Jim Ferrell, founder of Withiii Leadership Center, recently appeared on Groundwork Leadership Institute's Rooted Leadership podcast, discussing Withiii's framwork of the Four Quadrants of Organizational Change with hosts Chris Pineda and Salam Noor.
In this 80-minutes conversation, loaded with stories, insights, and practical advice, Jim shares from decades of experience with organizational change and explains the underlying principles and thought leadership of Withiii.
"Here's a bedrock idea that I think is really important," Jim shares. "Understanding this in my experience is key in helping people come together. In any type of organization, meaning any group of people, you have individuals on one hand, that make up an entity on the other hand. There's an individual aspect to us, but we're also part of something together. And what's really interesting is that growth and change happens through this interplay between our individual and our collective realities."
Jim goes into explaining how through a lifetime, individuals grow through the interplay between their individual identities and their membership as parts of larger groups. They bring themselves to their groups, and the collective then calls more from them individually, which then expands the abilities of the individuals. The growth of organizations happens in the same way, as Jim explains. Individual organizations, on account of their strengths, are invited into larger collectives that include other organizations as well, and these relations propel them to higher levels of performance, creativity, and so on. He uses the Four Quadrants of Organizational Change (the Attitude and Behavior, quadrants, which form the hemisphere of individual change, and the Culture and Structure quadrants, which form the hemisphere of collective change) to explain the growth path of organizations in the interplay between these different dimensions and shows powerfully how there's no single-quadrant solution that alone creates sustainable organizational change.
"The interplay of the collective with the individual swings like a pendulum between the We and the I. Studies show how societies are continuously going through the moves of this pendulum - it is key in the development of societies, of the individual person, and of any organization. From my experience, the answer is not to just focus on the We or only on the I - leaders who are on top of this want to always focus on both. An individual's contribution to the We depends, in part, on having a strong sense of the I, with the personal responsibility that such a sense makes possible."
"Today's collective is tomorrow's individual. How a company is going to grow is by becoming an individual entity in a bigger environment itself, being invited to become something more than it is, being invited into bigger and bigger We's. As a leader, I need to make sure that every individual is equipped to thrive individually and has a clear sense of how and why they are contributing to the whole. As we recognize how we are all parts of many nested collectives, we can keep growing individually by being called into contribution to larger and larger wholes."
Jim explains how these phenomena show up in our organizations and our private environments and discusses the consequences and implications of this - including some pitfalls like "foundationalism."
"If you think about any consulting or training company, they usually specialize in one or maybe two of these quadrants, either focusing on the pairs of individual or collective quadrants, or else on one or two of the "exterior"quadrants (Behavior or Structure) or on one or both of the "interior" quadrants (Attitude or Culture). The mistake of 'foundationalism' is the notion that that one of the quadrants is foundational to all the others and that doing work in one's preferred quadrant will automatically fix the issues in all the other quadrants. In my experience, working in only one or two quadrants alone will not produce lasting change, or else will only produce change that plateaus because the other quadrants haven't yet progressed enough."
Jim then discusses how he himself had been deceived by foundationalism in different situations and how he failed to address his client's issues appropriately.
"Taking a higher-level perspective equips you to see things that you would never see, and ask questions that you would otherwise never ask. There's a lot of great work that's done out there in the different quadrants, but isolated solutions won't cure everything. The Four Quadrants framework summarizes the territory of Withiii's work. We help organizations increase the level of what we call "Convergence" across all of these four quadrants."
"What does it look like to work as one? For the many to operate as one? Well, there's different indicators across all four quadrants that will show you what level of convergence, or lack of it, you are experiencing. Metaphorically speaking, these different levels of convergence in each quadrant can be equated to different orders of math - subtraction, addition, multiplication, and compounding. Growth in each quadrant means expanding individual and organizational practices to higher orders of math. By maintaining and honoring the inherent tension between the individual and the collective through an informed effort in both the individual and collective quadrants, individuals, teams, and organizations are able to grow."
Click on the image below to listen to the full 80-minute conversation to learn more, or read the corresponding whitepaper Achieving Four-Dimensional Change.