Organizations Designed for Growth & Vitality

Updated: Feb 18

As the world’s best leaders develop strategies and business models to ensure growth in the volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, leadership itself is evolving. Leaders are designing organizations strategically to create autopoietic systems (auto-poy-etic systems: life-sustaining systems that reproduce and perpetuate themselves automatically).  When designed well, they cut waste and weed out unhealthy processes.  Creating and maintaining autopoietic systems keeps organizations vital, full of life, and promotes growth and the revitalization of stalled initiatives. 


The Five Pillars of Organization Leadership for Growth:

  • Challenging the status quo with positive innovation.

  • Inspiring a vision and set of goals that result in mutual commitment from all employees.

  • Building teams that are empowered and are interdependent upon one other to succeed.

  • Modeling the behaviors you espouse to others.

  • Encouraging the hearts of employees so that they work through difficult times, striving to achieve the mutual vision and goals set before them.

Four strategic growth tools:

  • System Thinking

  • Positive People Management

  • Creative Problem Solving

  • Continuous Process Improvement

When leading a department, division, or organization, it is indispensable to tie the four tools together with a strategic focus on leadership agreement, interdependency, interactive and lateral communications, collaboration, and cooperation.  In doing so, leaders can structure functional and people systems to automatically encourage behaviors that drive their desired business outcomes.  Once the systems are running, less time and effort is needed to manage repeatable tasks, allowing more time to explore fresh, innovative ways to grow.

Leaders at this level are visionaries and use triple-loop thinking. To explain the difference between, single, double, triple loop thinkers listen to this quick story.


A photographer was rummaging around in a box of old photographic glass negatives with scenes of Yosemite National Park. He thought they were cool because he used to work at the park, so he bought the box for $45. When he got them home, he took a closer look at them and realized that they might be the work of Ansel Adams. He took them to an expert who verified they were from Ansel Adams, and he sold them for $200 million. Yes, that’s right, they were worth $200 million![1] The photographer looked past the surface and investigated the nature and characteristics of the negatives, which made him wealthy.

The garage sale owner was what we call a single-loop thinker. They look at the surface of things as they currently exist. The photographer was a double-loop thinker; a person who can see what’s on the surface, but also digs deeper to find out what’s behind or creating it. The single-loop thinker saw a $45 box of old photo negatives; the double-loop thinker saw a treasure worth $200 million.


Single-loopers manage their workforces as if everyone has the same assumptions, beliefs, and norms as they do. Single-loopers have a “one-size- fits-all” style of managing. Effective leaders start at the double-loop learning/thinking level. Effective leaders can motivate not only their generation and culture but all the generations and cultures. How do double-loop thinkers lead?


Leaders who dig deeper into workplace interactions and understand that as time passes, society changes, and so must their foundational assumptions, beliefs, and norms from which they lead. They know that no two employees are alike, and therefore seek different ways to connect with and influence each individual. They value individualism and creativity. Double-loop thinkers/leaders embrace change.


Triple-loop leaders are strategic visionaries. Triple-loop thinking is what America’s greatest 20th century CEO, Jack Welch, used to transform General Electric (GE) and make it one of today’s world-leading innovative corporations.

Triple-loop thinking is at the heart of Total Quality Management (TQM), The Toyota Way, Six Sigma, Lean, and Lean Six Sigma. Today the Toyota Way is used around the world and has two main pillars, continuous process improvement and respect for people.[2]These processes added science to organizational leadership and transcended double-loop thinking.


In the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, American manufacturers assumed they were not at risk from global competition. Triple-loop thinking would have questioned their traditional paradigms and produced strategic thinkers and leaders. Is it possible that we could have avoided the loss of so many American manufacturing jobs if the leaders of that time would have been triple-loop thinkers? Maybe?


Triple-loop learning/thinking asks why systems and processes even exist. Why do we believe what we believe? Why do we assume certain things, and why do we value what we do? It’s at the heart of conceptual learning, strategic thinking, and visionary leadership.[3]


[1](Waldek, 2018)

[2](Toyota, Inc., 2012) [3](Tosey, Visser, & Saunders, 2011)

CopyRight 2020-2021, Buschman, 2020, Taken from "I Think, You Think, We All Think Differently: Leadership Skills for Millennials and GenZ".


References: (Omnicom Group, 2019), (FourSight, 2018), (Lucidchart, 2017), (Plenert, 2012), (Johnson & Johnson, 2013), (Seidi, 2004),(Morgan, 2006),(Livingston, 2014), (Buschman, 2020).

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