I mentioned last time, this is a very exciting conversation for me to have and I’m looking forward to exploring various dimensions as a dialogue with you, and I’ll be happy to make it as interactive as possible even without other listeners.

 

Brian:   Yes.  So, the intent of this call was to have you back in, again, a pretty informal casual dialogue exchange.  I thought we’d look in more depth now at kind of connecting a lot of the pieces that we’ve covered earlier in the series.  We talked about what is ego and what is this distinction that we’re trying to point out and talk about in the series?  We’ve talked about human maturity more broadly.  We’ve talked about polarities and how they show up.  I thought we’d pull all that together in a conversation by focusing in and walking through the different major stages.  We don’t have to go through every single stage by stage, but even just at groups of stages, by looking at the different developmental structures that ego development theory points to, and talking about what polarities are relevant in different spaces or stages of development, and then how does Holacracy perhaps intersect with those, if at all.  I’m really not sure where it is going to go.

 

Beena, you presented a really interesting paper on this at the ITC conference which kind of sparked some of these ideas along with Susanne.  We can use that for some framing as well, and just some of the work you guys did on that, maybe talk a bit more about that, but unless there was anything else you’d like to add for framing, why don’t we dive in and start.  Anything you wanted to add?

 

Beena:  Sure, yes.  I think I’d like to just reiterate since we’re talking about ego development, polarities, and Holacracy, just to reiterate that how we are defining the ego in two ways.  The ego is the aspect of ourselves that actually processes our experience, and it is the digester or the metabolizer of our day-to-day experience of reality.  The ego is also the storyteller.  It’s the one that tells the story about what it’s learning, about reality, and so it’s good to keep that in mind.  It’s both the storyteller and the process of digesting, which just occurred to me it’s both the wave and the particle.

 

Brian:   That’s beautifully put.

 

Beena:  That was a nice way to hold it.

 

Brian:   Yes.  Definitely.

 

Beena:  Yes.  It’s nice to think about the ego as the wave and the particle.  And the polarities aspect sort of comes in as we are digesting experience.  We have preferences.  We have things that we give more value to, and we give less value to things that are undesirable.  We explore our reality through negotiating the “opposites” or the values that seem to be in tension.  As we grow through our stages of development, some preferences have a stronger identification and hold for us than others.  So it’s an interesting angle from which to look at development to see as we develop, what are we more identified with, what are we more attached to at some stages, and what are we integrating in terms of the other aspect, the one that excluded or the interdependent?  How do we embrace that as we go through the stages and so since we are all meaning-making mechanisms – organisms I should say -- how we interpret Holacracy, how we use Holacracy, how we understand it,  how we accept it will be, I think, illuminated by knowing a bit more about stages and polarity.  Well, that’s sort of the additional framing, if you like.

 

Brian:   Yes.  I love it.  That’s great.

 

Brian:   Wonderful.  Shall we start with just conventional more broadly and talk about those stages?  Then we can dive in the specific ones as the conversation takes us.

 

Beena:  Yes.  Sure.

 

Brian:   What are the hallmarks or landmarks of these conventional stages, specifically focusing on, maybe we start with Diplomat and Expert and Achiever, kind of three stages outlined in the model.  You guys can read more about it in one of the papers I linked online for those of you listening but those three stages, what are these conventional stages in general and then maybe what’s your take, Beena, on just a little about each, the essence of each stage?

 

Beena:  Sure.  Maybe I could broadly say that we look at the spectrum of development sort of in broad stages.  We would call it pre‑conventional, which is even before we as adults get socialized or conventionalized into becoming functional adult members of society that we would call pre-conventional.  The conventional is when we become functioning members of society, and we operate as adults are supposed to operate and then there are stages within that, that we can see people develop into.  Then, we have the post-conventional, which is sort of going beyond the feeling.  The conventional feeling is the highest sort of stage, but it’s supported, I would say, by mainstream society.  Then, you have people who transcend that and move into what we call post-conventional stages and then the later post-conventional stages can also be referred to as post-post-conventional, but that’s fairly rare. I mean you do have a very small percentage of people in the post-post‑conventional stages.  At the outset, I think we should just mention that this is about adult development.  So until 50 years ago, it was considered that when somebody became an adult, at 21 years of age, they were fully grown and fully developed and that was sort of the end of maturity in some ways, and then they were just adults.  In the last 50 years, there’s been absolutely just a tremendous amount of research, understanding, and theorizing about what happens after 21.  Do we continue to grow?  How do we grow?  How do we develop?  So, the study of that development is the study of developing perspective, how we grow psychologically and otherwise.  For the pre-conventional, we’ve sort of don’t address that level – they’re sort of borderline, meaning people who are not yet socialized.

 

I will start with the conventional.  There are three stages that we say within conventional.  The first conventional stage is what we call the Diplomat or the Conformist, and that is when we get socialized, and we become a member of “our group or tribe, our family, our nation.”  We focus on our role within society, and the identification is that fitting in, being part of the group, following the rules, doing the right thing, not rocking the boat and getting approval, being accepted.  That is sort of the core of the identity of that first conventional stage.

 

Brian:   Yes.  Just let me jump in, Beena, which of course just to highlight.  Each of these stages has some profound shift from what came before.  Some amazing achievement or what have you in the evolution or sophistication of the meaning-making.  So, it’s easy to say that’s a fairly early developmental stage, and yet look at the amazing leap from the pre-conventional, without any real deep meaning-making capacity, to the socialization of fitting in to that leap of the world of others, and I’m just wanting to highlight and hold the appreciation for each of the amazing leaps moving into each of these stages.  It’s really beautiful to behold since we’re not talking about the pre-conventional, just to highlight that.  There is a huge leap there that’s just quite a remarkable shift.

 

Beena:  Yes.  Thanks for pointing that out and if you think about the previous stage, there’s what we call the Opportunist stage, where there’s not that socialization.  There are millions of people, adults who are at that stage.  I was recently in Mexico City, and I was hearing stories about how commonplace it is in some areas for people with guns to just walk into a bar and leave with young women, and these are adults operating in society.  So, they would be typical example of the Opportunist stage which is defined by, “It’s a jungle out there.  I got to grab what I can.  Everything is there for me.  I don’t need to care about anybody else.  I can just take whatever I want and that’s it.”  So, there is only a concern for my need, protecting myself, and “I win, you lose” kind of thing.  So, what a huge leap from that kind of mentality to really becoming socialized, being a good outstanding citizen of society, being a good father, a good mother, having roles, bringing up children, having a family, taking responsibility, contributing to society.  All of that I would say would be the huge sort of gift and leap of moving into a conventional sense of being.

 

Brian:   Yes.  What are some of the polarities, Beena, that you see wrestled with at that Diplomat stage or privileged and then denied on the other side of the pole?

 

Beena:  Yes.  Because it’s driven by conformism, there is mostly an externalization of everything.  So, there is a privileging of what is external.  There is an orientation to fitting in with what’s out there, and to following the rules and the norms, and not challenging, not questioning, and that is so essential.  If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have a stable society.  If we didn’t follow the rules, there would be chaos.  However, because the identification is so much with that and it’s needed to be at that stage, people at home at that stage tend to stay at that security-providing sort of space.  So, the polarities would be complying and asserting.  So, there would be a preference to comply rather than assert.  The preference would be for most standards and rules rather than context and flexibility.  The preference would be to care for others rather than to care for oneself.  You’d see this in the Eastern cultures, where there’s not such a sense of independence, and self-identity is more a collective culture.  You can see that there’s a lot of difficulty in even taking care of oneself.  It’s interpreted negatively in terms of “I’m being selfish if I think about myself.  I have to do everything I can for everybody else, for my family, for my children, for my boss, etc.”  So, those would be some of the, I think, polarities.

