As the large October pumpkin coloured sun gently falls to earth over the rolling Yorkshire Wolds I sit and watch in awe as a dynamic, dramatic dance plays out in the autumn sky and I see the murmuration model.
I am treated to nature’s greatest ballet as maybe a hundred starlings swirl, swoop and soar. I wonder at the grace and complexity of movement, the closeness of grouping; so close sometimes bird merges with bird then more birds until it is more like observing the twist and turns of a stunt kite.
Watch for more than a minute and you are no longer watching a hundred birds, a hundred individuals all with independent movement but instead one mighty and magnificent being, with one mind choreographing the dance, one body moving left then right, up and down, fast then slow. Their group behaviour becomes instinctive, aligned almost unthinking and as I watch my mind wonders and I realise what I am seeing in this Starling mumuration I have seen elsewhere. Not in nature, not in the sky, but in some of the great organisations I have supported to become truly intrapreneurial.
What I think I’ve learnt over the last 15 years is that if you wish your organisation to be jaw droppingly innovative, deliver outrageous customer service and not just engage your colleagues but have an organisation where there is a community of fully involved individuals, who are emotionally connected and intellectually bonded, then I believe we need to create a Murmuration Model.
The Murmuration model has many of the characteristics that I note in the starlings dance.
The birds can dance such an expansive, ambitious ballet without careering into each other and crashing to the floor because they are following the movement of others in their peripheral sight and that practically means seeing the movement of a starling synchronicity of movement, we can also have the many work as one. It takes just a few simple steps.
Firstly by delivering Inspirational Leadership, Next identifying core behaviours that you need in the organisation to become Intrapreneurial, thirdly identify those who demonstrate, or if supported could demonstrate those behaviours. In other words the lead dancers. Lastly nurture and grow that troupe of lead dancers until across the whole community each individual can observe a lead dancer in their peripheral sight. Let us look at those steps in greater detail.
The Murmuration Model©
Delivering Inspirational Leadership
Pretty well all research seems to show us that command and control management no longer works in an environment that requires fast decision making, flexible, almost organic, work communities rather than rigid structures and a workforce who resist overbearing control and a parent/child; I tell/ you do culture.
Work communities no longer require to be managed, they can successfully manage all aspects of their lives without supervisory help. They self manage renting or buying homes, they self manage meeting others, marrying others, divorcing others, having affairs, having kids. So they are certainly capable of managing their own time at work.
What they need is leaders who can communicate authentic, simple, meaningful values that everyone can understand and buy into. They need leaders who inspires others with their enthusiasm, passion and belief in what the community can and will achieve together and they need leaders with the ability to describe a destination and the road that we must travel that is coherent, believable, meaningful and exciting. Freed from micro managing leaders can spend their time developing and demonstrating their ability to create a narrative that encapsulates what the organisation stands for and why what we are achieving is special.
They need great leaders such as an H.R. Director in a North of England who through his passion and visionary leadership is helping a Hospice become one of the most innovative, patient centric, and efficient in its field. Helping his organisation reimagine how their services can be delivered. Helping centre based teams think differently, escape from the confines of their building and deliver outstanding and ground breaking care in patient’s homes.
Identifying Core Behaviours
If leaders are going to help their organisation to be fluid, innovative and Intrapreneurial; if they wish their organisation to dance as one; if they wish their organisation to instinctively respond in the right way to environmental challenge and opportunity; then leaders need to take sufficient time to understand the core behaviours that will achieve the culture and therefore the outcomes required.
Often leaders will say they have created behaviours for their team but instead have just created bland meaningless phrases such as being customer focused or effective team player.
What is needed is the rigorous identification of the four or five observable behaviours that are essential in an Intrapreneurial culture. In other words behaviours you wish to consistently see within the work community and you can describe those behaviours simply and clearly to your community.
Once you have described your core behaviours then identify those who already consistently demonstrate them on good days and bad, on Mondays or Fridays, in summer or winter. These are your colleagues who will help you transform your organisations culture. Spend time with them helping them understand what you are trying to achieve, helping them become conscious competence, helping them be aware of their behaviour and the transformational power of behaviour.
Most importantly explain they are the lead dancers, explain how through their behaviours they can influence others behaviours. Urge them to go out an influence others who they think would exhibit your core behaviours if they understood their power to transform. In a short time through this method 10 lead dancers can become 100, then 1000.
A few years ago I had the privilege of observing an Intrapreneurial CEO of a U.K. Gas Distribution Company transform his business from one which was poor when dealing with customers, which suffered from low employee engagement and average performance. To one that had the best customer scores of any utility, became the most efficient utility, and having an employee engagement satisfaction level in line with the best U.K. retailers in less than a year. How did he do it? Well by identifying and then nurturing his lead dancers and freeing them to get among their colleagues and influence their behaviour.
The Power of Peripheral Sight
Culture changes when you have sufficient lead dancers so that they are seen in everyone’s peripheral sight. Where core behaviours are almost hidden in clear sight. Where core behaviours are exhibited as an unconscious reflex. Where core behaviours are almost the organisations muscle memory.
You will know you have achieved your cultural change when you don’t need to display core behaviours on walls, teach core behaviours in induction programmes, or attempt to measure core behaviours in appraisals.
You will understand the power of peripheral sight when you can no longer identify who are the lead dancers in the community anymore. Where core behaviours are so embedded you can almost taste them, feel them or maybe so embedded you almost cannot see them anymore as they are so ingrained in the fabric of the organisation. I am helping a cutting edge medical tech company who value openness and a friendly atmosphere. To enter their establishment you need to use an intercom and then, as they have no receptionist, whoever picks up the phone, whether it be the Apprentice or CEO, will come down to let you in. Because behaviours are so ingrained it doesn’t matter who opens the door they will be warm to you, get you a coffee and make you feel at home.
The Murmuration Model©
We have an opportunity to create amazing places to work, fast moving, fast responding, and fast changing communities.
We have an opportunity to involve the whole community in working for a meaningful cause, a community in charge of its destiny, a community working as one.
We have the opportunity to create an organisation that can achieve outstanding and sustainable success.
We have the opportunity to dance as one like the starlings do across the autumn sky.