Regarding: The passage rite…applied to organizations:
There’s a large body of knowledge in cultural anthropology that describes the utility of passage rites. Passage rites are designed cultural experiences- ritual events- that facilitate an individual’s journey in transforming from one social status to another in the society, family or organization.
Open Agile Adoption, to be clear, does NOT do this. Open Agile Adoption (OAA) is a designed experience for an entire organization, not the individuals. The individuals do not repeat DO NOT experience a change in social status.
Really? Then what the heck is actually going on inside an Open Agile Adoption?
What’s going on is, quite simply, a passage rite through which the entire organization is passing, not any one individual or subset group of individuals. It’s the entire living system that’s leveling up, not a set of individuals. It’s the entire tribe that’s graduating– not a subset of it. It’s the organization as a whole- the tribe, the living system- that is taking the journey from here to there. The “organization”, the “living system”, might be a division or business unit of a larger containing entity or enterprise. The fact remains: that entire subset- that entire living subculture– is going through it together. As a single living system. As a single entity.
While we may be able to find some support for this idea in the Organizational Development community, we will find little if any support for it inside the usual source of information on the subject of passage rites, namely: cultural anthropology.
Arnold van Gennep coins the phrase “rite de passage” and Victor Turner later elaborates on this and the concept of liminality…at the individual level. As far as I know there is little if any support in cultural anthropology for the idea of “tribe as individual” experiencing a rite of passage.
In cultural anthropology, going from here to there inside a ritual is always an individual journey.
Yes- others are also journeying at the same time.
Yes- there is communitas.
Yes- after a group of girls in a tribe experience the passage rite and are officially adult women, there are system or tribe-level effects.
That said, the idea that a family or a tribe or a modern corporation can “level up” by experiencing a passage ritual is a new idea. With no apparent support from cultural anthropology.
Or so it seems.
The reality is: this works. The organization is a single, living system. It has the attributes of a living system as described by people like Arie de Gaus (author of The Living Organization) and others. There is little doubt that modern organizations are complete and living systems. As such, they can be addressed as a single entity. And that’s the basis of many applied frameworks from communities such as the Group Relations and Organizational Development communities.
In this sense, Open Agile Adoption is really nothing new. The components are sourced from other disciplines. These components are well-developed and well-understood by the diverse communities who have developed them. Open Agile Adoption however, is a new composition of diverse parts that make something new. The components are: invitation, Open Space, game mechanics, the psychology of games, leadership storytelling, and the essential passage rite structure.
I’ve seen the communitas concept play out in living color, larger than life. That is, the spirit of community. Certainly participants at the same level of authorization experience this feeling and spirit of community, as they go through the shared experience of learning, and engaging in the difficult business of belief change.
That is not surprising. What is surprising is how people at all levels of authorization experience communitas when going through the passage-rite process of Open Agile Adoption. While roles and related levels of authorization vary widely across an entire organization, it does not seem to matter. Those going through the OAA passage-rite process who have lower levels of authorization understand that the “higher ups” are experiencing something too. And as the higher ups are transformed in their own way, via some stressful learning, they understand that all the participants are going to school- together.
This is what a great Agile adoption is actually made of- the spirit of community.
And so the question remains: does the ancient cultural device of the passage rite apply to modern organizations? Yes, it does.
Can the passage rite be utilized in service to getting the organization from here to there? Yes, it can.
I’ve seen it, I have done it, I am doing it. And I plan to keep supporting others who are doing it. I’m grateful for the help of other professionals are doing experiments and sharing their experiences with the Open Agile Adoption technique.
Others are beginning to discuss and rapidly refine these ideas— and use them to solve very difficult problems. Like reducing the number of coaching days needed to achieve both a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.
To make enterprise Agility a reality.
Arie de Gaus- The Living Company
Organizational Development Community