 

Brian:   I’m curious.  This is actually an interesting stage to look at in the context of Holacracy for me, because in the organizations I’ve worked with and the people I’ve worked most directly with, I’ve actually seen relatively few people coming from a Diplomat meaning-making, this stage we’re talking about.  Some perhaps, but relatively few just - even though there’s actually reasonably large number out in the society at large and organizations at large.  For whatever reason, the organizations I’ve worked with and in, I haven’t seen as many but I’m curious.  I think Tom’s seen a few and I’ve heard some stories, and I’ve run into probably a few examples, but Beena do you have any sense of what this stage’s relationship to Holacracy is, just from theory?  Of course every individual is going to be unique and different, but what would the theory perhaps suggest or predict?  What might be – any ideas – some of the dynamics between Holacracy-appreciating -- points they might appreciate or push against, anything like that?

 

Beena:  Yes.  I mean several, actually.  For one, it would be great to have a good “Diplomat tendency” in a group that’s starting to experience Holacracy.  The orientation will be to let’s learn how to make this work and let’s make it work. So, there’s going to be less questioning, and there’s going to be an easier embracing.  The other important thing to remember is if the leaders in a company that are inviting Holacracy in are at a later stage of development, or are better able to see the complexity and the systemic nature of Holacracy and they think it’s a good idea, then the conventional employees, “the Diplomats” in the system are likely to follow the leadership and actually believe that it’s  a good idea.  So, Diplomats can support the implementation in a great way.

 

Having said that, I want to point out, and this is a really important point I think about just the whole ego development measurement theory, that we’re all a spectrum, and nobody is at just one stage.  So, we do have a center of gravity.  So, you might have actually a lot of people in a company who are maybe at a later stage of development but may not have a really integrated Diplomat within their identity.  This was something that I’ve experienced personally in myself because of my past experiences.  The way I grew up, just think about what I had to negotiate to get where I am today.  It’s necessarily meant that I had to rebel against some cultural imperatives as a woman in India.  I’ve only recognized that recently, in the last, I would say, three years but I’ve recognized it.  I’m making a move to sort of consciously integrate my Diplomat and to embrace what earlier I would say is a very narrow-minded way of being – all you’re thinking about is keeping your family happy, for example.  That might have been the way that I interpreted it earlier, but now, I’m just so much more open to embracing that whole way of being, and giving importance to things that a Diplomat would have given importance to, but that I rejected before.

 

So, what that means for Holacracy is that you may have more mature people in the system who may end up not conforming because they haven’t integrated that aspect.  Maybe they are used to challenging, or maybe they are looking for things to see that they can either change or question.  So, that’s an interesting thing to keep in mind as you’re thinking through these stages that you may get resistance from “unintegrated stages of development” which is difficult to have in mind.

 

Brian:   Yes.

 

Beena:  Does that make sense?

 

Brian:   Yes.  It does.  I look at it with language slightly differently.  This is about meaning-making, and meaning-making only ever happens in a moment, here and now as we interpret our experience, our raw experience.  It’s not that we are or have a stage; I think a more powerful way to look at it is more in a moment, we can collapse on and make meaning from different patterns of meaning-making, and they’re going to be all over the map.  We might have, what you refer to as, a center of gravity, might be more of a habitual meaning-making and yet that’s even just roughly – it looks more like, to your particle and wave thing, more like a quantum probability distribution, in all likelihood.

 

Beena:  Right.

 

Brian:   How are we going to make meaning, and even people who have capacity to make meaning at much later stages will, upon occasion, in a moment collapse, and I don’t mean collapse as in fall back, but collapse as in the field of probability collapses to a point of reality

 

Beena:  Right.

 

Brian:   In a moment, we might make meaning from a Diplomat action-logic as the model describes it.  We’re going to see that from people all over the developmental map in moments upon occasion and perhaps even more so if there’s something that hasn’t been fully integrated about the wisdom of that meaning-making impulse.

 

Beena:  Right.

 

Brian:   Actually, let me tell a story shifting a little bit and this might shift us into the next stage.  I do have a really cool story.  I worked with somebody who I believe had a habitual primarily center of gravity, if you will, coming from this Diplomat action-logic.  One of the qualities that often is witnessed in people making meaning from Diplomat is this not wanting to stand out, wanting to fit in, wanting to conform, not wanting to be the Expert or the center of attention, but wanting to just kind of flow with the group, if you will.  She would participate in our Governance meetings and Tactical meetings in Holacracy, and it was funny; for months, we’d go through Governance and every time we got to the check-in, her check-in was, “Fine, nothing else.”  Every time a proposal was made -- she’d never bring a proposal -- but every time a proposal was made, we’d get to the clarifying questions, and she would have none. In reaction round, her reaction would always be “Sounds good”, or as few words as she could possibly say.  It was almost like there was discomfort at first with having the spotlight on her. It was kind of like it wasn’t painful for her, but it was a little scary.  There was a sense of just let’s get through it as fast as possible, don’t stand out, never had any objections, and the process didn’t push her to be anything other than that.  In fact, it let her participate where she was, and that was just fine.  Through living in this for months and having that spotlight on her again and again, asking her “What do you think?  Do you see any reason it’s not workable?”  One day, months into this, she raised an objection, and she was very timid at first, very feeling this out.  This was very new territory generally.  She raised an objection and said, “Well, yes.  I think I do see a reason this doesn’t work because of X,Y,Z.”  Actually, it was a totally real objection that she had knowledge that others didn’t have, in a different part of the system that she was working in.  She raised some objection, and it got charted.  It got integrated, and it made for a better proposal that helped the company.  It was awesome what happened.  She lit up.  I mean she lit up like that, that feeling of, “Oh my God!  I just stepped out.  I put myself in the spotlight.  I stepped up and used my knowledge and my Expertise to make things better for the group around here.”  It was like you could see this pop.  I mean this profound “aha” moment, and every meeting since then she would be in there adding her perspective and her opinion and reacting.  She’d be raising objections when she had them, and even ventured out and raised a proposal or two.  It was really cool to watch the transition, and watch how the process evoked it, not by pushing against her, but by embracing her where she was, and yet continually shining the light on her and inviting her to step out of that just flowing with and not rocking the boat, inviting her to rock the boat a bit to add something that was unique from her Expertise.  I think that’s a hallmark of the transition into that next stage that we call “Expert” in the model.

 

Beena:  Yes.  That’s a great example. It’s a great story and it’s an expression of developmental movement.  So, I think at each point, it would be good to highlight how I see Holacracy as a maturity delivery vehicle for each stage.  So, there are a lot of things in Holacracy that actually help Diplomats become more assertive.  When you ask them to come up with objections, you go in a very rigorous systematic way, person by person.  So if you come to the Diplomat, the structure demands them to be assertive.  It demands that they come to think about it.  They can  come up with an objection.  It also demands they come up with a  proposal.  It also demands that they become good sensors of reality, because the atmosphere is one that reality is welcome, even negative aspects of reality, even things that are tension-producing need to be brought into the circle.  I think it would help a Diplomat to actually make that next step into being more self-conscious, which is the technical word for the next stage, and being more expressive.  The interesting thing for me is the fact that the collective takes over, which would actually be a stage container for the Diplomat.  So, I am a sensor, and I am expressing myself subjectively, and I don’t have to take responsibility for this whole thing.  The responsibility is for the collective, which must be reassuring, I think, to a Diplomat.

