emergentedge 4 box model


The emergentedge model has been developed internally to provide an organisational lens through which it is possible to understand the human dynamics of change and organisational development. The model is based on the work of Ken Wilber, Gregory Bateson and our own experience.

This model offers a sophisticated and structured backdrop that helps explain the nature of organisational development and some of the stresses that this creates for people, particularly when under the pressure of change, stretched targets, changing market conditions and less well defined roles and responsibilities.

We have used the model successfully in many different organisations and in many different interventions – from franchise, culture change, management and leadership development, through to top team development, coaching, talent management and customer satisfaction.

The model asserts that action is needed in all four boxes to ensure success; failure to address the needs of one box can provide a real insight into impending failure. It can also identify the time-line and early-warning signs of that failure. No one box is any more powerful than the others but in certain situations more attention may be paid to one box in order to create momentum and change – the key message remains however, miss a box at your peril!

Systems, process, structures, outputs

Our experience is that most organisations over-value and over-invest in this quadrant. Although every business needs to have a set of critical processes, well mapped and executed, not everything that a business wishes to achieve can be driven by activity in this area. However when a company feels the cold wind of change many leadership teams run to the room in the building where the control levers for these matters are based and start pulling them for all that they are worth – it gives them a sense of purpose and often it has some rectifying effect.

And when the situation remains uncertain more and more action here can become addictive; re-structure after re-structure, re-brand after re-brand, new ways of measuring, SAP implementation, redundancy and de-layering, etc. These are all reasonable things to do in 'turn-round' but are less good when trying to re-motivate and re-define success within an organisation. The execs feel good though, because they are doing something that is within their control – and how people behave is not necessarily in their control so they attempt to change the conditions that they believe will generate the desired change in behaviour.

Culture, values and beliefs

Some organisations have decided to drive for the creation of a 'high-performance' culture as a method of creating employee and employer branding and as a way of creating sustainable adaption in an ever changing global economy. This quadrant cannot, however, be taken lightly and too many businesses sadly cheat in this area. Paying 'lip service' to this area will not be enough and many organisations have suffered embarrassing set backs by trying to 'show' that they care – when actually they have just been doing the 'soft stuff' because they feel they have to! Those organisation that have genuinely begun to run their business from this box have found extraordinary results and unexpected levels of discretionary contribution and innovation have followed.

Behaviour, attitudes and style

To 'future-proof' these organisational step changes, the challenges in this quadrant need to be faced. The leadership climate and the 'atmosphere' that is created within an organisation is critical here. However how people behave, their attitudes and style is not necessarily in the leadership teams control and therefore, in a genuine attempt to change behaviour, the leadership team often turns to HR to come up with competency architectures and performance management systems, yet little change of behaviour is delivered through the 'systems' approach to people.

People have to want to change, recognise the need and benefits of changing and they have sophisticated methods of protecting themselves against any mandated change leading to compliance as opposed to desire. People need to be praised and rewarded for the correct behaviours and challenged for the unwanted approaches and styles.

A health warning: this can be a real issue when the senior group think that 'they' don't need to change. In fact they do need to change and they need to be seen to be changing first. That's what makes the process believable and authentic. This is also the place where change becomes reality.

Thinking, feeling, emotion, physiology

This is the real 'hearts and minds' arena – if the leadership team has played their cards right on the journey through the other boxes then this door is now wide open for the leadership team and for employees!

Here is the domain of giving people a 'damn good listening to', coaching, counselling and mentoring have great impact.

Here is the domain of true employee engagement, utilising discretionary contribution and making that all important emotional connection with the organisation.

And here is the domain of building personal and organisational resilience to meet full on the demands of transformation and change.

Using the emergentedge model

There is no implicit assertion here that any one quadrant holds more efficacy than any other. It is more a matter of appropriateness (appropriate to the unique organisational challenges), balance and thoughtful thoroughness. Some interventions are best delivered by 75% process redesign and 25% invested in communication, explanation, engagement and inclusion. Other desired outcomes may have nothing to do with process at all and it may be a long process of creating awareness, engaging in dialogue, testing possible solutions and giving genuine power over to a larger group of people.

In FORENSIC mode we have used the model to answer the question:
how did we end up here?
In this case we look to understand current state based on de-coding previous management and leadership decisions.

In AUDIT mode we have used the model to answer the question:
where are we now?

In this case we are able to take a real-time view of the current organisation and produce a powerful report for the senior management team; often we have used this approach to help 'unpack' data from customer or employee surveys.

In PLANNING mode we use the model to help us share a development approach with a client to answer the question:
what needs to be done?
Sometimes using the quadrants to describe activity, sometimes using the architecture to explore those activities that should be done by us and those that must be seen as being driven from internal resources.

The architecture provides a framework that challenges our thinking, challenges our client and creates a more robust set of business solutions; plus it often gives us the baseline data that we need to drive a meaningful set of impact assessment interventions to demonstrate efficacy and ROI (Return on Investment).