John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber have once again managed to make the complicated matter of dual systems in organizations (see Kotter’s book ‘XLR8 – Accelerate‘) accessible in a parable for a wide audience. In this book, ‘That’s Not How We Do It Here! A Story About How Organizations Rise and Fall – and Can Rise Again’ we follow a colony of 150 meerkats in the Kalahari, a hot, dry region of southern Africa.
Initially we follow the tightly run, highly hierarchical meerkats colony where everything takes place in accordance with prescribed procedures. If there are no threats, things run smoothly in the colony but when the colony is plagued by drought, resources run out and when they are attacked by hostile predators, the colony is powerless. Ideas or experiments are not appreciated, in fact directly crushed by saying ” That’s not how we do it here”.
Two young, smart adventurous meerkats, Nadia and Ayo decide to look outside for a solution to save the colony. Initially they found some liberated or dislocated colonies that faces problems even bigger and they are not welcome. Looks like that having rules and procedures has positive aspects too.
Eventually, they end up at a small innovative colony led by an inspirational leader. In this colony, there is room for new ideas and experiments. Initiatives are worked out by Spontaneously formed new temporary teams, and as a result the colony is flourishing. In this self-organising colony, they can live without standard procedures. This success has not gone unnoticed. An increasing number of meerkats align themselves with this colony, and this does not remain without consequences. Where issues in a small team were spontaneously picked up and solved, in a large colony this asks for rules and procedures.
This brings Nadia to the clever idea to connect both organizational structures together (The dual system in the book ‘XLR8 – Accelerate’). The hierarchical organization for all standard matters that should be settled in a colony and an organizational structure with temporary teams to experiment and find solutions to problems. Nadia returns to its former colony and brings it into practice there.
On the site www.kotterinternational.com you can download material (manual, PowerPoint) to start a discussion within your own company.
To order: That’s Not How We Do It Here!