 

Brian:   Yes.  Absolutely.  Yes.  It was one piece you pointed out there.  There is no negative tension, even in the definition of tension.  It’s simply sensing reality, bringing it forth to improve things, to make things better.  I think that kind of works in an interesting way, or could work in an interesting way with the tendency in the Diplomat to overly emphasize the positive or not want to bring up the negative but kind of just shifting that and saying, “Look.  There is no negative here.  Sense what you can and let’s bring it up and improve the collective, the group, and it’s not all on your shoulders.  So, you’re just one sensor for the system.”  I think that does invite a shift to something next, and actually maybe to move into that something next.  Now, we have the very thing that can help pull people into this next stage -- “Expert” meaning-making.  Beena, how would you capture the essence of what that stage is about, that Expert stage?

 

Beena:  Yes.  This stage is actually almost seen as the birth of the separate self or the individual self, because until now the identification is with society or with the group that you’re part of.  Then at the next stage,  which is the self-conscious, it’s called “self-conscious” because now you’re for the first time conscious of yourself as separate from the group that you’ve identified with.  It also called the “Expert” stage or the “Specialist” stage, and here, there is the beginning of really looking at what do I think, and how am I different, and how am I unique?  Even though I’m part of this system, what is my particular belief, or what is my standard?  What is my way of understanding and doing things?  So the focus is still on doing, acting.  It is definitely on learning, learning how to be a better human being, or better at something is sort of very definitive at this stage.  There is an interest in becoming skilled, and going into details, and just finding that uniqueness and the differentiation from other people.  You don’t have to be a professional to be at the Expert stage.  You could be a mother or a housewife and be at that stage, and really hold yourself to be a better mother than other mothers or a better housewife, because you know how to bake cakes better than the other women who come to the kiddie parties or something like that.  So, there is the focus on differentiating oneself from the group.  Though at a broader level, there is still a conventional conformism, but your reference point might change.  So, you may now be seen as a professional or as an Expert in some area or as a specialist, and you would want now to conform to the authority in that field rather than to just a general group that you identify with.  So, if somebody has a PhD in that area, then you would actually give them a lot of respect, and you would follow them and listen to them, and do what they say, but to some extent there is some conformism, but there is definitely a move away from identifying with the group, and finding one’s own voice.  So often you can find Experts who can be unconventional, because they’re moving away from convention in some way.  However, one of the big insights I got about that stage is that unconventional is not post‑conventional, and so it’s good to keep that distinction in mind as we work with people who might be different and appear post-conventional, and yet they may actually be coming from that stage identity.

 

Brian:   Yes.

 

Beena:  There’s a lot of emphasis on perfectionism, and there is the identity or the sense of selfhood is sort of tied in with how they are seen also.  So, giving and getting feedback are seen as really hard even at this stage because they’re seen as criticism; if you tell me something that I’m not doing well, then I actually can get offended because my sense of self is tied into how I do things and what I do.

 

Brian:   There’s also like that self-identity, self-sense, self-esteem tied up with the Expertise.  The “I am what I do” kind of mode happens here.  The identification with knowing how it is, often, and this could be the gift of the stage, to help others do things the right way, the self-sense at this stage very much has the answers in a way.  It’s got the, “Yes.  I know how things work.  I know how to do things around here.  I know the right way”, which can be an incredibly positive contribution and can be interesting. But perhaps there’s an even better way or some other way to think about the problem that isn’t even being considered, because at this stage there is not yet the full capacity to objectively analyze, right?  It’s still built on some unquestioned assumptions and beliefs, and all of these pretty heavily.

 

Beena:  Yes.  I mean I would see the whole concept of the quality circle would have been born out of this way of seeing things, improving things, and they are great learners.  They can be great teachers in terms of the pole preference of the polarities that they would be working with.  One definitely is advocacy, and preferring advocacy over inquiry.  So, they are more likely to advocate because they are so reliant on what they know and what they know how to do well.  They tend to be more advocating rather than inquiring into more sort of subtle ways of looking at something.  There is a greater focus on knowing and gathering information rather than reflecting.  There is a greater focus on received knowledge.  What’s out there?  Who has done a dissertation on the sutras in the book?  Who is the known professor, and receiving the knowledge from them, rather than really examining the knowledge in the light of their own experience.

 

Brian:   Yes.

 

Beena:  There is also a greater focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness.  They would be more interested in doing something well and may miss out in thinking about am I doing the right thing, which is sort of a high level perspective.

 

Brian:   Yes.  Absolutely.  Interesting.  So, tell me more.  How do you see Holacracy playing with some of those polarities?  I’ll try to think of some examples I’ve seen as well; what’s your take about this?

 

Beena:  Yes.  I think first of all as Experts, I think you’d get a lot of energy from them to learn, to do it well and as people pick up the skills, they are likely to be looking critically at others, whether they are doing it right or not.  So, they would be looking to the guidebook.  They would be looking to you, Brian, about how things need to be done in Holacracy, and it has to be done in a particular way.  They may end up sort of also looking at things in a more literal way, rather than really thinking, “Does that really fit into our context?”  “How do we tweak this to fit our context?” That may be less apparent as far as adopting Holacracy by sort of an Expert-driven organization.  They would look to want to do it right, do it well, and understand how it’s done.

 

Brian:   Right.  I see the Integrative Decision-Making process has a really interesting impact on folks when they’re coming from this stage, which is allowing them a space to voice their reactions, voice their opinions, bring a proposal, and at the same time, being really careful to not let that disrupt the process.  Often at this stage, there is a tendency I’ve seen to fill the space with processing the tensions they sense, and Holacracy’s Integrative Decision-Making process really carefully says, “Wait!  No.  We’re not trying to address the tension you sense in any given moment, we’re just looking at the proposer’s tension.”  Who brought the proposal?  We’re just trying to address what they sensed in a way that’s workable.  We’re not trying to collapse on your expertise, and also in the definition of an objection, we’re not allowing anything to just flood and fill up and kind of drive it the way that they see as the right way, but rather we’re taking their sense and their capacity to sense things, but really forcing them to dig in and figure out the core of what they’re sensing here that’s relevant to address this other tension.  So, the whole way that process works I think can embrace the best of this capacity without the downside, which can be a bit perhaps overly aggressively focused on the right way, my way, the way I understand.  The way I know.  “I have expertise here.  I want to get that into the group”, and allowing it to get into the group without derailing or stopping others from having space, and without getting into the either/or thinking that can result when you have different people pushing their own opinions here.

 

Beena:  Yes.  I think that’s a great point and I totally agree with that.  I think the tendency of the Experts in the IDM process would be really to jump out and say, “I have a better way.”  “I have a better idea.”  “I have a better proposal.”  “I have a better suggestion.”

 

Brian:   Yes.  The better idea.

