The Open Business Agility Patterns and Practices

Enterprise Business Agility is not really possible without the use of Open patterns and practices.

Open patterns and practices improve employee engagement scores, and results. Employee engagement is where lasting enterprise-level improvement really comes from.

The Eight Patterns of Open Business Agility help this to happen, and as such, these are the tools for the most progressive and aware enterprises who are seeking genuine business agility. For other enterprises, these patterns represent the future of work:

It is essential to understand that the keystone and most important pattern is Leadership Invitation. The other seven patterns serve to support Leadership Invitation.

For example, there is nothing inherently Open about the Explicit Agreements pattern. However, this pattern is essential for any success with Leadership Invitation. This is because invitational leadership requires an unambiguous and clearly described offer and opportunity to engage. The invitation itself constitutes a kind of explicit agreement for consideration by the receiver.

NOTE: You can learn more about the Leadership Invitation pattern here.

Final note: The use of leadership invitation does not in any way devalue or replace leadership delegation. Delegations are necessary and in fact essential for leading certain type of initiatives. We advocate for the introduction of invitational leadership into the leadership toolbox. Especially when the situation is complex and/or edging towards chaos, for best results, we recommend mixing in some invitations with those leadership delegations.

As you examine these patterns, assume that Leadership Invitation is the primary pattern, and that all the others are there to provide some necessary and essential support, for success with the invited approach.

Note: It’s critically important to use Open Space Technology, or better, for at least part of your whole-group process plan. Whole Group Process is one of the 8 fundamental patterns of Open Business Agility. New to Open Space? Learn more here.

Here is a brief description of each of the eight patterns of Open Business Agility. The outer ring of each diagram contains a list of methods and practices that express the core pattern:

Leadership Invitation: Open patterns use an opt-in “pull” approach rather than an imposition-based “push” approach to manifest and maintain enterprise-level change. Practices include Open Space Technology, Inviting Leadership and No-Limits Self Management:

NOTE: You can dig deeper into this primary topic, by exploring this brief tutorial essay on the Leadership Invitation pattern.

Proceeding by Explicit Agreement: An organization of individuals is largely defined by the expressed and implied agreements that those individuals enter into. Open patterns and practices make those agreements explicit. Practices include Sociocracy, Scrum and the Agendashift engagement model:

Clarity of Authorization: In the Open approach, the delegation of responsibility always includes the clear and explicit delegation of the authority that is actually needed to deliver. Clarity of Authorization rolls up several other patterns: Explicit Agreement, Leadership Invitation, and Clear Delegation of Authority.

Boundary Management: Especially with respect to authority and authorization, when using Open patterns and practices, essential boundaries are clearly defined by executive leaders. These boundaries are open enough to generate self-organization and are explicitly communicated and carefully maintained. Boundary Management domains include Time, Task and Territory.

Use of Interaction Protocols: Open approaches clarify communication and understanding through protocols, which are small, shared agreements about how essential interactions are structured. Protocols enhance clarity of communication. Practices include NVC, Clean Language and the Core Protocols.

Whole-Group Process: Open approaches favor whole-group process over closed-door dialogue. To the maximum extent possible, the Open approach favors “getting the whole system in the room” to validate assumptions, gauge overall group readiness, and obtain validated, org-level alignments before proceeding. Practices include OpenSpace Agility, and meeting designs like Open Space Technology and Authority Circle.

It’s critically important to consider learning and using Open Space Technology, or better, for at least part of your whole-group process plan. Whole Group Process is one of the 8 fundamental patterns of Open Business Agility. New to Open Space? Learn more here.

Empirical Approach: Organizations are more like living systems than they are like machines. Acknowledging this reality includes recognizing the need for frequent iterations of experimentation and “learning by doing.” Practices include Agile practices such as Scrum and Kanban, and empirical coaching approaches such as Fail Agility and The Agile Open Practitioner.

Common Knowledge: Often associated with transparency, common knowledge is up-to-date shared information that everyone in the organization knows. The generation of common knowledge is essential to coordinating very large groups at scale. Practices that enable Common Knowledge always have a whole-group aspect. The communication of values and principles, communication transparency and Open leadership practices like Open Space build Common Knowledge.

Each of these patterns can be satisfied with any number of practical approaches. Useful practices embody fundamentally useful patterns, patterns that enable great work and great group process.

Get the patterns right and your practices take care of themselves!

The Courses of Education

All of our courses are focused on developing your knowledge and skill in applying these patterns.

You will get the most from our courses if you are either an executive decision-maker or a consultant who serves executives. Click here for our courses of continuing education.