 

Beena:  I think they would have a hard time really suppressing that and acknowledging the wisdom of whoever the other person is bringing their thing, which is actually a great segue into the next stage because what it forces the Expert to do is to recognize the system rather than the individual, and the Expert has a greater ability to handle complexity as compared to the Diplomat, and in the IDM process the fact that every person is contributing their perspective, their objection, their proposal helps the Expert to see a more sort of complex view of the whole thing.  So it helps systemic thinking for the Expert, which supports their move, I think, into the next stage, which would be the highest sort of conventional stage of the Achiever or the Conscientious.

 

I want to just go back to the earlier point you made about all that reality.  Even negative reality is welcome into the Holacratic process.  That is the gift at every single stage of development, which would also apply to the Experts.  So being willing to not suppress what you would tend to suppress, tend to reject, tend to deny, or tend to not want to pay attention to because it's contrary to what you want, contrary to what you think your boss wants, contrary to what you think should happen.  Those are the big organizational barriers in conventional organizations; people really don’t come up and tell it like it is, because they're worried about being shot as the messenger, or they're worried about being the bearer of bad news, and those kinds of things are inhibitions for conventional stages of development, but in a regular organization that's not practicing Holacracy, somebody at a later stage of development would not allow that to be a barrier; they would naturally be open to really looking at things as they are, and bringing in negative sort of data and content, and working with it, but in the traditional organization, it's the conventional levels that find that difficult.  So when Holacracy opens that up, it's actually a big sort of push to the conventional stage of development to embrace more a later stage perspective.  So every piece in Holacracy, I think, supports - no, it's a nudge.  Every little thing is a nudge so that you have this sort of web of nudges, if you will, that helps every person at each stage because the fundamental philosophical aspects of Holacracy are so supportive of coming closer to reality and just being more mature.

 

Brian:   Yes, absolutely.  It makes sense.  So moving into this next stage, Achiever, the kind of latest of the conventional stages; our whole world around us is in many ways designed or it pulls people to this space of meaning-making.  At the same time, moving beyond this now can be a big challenge because the world around us is not as much built to support development past Achiever, although we are seeing more and more hubs of communities that do just that.  Let's talk a little bit more about the stage Achiever.  What is the big shift from Expert to Achiever?  How would you capture the essence of Achiever here that you see?

 

Beena:  Yes, there are many moves from that stage. There has been a move from more external orientation to a little bit more internal orientation such that it's now the beginning of being more reflective and being more self-aware, and there’s a greater interest in one's own abilities, and strengths, and weaknesses with the intent of improving, with the intent of changing.  So that's one move.  Another move is…

 

Brian:   The self-esteem to do that, just to highlight that - the self-esteem, the self-worth to actually be reflective, which we don’t see as much in Experts, the capacity to have an ideal self separate from my current self and say, "How can I better myself?" and to really think that is a move at Achiever that isn’t as apparent before.

 

Beena:  Yes, and there's a greater objectivity about one's self.  So for the first time actually, now there is real openness to feedback.  If you tell me I'm not doing something okay, I'm not that defensive, I'm not that attached to how I used to be or how you see me; I'm really curious and interested.  "Well, tell me more about that, and I'm going to do something about it."  So even aspects of self are seen as problems that can be solved, and that's a very significant move where you're just willing to acknowledge that you can be different, and you can be better, or rather, I can be different and I can be better.  Another move is moving from this thing about “I know better and I can do all of it”, to more of a "we" orientation, where I can't do this alone, and if all of us do our bit collectively, we actually can change the world.  We can collaborate and we can solve any problem as long as we put it on the table and talk about it.  So there's a rational scientific way of looking at reality and dealing with reality, and that is a firm belief that we can create a vision and we can look at where we are, look at where we want to go, identify the gap, and then come up with a plan and a strategy to get there, and we will get there.  So that is quintessentially the Achiever's modus operandi.

 

Brian:   Let me jump in, Beena, and just highlight what I think is a really interesting point.  It's this stage, Achiever, where predict and control thinking actually flourishes.  It's a new capacity here.  It's the ability to truly - and again, I know we push against predict and control a lot to move past it, and yet, just to be really clear, when that is a new capacity and used in an environment, it's better than what came before.  It's a big step forward, and this is the stage that can really do it, that can really look at future vision, and they'll figure out and make that plan, and try to control for it.  Whereas the previous stage, Expert, tends to get lost more in the micro-efficiency, the micro, and lose sight of the big long-range plan and the effective pursuit of the plan, it's this stage that can hold that bigger picture and look at the effective pursuit of our predicted goals.  It's this stage that can really envision, and hold to, and predict to get there to make that meaning. Predict and control almost can get overused, which is where we see the negatives of predict and control.  The negatives of predict and control really can come out, I think, a lot in that stage.  I see Holacracy make some interesting work with this stage when we get too much focus on the predict and control, and we get analysis paralysis, and we get all these other things that go with that, but on the positive side, it is the new capacity here to really take that future focus, to control for that - that comes out here.  Does that match what you're saying?

 

Beena:  Yes, and I think we mentioned it last time.  I see predict and control as one pole and then sense and respond as its other interdependent pole.  So that's the polarity - predict and control, and sense and respond.  In some ways, because of the over-focus on predict and control and the fact that it's not functional to only rely on predict and control -- we need it in our lives, we rely on it, but if we think that it's going to solve or address everything, then we have another thing coming.  In fact, I see the whole thrust of Holacracy in a post-conventional world really focusing on sense and respond, which is really needed as the sort of next level of being in order to deal with reality in a more effective way.  I think the great thing about Holacracy is you say all the time, "Fall back, use predict and control when you need to.  Let's rise to this new way of holding reality so that we can sense and respond to what's really happening and make corrections in a more moment to moment way.  The other thing that occurs to me is that people who are adopting Holacracy may tend to come from a predict and control mindset in the implementing of Holacracy, and so that's worth working with from a changed management perspective, that even to implement Holacracy, to have a sense and respond approach, and to recognize that in every situation, the way you implement it is going to be different.  The context is going to be different, the dynamics are going to be different.  What you emphasize and call out will be different in one company as compared to what you call out and emphasize in another company, even though you are still implementing the same sort of technology or the same practice.  I think for the Achiever mindset, the hardest thing for them is going to be to let go of the by-when.  Who’s going to do this by when?  They're just going to have the hardest time.  Even I, I think I have a well-integrated Achiever within me and I have such a hard time with that.  How can you not have an estimation of when this is going to be done, because a lot of things are going to depend on it.  It's almost traumatizing and disorienting to let go of the by-when and that is sort of going to get most difficult for this stage, I think.

 

Brian:   It is, and I actually see that difficulty continuing for at least two stages after this, and yet it's this stage that I think has probably the most trouble with letting it go because it's actually the new capacity that it's so powerful to be able to say, "I'm going to do this by whenever" and to organize everything around that and control for it.  There is value in the capacity to do that and it's limited in a larger picture.

 

Beena:  When you're doing your next actions, and you're doing the tactical meetings, and you're basically delivering on your responsibilities, I think you will be relying on what you can predict and control within your field of influence.  It's just that you don’t extend that to the whole system, but you still need it at a certain level of functioning.

 

Brian:   You do.  It's actually the consciousness behind it that you need - the ability to not just be a victim to the flow of reality, but to take a certain empowerment and say, "I am going to control my reality."  You don’t lose that and Holacracy doesn’t push against that.  It says, "alright" and recognize that you only control reality so much, and actually flowing with it can be a much more powerful way to control it, to guide it than trying to deny it and fight it as opposed to flow with and adjust.  So it's still there, but with this stage, I've often seen a real need to help see that larger picture and how there's actually more control and hold up the mirror to the reality of how well does the predict and control management really give you control or how much is an illusion of control.  Showing that mirror can help.  I've seen with this stage, even something as simple as the check in round has an interesting effect at this stage where there is a reflective capacity, but not yet an in-the-moment awareness of state.  So something as simple as the check in round, with the instruction to tune into, what is your state right now?  What's going on?  It's a little tiny meditative ritual of what state are you in, tune into it, notice it, call it out, and use that to let it go.

 

I actually had somebody I worked with that I had hired at my software company that I'm pretty sure was kind of centered in this meaning-making stage.  She did a brilliant job of taking a teamful of programmers who were largely - not all, but largely -- coming from an Expert meaning-making focused on the technical perfection. Their brilliance was incredible, and at times, they would lose focus on the bigger picture.  She was brilliant at looking at the overall effectiveness.  Not just the efficiency of their individual tasks, but the overall effectiveness of achieving to a goal.  Achiever - achieving to this goal.  She wrapped them all together and then of course, the downside was there was a tendency towards the predict and control and I saw this as an area she was really wrestling with in her own development.  Then watching Holacracy continually holding up a mirror to that tendency to predict and control, whether it's in integrative decision-making and just really being careful to say, "Wait a minute.  What's needed right now to address a real tension we sensed in reality?" and just pulling us back to that grounding - the present focus, right now, what do we know and how do we address it to move forward?  Can we leave tomorrow till tomorrow?  Is that safe?  If not, how do we make it safe?  All of that, and then the simplicity of the check-in.  I've watched her, routinely, have no real check-in.  Just, "Fine.  Here, whatever," which is actually a really common hallmark at this stage.  I hear check-ins that are, "Fine.  Here, present," nothing real, and then watch as that just encourages a noticing especially if somebody else in the group maybe models a little bit more of that and then venturing out.  One day, she was in a particularly bad mood and actually noticed it in the moment, called it out in the check-in, and it was like, there was this release that happened that was really cool to watch as it got out there.  It was sacred space and nobody could challenge her in it.  It was a safe space for her to notice those interiors going on in the moment and how they were coloring how she showed up, and to call it out.  Anyway, all of that was just interesting to see how all that worked for her and kind of invited her into maybe glimpsing or tasting something that would be next for her.  Every time she rose to the challenge and noticed her own habits towards trying to fight reality with predict and control and let it go, the process kind of held it, made sure that it was going to happen.  It was really cool to see the kind of wrestling with it in the way she understood this and what it did.  I don’t think she saw the full richness and depth of it in the way that maybe a few of the people involved with later capacities did, and yet she saw more richness and depth that people earlier in their development did, and she was able to really use it for where she was and for what she needed to do in the organization while it helped her avoid the pitfalls of over-focus on the predict and control polarity.

 

Beena:  Right.  Yes, that sounds - yes, that's a great observation.  From a polarity perspective, when you overdo any pole, you arrive at a sort of a dysfunctional place.  If you overdo predict and control, there are a lot of dysfunctionalities that typically happen in organizations - you have a lot of plans on paper, it doesn’t match reality, there’s a lot of changes that happen that don’t get reflected in the plan.  All of the difficulties of that is almost like a sickness that just gets perpetuated year after year after year.  So you see a lot of that.  The interesting thing for me is that with Holacracy, you don’t actually see the downside of over-focusing on sense and respond, which would really be chaos, because there is so much rigor and structure with Holacracy.  So nobody can really complain that, "Oh, you're asking us to postpone all decisions, you're asking us to be sensors, but we just don’t know what's happening, and there's a lot of chaos.” You don’t hear that, which would be the tendency if overdoing sense and respond, but the fact is that it is such a balanced mechanism because you have so much rigor, so much structure, so much documentation and you know exactly where you are.  That's the interesting thing, that when you embrace sense and respond, you are better able to predict reality.  It's part of that.

 

Brian:   Yes, you're better able to do predict and control by holding a sense and respond mode.  It's just an amazing paradox.

 

Beena:  Yes, and I think that's the biggest gift for the Achiever mindset.  I think we would do well with pointing that out as we work with our clients, we can help them see that because we are dynamically steering, and because we are sensing and responding, we're actually doing better predict and control.  We are better able to map, to anticipate.

 

Brian:   We're better able to get reality toward a powerful productive vision and achieve it.  It might not be the vision that we decided outside the context of reality that we wanted in advance, but it is an achievable vision that has real meaningful change.  I think, Beena, that highlighted something for me that is really kind of cool to point out.  In many ways, I think Holacracy is not deeply threatening to any meaning-making stage in terms of where the self-esteem needs get met.  At the same time, it does tend to challenge, or nudge, or invite something next, and highlight the limits of the current way.  So we talked about this at the Diplomat stage with my story originally, that there's not a challenge to the sense of self there; the self-esteem comes from fitting in.  That's okay, and it invites what’s next.  At Expert, there's not a challenge to the self-esteem coming from my expertise in a specific topic and ability to use that and be the Expert, that kind of thing.  At Achiever, I think - and correct me if I'm wrong - the self-esteem needs largely come from being able to achieve, being able to achieve some results or some vision and accomplish that.  If that's where the self-esteem needs are coming from, Holacracy actually helps with that.  Ironically, it does it, to your point, by integrating sense and respond, by actually increasing our ability to achieve and get self-esteem needs met from that. It's inviting a noticing of our own self-esteem needs coming from that, noticing our own tendency to want to fight reality to get that self-esteem need met, and inviting us to maybe let go of that and find a new way to get our self-esteem needs met - a new meaning-making, a new center, but not pushing it; just inviting it.  I think this is a pattern that echoes at every stage -- that there's safety that you can get your self-esteem needs met; however, your identity is giving you your self-esteem even as it’s inviting something next, highlighting maybe the limits of that, experientially giving that first-hand mirroring of, "Huh, interesting," noticing my own meaning-making a little more consciously or otherwise, and inviting something - maybe a more powerful way to identify, to have our sense of self, and to get our self-esteem needs met.

 

Beena:  Yes, I agree, and this underscores what we talked about in our last conversation about including and transcending.  Not transcending and excluding, which typically is also what happens in a typical sort of learner, I would say.  We tend to move towards what we want and then we tend to reject what was there before us.  Holacracy doesn’t allow that, and because there is a sense of including, and there's enough elements and enough dimensions to take care of so many different aspects of working together productively that I think you're right.  There's really nothing that's excluded and nothing that's sort of threatening.  So that's where I see how the fundamental understanding that we get from polarities is sort of similar to the fundamental understanding that we get even from the stage development - that each of these stages is oriented towards particular values, particular ways of looking, and that there are attachments and preferences for certain things, certain poles, certain meaning.  What Holacracy does is tap into both ends, and because it's always working with these interdependent pairs, it's just helping each individual and the system to be more integrated and to include.

 

 Beena: Should we mention some of the polarities that Achievers face? We talked about the big one - predict and control and sense and respond.  I would say planning and emergence is the big one; the bias here is towards planning and maybe emergence. Let's create a plan and then work the plan, and let's see if we can change reality to fit the plan.  That's the general orientation.  If something is emergent and it's not fitting in with the plan, then you want to still work the plan, you want to try and change what you're seeing, and the lesson that you're learning for next time is "I better make a better plan."  So that's how it works.  Because of the rational scientific approach, the other polarity of that stage is a linear sort of causality, the non-linear relationship.  So there's a tendency for the Achiever to go linear.  From here to there, from there to there, so they like to map out the steps sequentially, and there's a greater difficulty to deal with something that's more non-linear, more cyclical, more, if you will, chaotic.  There is, of course, the future and the here and now.  Those are the polarities.  They're constantly really looking at the future rather than at what's happening here and now.  There's a tendency to privilege a more future orientation, and there's also a tendency to use more discerning, rational, intellectual, and logical views rather than relying on what's being sensed under the surface, reading between the lines, being intuitive, feeling into the energy of a place, or listening to the story rather than the argument.  It's something that's not yet in the capacities of an Achiever.  There’s a greater focus on objective, less on subjective, and even though in comparison to the previous stage there is more of a shift to internal self-awareness rather than just an external way of being, I would say those would be the polarities.  Overall, you can look at the conventional. If you remember when we talked last time, we talked about when we look at most of the polarities that Holacracy caps well, we could see that we could line up all the first polarities that we mentioned last time. We could line them up and they all seem to be sort of a conventional mindset, and then what Holacracy does is include, transcend, and augment that with what comes later.  So we said discipline is a more conventional thing, freedom is also conventional, results focus is more conventional, profits focus would be more post-conventional, structure and rigor are more conventional, more dynamism is post-conventional, reviewing and planning are more conventional, and then experimenting and allowing the emergent is more post-conventional.  So I just wanted to remind us that even if you look overall at the conventional broad stage, there are some common pole preferences across the conventional stages that Holacracy honors and then builds on by adding the post-conventional values.

 

Brian:   Yes, that's great.  So moving into those post-conventional stages and starting with the earliest, just to frame it, I think it's interesting to look at every other stage pattern where you get alternating stages focusing on kind of an integrated world view, if you will, or a stage of integrating and integration versus a stage of differentiating from what came before, and almost like a previous integrative world that you're starting to dissolve, and collapse, and deconstruct and all that, and then back to the next stage of integrating into something new.  We see this with Diplomat having a very integrated world space view, what have you, and then the Expert really differentiating from that integrated way of showing up, Expert being very much about differentiating from, in this case, the group and all that, back to Achiever which has now a really integrated view, and now to the first of the post-conventional stages where there's now this deconstruction that happens and this differentiation from this stage.  Actually I like the word "Pluralist" which is one of the names for it, but it's also called "Individualist."  Tell me, Beena, what do you see as the kind of essence of this stage?

 

Beena:  Yes, this is one of Susanne’s unique contributions where she recognized that up until the Achiever stage or the highest conventional stage, the ego is busy creating a sense of identity, creating a sense of self, creating a sense of self-authorship, and creating a sense of being different from what is out there.  At the post-conventional stage, for the first time, there is a questioning of the identity that the ego has created so far.  So there is an examination of "How did I come to be who I am and where I am today?", and there's a recognition that there has been a process - a historical, cultural process that has gotten to me, and which has made me who I am, and made me think the way I am, and so there's now a questioning of what were those influences, and then a recognition that others have their own stories, and that has gotten them to where they are - their history and culture - and now there's a recognition that they're both valid.  So up until the Achiever stage, there is this one reality and we can all agree that that is a reality; now, there are multiple realities, and even though there's collaboration and listening to multiple perspectives at the Achiever stage, it's all sort of used to gather into an understanding for what can be done to change our future.  So that's interesting.  At the Achiever stage, the collaboration is used to support a particular view of reality, whereas in the first post-conventional stage, you're listening to other perspectives and then you're really recognizing that these are different. They are different realities and they’re all valid. That’s such a huge leap from what has gone so far. Susanne came up with this trajectory that’s sort of going up, up, up, creating an identity, and then the arc goes down where you now begin to deconstruct. That itself is a manifestation of the understanding that not everything is linear or goes in one direction.

 

Brian:   I actually see a lot of folks attracted to Holacracy who are attracted is to this realization that this holds the space for multiple perspectives and not just multiple opinions - note the languaging shift, not just multiple opinions to argue about who’s right or find the right way but really, truly holding a space for multiple perspectives, recognizing the wisdom in each. That each of these perspectives is seeing different realities and holding a space for all that to show up and come together, and at the same time kind of pushing beyond the conventional business mindset. It’s at this stage that I think the awareness is first there of how limiting our conventional structures really are, a deep self-awareness of that intuitively, not just logically but intuitively. It’s then to push past them and I think a lot of folks in this stage see Holacracy as this “Aha!” Here is something beyond that embeds this knowledge, these multiple perspectives, and gives everyone a voice, that kind of thing.

 

Beena:  Absolutely. The intensity is high at this stage because there’s a greater capacity to see complexity and to see the limitations of the entire conventional perspective. There’s great energy and intensity for what is actually real, what is actually happening and not enough understanding because this is an early post-conventional stage. It’s still in the questioning process and there is a lot of reaction and reactivity to the previous stages.

 

Brian:   There’s also this push against. This is where I see a lot of folks and including a lot of folks attracted to Holacracy, from this stage, there’s still a very strong push against the modern norm. It’s like a reject fight. There could be an anger or passion expressed in one way or another for - there’s something bad about what’s come before this previously and it can be very intense. I like that word for it. Because of the awareness of the limits of it, it’s coming from a wisdom and it’s part of a differentiating from the conventional; it’s this push against and we see a lot of that.

 

Beena:  Yes, and because at this stage, there’s a greater concern about seeing the difference between what’s reality and what’s appearance. There’s a greater concern about subjectivity.

 

Brian:   There’s a focus on subjectivity and the interiors. What about me as a human, as a person, with depth, with interiors with values? That whole focus flourishes at this stage. It’s the awareness of this rich interior space, and I think that’s why the focus is on context being so important.  There’s often a draw to explore these different contexts, to understand.

 

Beena:  Yes and the interest. The real interest in listening to other people…

 

Brian:   Deeply.

 

Beena:  And getting and valuing feedback from the system. So this is the first stage where I think we really understand the gift of seeing each person as a sensor, because of the uniqueness, what one person sees cannot be seen by the other person, and how valuable that feedback is. I think the most difficult thing for this stage from a Holacracy perspective would be this rigorously cutting off the conversations when they really want to go on.

 

Brian:   Oh, yes. I see a lot of that.

 

Beena:  Yes. They want to know more and they want to connect with the other person, they want to empathize. They want to keep the relationship going. They want more. They want to engage more. They want to understand more of the perspective. So it can be hard for this group to keep to that. I’m sure you get a lot of resistance when you cut off the conversation and say, “No. That’s it. No more conversation.” It’s very hard for this stage I think.

 

Brian:   It is. The discipline and structure of the process can be really pushed against and it’s the move here, the ego move, if you will, is to label that or judge it as “That’s conventional.” Any structure is perceived as conventional. Any structure is perceived as limiting, bad, whatever, stopping this human expression and yet at the same time, the way I get around that often working with folks at this stage is to focus on purpose, hanging it back on purpose. It’s not arbitrary structure. It’s for the sake of achieving a purpose. We’re going to be focused and disciplined and just focus on what’s needed for the purpose, for the context. The purpose becomes a context and we’re aligning with that context. That I can often get through that initial gut push against that often comes from this stage, the cut off the structure. There’s often that desire to just explore and explore the depths, explore the values. There can be a real challenge here and yet I often see with people in this space, the value that they see often especially if they’ve explored the space for a little while and it’s not as new, there’s often an awareness of the limits of actually trying to get anything done productively. When we’re in this space of just exploring interiors and collective and consensus and values and all of this stuff, it can be although gratifying also limiting. There can be an awareness of we can do more about our purpose if we had a little bit more structure and yet there’s still a real suspicion about that structure sometimes from this stage.

 

Beena:  Yes. I totally agree. I think they would be feeling very frustrated with the structure. It’s likely that they will interpret that structure as if it’s a conventional obstruction because you honor so much of the conventional wisdom, which they are likely to be sort of thinking that they are past that and likely not to integrate as much. They would tend to see Holacracy as limiting in some ways but the structure is just too rigorous, too limiting, why can’t we open it up? There’d be a lot of interest in having this process-oriented.

 

Brian:   Yes. That really resonates, and going back to the paradox comment that you had offered earlier in a different stage, that’s here too, ironically, the structure, the ruthless structure, rigid structure in some ways, in this case is a structure that allows everyone to have honored a sacredness of their space to share their interior processing, to tune into that and to bring it up. So it actually allows more of what this stage tends to really be aware of now and value deeply. It allows more of it to cut off some of it. It allows everyone to have that capacity, that sacredness of their space, to tune into their interior and offer the wisdom of it. So that also helps really transcend that limit when people kind of get it and see this is actually helping that and it creates an interesting opening now for moving to something next, something new. Before we go there, Beena, I’m curious if you’d share some of the polarities that you see privileged or biased towards and pushed against at this stage generally.

 

Beena:  Yes. There’s a bias to the horizontal, flattening the structure, so they would love the circles. They would love the Integrative Decision-Making process. There’s a tendency to push against hierarchy or what I would call the vertical. So the horizontal-vertical polarity is the big one for them. Consensus; they would prefer consensus over directive decision-making. That’s a polarity, because you need the directive aspect, which of course is retained in Holacracy in so many different ways via the Lead Link of the organization. The being and doing - there’s more focus on being, exploring, staying with the moment rather than getting into action mode. So I think the Individualist would revel in the circle meetings and the Governance meetings, but in the Tactical meetings, and during the next actions, they’re going to think, “Oh, this takes me back to what we used to be doing before.” They’re likely to interpret it that way. There’s a tendency not to like standardized stuff because they’re so contextual.  Doing something in a standard way, rigorously, with no exceptions is something that they’re likely to push back or not be able to sit well with. Those are some that come to mind.

 

Beena:  I just thought it might be good to pause and check if Susanne’s on the call. I’d love to see if there are any comments that she has, anything that stands out for her, if that’s okay with you?

 

Brian:   Oh, yes. Absolutely. Let me see if I can find and unmute her phone line here. There we go. Yes, Susanne, if you have anything to add, please do.

 

Susanne: Only that it’s actually fascinating learning for me to how this actually relates and plays out in Holacracy. I have a general sense of it but I really enjoy hearing a bit more about the details and how that fundamental paradox, having structures that then allow new freedoms is really a great idea. Just to play with that, and to be aware how one helps the other, and that you need both.

 

Brian:   Yes. Well-put. Mutually enabling…

 

Beena:  Susanne, did we miss anything significant as we were going through the stages that you’d like to highlight?

 

Susanne: No. I thought that was beautifully done, and both of you seem to have a real deep sense of the evolution of the self through these stages, through this particular lens. I’m delighted.

 

Brian:   Thank you.

 

Beena:  Thank you.

 

Brian:   Wonderful.

 

Beena:  I also think it was a good thing that we spent more time on the conventional stages because that’s really the world in which we are operating.

 

Brian:   Yes. We just went through Individualist, which covers a vast majority of people that we’re going to see in most organizations that we work with.

 

Beena:  Yes. So I’m wondering if you even - I meant just as an afterthought, if we want to pause here and maybe take some questions, and then if you wanted to talk about the later stages in another call, either with or without me, or maybe you could do it with Susanne, that would be fine too.

 

Brian:   Well, I think I would like to cover at least the next one. I have lots of thoughts at least on a couple of stages after that that I can talk about well and in-depth, but that’s probably for a different call. Let’s at least focus on this next stage, because I do think it’s still a really relevant one especially to the community of Holacracy practitioners. Many of them we see coming from this capacity or at least whether they’re moving into this capacity or moving out of this capacity or have recently got out of it or will be in it, it’s a good general center of gravity, I think, of a lot of the people attracted to Holacracy. So let’s talk about the shift now from the Individualist or Pluralist capacity to appreciate perspectives and to work with contexts. Now to the capacity to not just see them but actually work with them or organize them, prioritize context, prioritize perspective at this next stage, often called Strategist. What do you see as the essence of this stage, Strategist?

 

Beena:  Yes. Again, there are many moves at this stage. I think in the Individualist stage, it’s a relativistic worldview where everything is relative, and there is a difficulty in anchoring one’s self to an absolute sort of truth or standard. That’s the gift of the next stage, where even though you recognize that everything is contextual, everything is relative, you begin to see a higher level of order and you begin to see higher principles, and you begin to see complexity and inter-relationships and you get to see architecture and how everything in a system sort of fits and has its own place, which includes hierarchy. So now there’s an embrace of both the horizontal and the vertical. So in some ways, this is the stage where there is a real integration of both ends of thinking where you can see both ends simultaneously. There is also a capacity to appreciate the wisdom of all the other stages before, which essentially to me is appreciating the wisdom of all the other values. The poles and the preferences that come before those perspectives are integrated and you can hold them together. So even though at the Individualist stage you can see polarities, you’re moving out of an either/or, though it’s not yet a full both/and. It’s definitely not either this or that, but it could be anything. There is a kind of looseness at the earlier stage and now there’s greater clarity. At this stage, there’s an awareness of paradox and contradictions and system and the self, and there’s an ability to hold that. There is a deep appreciation of others, which you build on from the Individualist stage. There’s a great tolerance of differences and so for a Strategist sitting in a circle meeting, widely and wildly differing opinions and perspectives are all part of the system. They’re all part of the reality. So it’s going to be much easier for a Strategist to hold a lot of contradictions coming out of a certain proposal and responses to the proposal than at earlier stages, where people are likely to want to move towards one view or another view.

 

Brian:   Or sometimes in the case of Individualists they don’t want to move to any view but to just kind of hold on.

 

Beena:  Yes. To say that all are good views and there’s a difficulty then in arriving at something that…

 

Brian:   Making a decision, cutting off discussion is hard.

 

Beena:  Yes. Making a decision, converging is difficult.

 

Brian:   Yes. With Strategists, you do see that capacity more, to actually now collapse to something for the sake of prioritizing these different perspectives together against each other, out of utility, in the moment, for a purpose. This is where I think Holacracy can help people from the Individualist stage, by inviting them to something next with this purpose-driven focus, and the fact that everything is almost subjugated, not in a controlling way but everything is aligned around this purpose, so how can we prioritize these different perspectives, these different contexts? Not get caught up just in the exploring of them, though awareness of them helps, but use that to enact and manifest the purpose in the world. That is, I think, really hitting at the essence of the Strategist capacity to hold all that awareness, the different perspective-making and yet organize it around a purpose. The awareness of Holarchy, of Holarchic structures as an intuitive awareness at this stage and to seeing that embodied in this I think really comes out.

 

Beena:  From one point of view, I would see Holacracy as sort of the epitome of the Strategist perspective in some ways. It fully, I think, embraces the way a Strategist would see and there are things beyond as well. I think just the whole, the systemic nature, the acknowledgement of reality, the giving voice to every part of the system and having an architecture around the whole practice, the terminology, the rigor, the process and then the capacity to really flex, flex to reality and the capacity to really be emergent and hold the anchor, which is, I think, a Strategist capacity. I think it’s just wonderful to see an organizational practice that is a blossoming of all that is possible at this stage.

 

Brian:   Yes. That all resonates. I might have said the same thing about the next stage for my own sense of it. What I mean by that is that I think this is a potential gift that the practice can offer those coming from this stage by inviting something next, which highlights the limits of our own in-the-moment meaning-making as we live it, as we experience it. It gets really subtle at this point but it’s the subtle rules of Integrative Decision Making, the subtle rules of holding up a mirror to our in-the-moment attachments and prioritizations, our in-the-moment meaning-making as if it is pointing to some fixed reality. At this stage, although there’s such capacity and richness, there is not yet the intuitive, which comes with the next stage, although there is a reflective awareness of this, there’s not the intuitive in-the-moment witnessing awareness of the constructs of reality as they arise. I think there’s an interesting capacity here that Holacracy has through Integrative Decision Making and some of the other structures to point out in-the-moment the more fluid nature of reality underneath. This is probably more than we want to fully try to explore in this call, but I think it’s fascinating. I think I talked a little bit about this on one of the other calls, but even at this stage, with this massive richness of complexity to integrate, there are still the limits. Same is true with every other stage, and there’s still the invitation I think at this stage, though I’m not sure that keeps up forever, but the invitation at this stage to notice those limits in real time through the practice of Holacracy.

 

Beena:  I think I can feel into what you’re saying about the next stage and the subtleties. My response is it’s not as codified in the literature and in the communication. I think it’s there so I would agree with you, but I don’t think it’s something that we call out or name or position as clearly as we do all of the other things that come before. So that would be an interesting conversation I would love to have with you.

 

Brian:   Right, it would. Which brings up the interesting question of "Can it be?" and I don’t know. I don’t know that I have an answer to that.

 

Beena:  No. I think I have a sense that we can identify at least what are the kinds of questions that we are working with in-the-moment as we go about practicing Holacracy, not implementing but practicing, and what is it revealing to us about the way we see ourselves and see what we are doing and see other realities. I think it’s possible to at least begin to identify what’s happening at an even subtler level and count the polarity at the Strategist stage. So there’s a tendency to privilege the system over the individual, so that’s the polarity. There’s a tendency for the Strategist to be over-emphasizing that system goal, and what’s good for the whole organization, and they may tend to neglect working on specific individual needs. Because they see the dynamic of interconnectedness in everything, they tend to work with more complex solutions and tend to work with more dynamic solutions rather than do linear problem-solving, even though it may be called for. So they would tend to perhaps complexify everything, and again it’s not that everybody would do it, but there may be a tendency simply because there’s a greater privileging of complexity. They may sometimes over-focus on principle, on absolute principles, over what may be practical. There may be a greater reliance on what is known and understood because they can see so much and know so much and understand so much; they may be less acknowledging of just mystery and things that they don’t see. So those would be some of the things I think at the Strategist stage that show up as preferences.

 

I think overall as we practice Holacracy, it's useful to think about ego development or stages of ego development at four or five different sort of levels if you will. So one is the level of the sensor, which is each sensor, what are their stages of development? What kind of perspective are they carrying at the level of the group or the culture or the collective? So for example, you could have an organization that’s more an Expert-like organization or a more Achiever-like organization or a more interdependent Individualist-like organization. So it’s good to understand that even at the higher cultural abstract level, what is the center of gravity of the system? I think it’s useful to look at the stage of development of the certified Holacracy practitioner, and for us to be open to our level of meaning-making, and how we are making meaning as we practice it. I would also say to be looking at the perspectives and the stages of key leaders in the system where they’re practicing it. So it would be key leaders and key opinion leaders, because there are informal leaders in the system and how they influence their perspectives and what they privilege, how that impacts. I think it’s good to keep these four sorts of groups or levels in mind from an ego development and polarity perspective.

 

Brian:   Yes. Let me add one last piece here about Strategists to leave an open question mark for everyone as we move into a wrap-up here. Which is just something I’ve seen with the Strategist capacity to see Holacracy in so much richness and depth, the Holarchy, how it works with development, even fully seeing them and appreciating that, all of this I think comes with that capacity. One of the gifts I’ve seen Holacracy offering now with several of the people I’ve been working with, aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, is that kind of ability to start noticing your own meaning-making process in real time, which is an invitation to something next. I think one of the real powers that Holacracy can offer the folks coming from a Strategist meaning-making is the transpersonal aspect, which is actually the easiest to miss I think. Even when people can see all this richness is the fact that Holacracy is not actually working at the level or domain of the people directly. There’s certainly an end there, it’s not ignoring that but when we talk about the organization, we’re looking at it as an entity itself. We are looking at not just how we interrelate as humans in a human system. We’re looking at something that is a transpersonal vehicle for something, and again language even gets hard to point this out and I don’t want to repeat a lot of what I do in my trainings here. Anyway, there’s something really cool there that I see as a real potential interesting offer for people, even with all of this richness and complexity that we’ve pointed out with Strategists to really see and wrestle with.  This actually isn’t even about the people, not even about the system of people. It’s something else. There’s a transpersonal aspect to this that shapes everything and infuses everything. I think there’s something really intriguing there to not just explore intellectually but to experience and to start building a moment-to-moment capacity to notice that, feel it and be in that space, which is an interesting gift even for this relatively late stage of development we’re pointing out here.

 

That said, I know we are out of time. Beena, I’ll give you just a space to close. Anything you want to say, could be to that or otherwise. Just take a minute, if you would and close out for us and then I’ll do the same.

 

Beena:  I think this is a very fascinating space to look at, just this triangle of ego development, Holacracy and Polarity. One of the questions I noticed that came up had to do with styles, Enneagram or the MBTI styles, so maybe in another call you could address that. I see styles as manifestations of pole preferences, so when you prefer one particular pole and a string of polarities, that’s linked to a particular style. The relationship between the sort of horizontal and vertical development is also interesting. So just making sure that we continue to grow “horizontally”, almost everything, every experience that contributes to our growth horizontally is eventually also supporting vertical development, and I think vertical development is a consequence of horizontal development. So I think that’s an important thing for us to note in the ego development field, where we are constantly pushing to go up the ladder and develop our selves to the next stage. I see it and I’m reminded of Bernard Marie’s comment about “It’s not an objective, it’s an outcome.” So it’s good to see developmental stages of outcome of the human process, of learning and meaning-making. So I guess that’s what I would like to leave with people with.

 

Brian:   Awesome. Yes. Thank you. Beena, thanks for joining us again. Going through this has been enlightening. I wish we had more time. Thanks everyone so much for joining us.

 

Beena: Thank you. Thank you, Brian. Thanks, everybody and a special thank you to Susanne, my teacher, mentor, friend.

 

Brian:   Yes. Likewise. Thank you, Susanne.

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