I’m two weeks in and at the moment (and not for long) the newest member of the growing Kaleidoscope team. I answered a job advert that specified kindness as the primary skill required for this job.
I joined from a career spent in consulting (the guys who take your watch and tell you the time), where everyone’s leaving email always mentions “The People” as the number one thing they are going to miss when moving on. I made some amazing friends in my formative years in consulting, and found mentors and colleagues who I will always learn from and value. But, I may have found my tribe. A place where our Tuesday planning session involved a discussion about our mission. We added bold, creative, revolutionary, improving people’s lives, innovative and ordinary magic to a list of ways to describe who we are and what we want to do. But it’s not just going to happen because we want it to. And there are lots of existential conversations required to resolve questions of ownership and responsibility, of pro bono projects versus paying for coffee and corner offices, and growth and challenge. But at our heart we will remain kind first and foremost.
When thinking about how we want to be, of course we talk about the type of work we want to do. And we asked ourselves – where do you draw the line. Would we do work for someone who was unkind? If we could tie the project back to our mission? If it funds the coffee? And I was reminded of a client I had on my very first project.
I was a bright, young, optimistic analyst, working on a project for a large government department. The deputy for the area I was working with was a battle scarred, realistic and very experienced long serving public servant. She was the kind of person, who when I said a cheery “Good Morning!” would reply with, “What’s so good about it.” We worked together for eighteen months. We fixed some problems. And at the end of the project, she hugged me goodbye. It wasn’t a gradual shift to comradery – a sudden hug back, a surprising and wonderful end to our time together.
You can always be kind. It is always possible. Watch out for some ordinary magic…
Setting up an organisation brings with it fun (posting brown paper envelopes full of cash to our Unexpected Conversations winners), frolics (decorating our giant welsh dresser) and the necessary headaches (factoring in a power outage every time someone tries to use the microwave). One thing I’ve pondered in my first few weeks of Kaleidoscope life is our range of working histories. For want of a less corporate-sounding term, I currently fit in the box of young professional, and at this stage in my career being involved in the development of a new organisation, especially one that is eschewing strict working patterns and traditional organisational hierarchies, is both hugely exciting and slightly daunting. It’s giving me the freedom to learn how I work best, when and where I’m most productive, and to try and consider how I can be most useful to the growing Kaleidoscope empire.
My peers and I are used to job hopping, and nowadays the idea of staying in one job for life is practically unheard of. My philosophy up until this point has been to change role or move organisations once I feel I’ve learnt everything I can in that setting. So how do we encourage people to develop and grow at Kaleidoscope? Without a clear hierarchical ladder in sight, the way we approach rewarding hard work and acknowledging progress will be interesting to eke out. And equally important for future consideration, how do we enable people to move on when the timing is right, both for the benefit of the individual but also the organisation as a whole, which prides itself on fresh thinking and building new networks of people? We try to answer complex questions like these at our weekly Tuesday meetings at Kaleidoscope HQ. I for one am looking forward to discussing the above further, fresh coffee pot ready and waiting. We’ll keep you posted…
Yesterday I wrote about our plans for today, a day where we'd work out how to be an ethical organisation, owned by all, thinking differently about health and healthcare. Beginning 10am, intense gazes would be exchanged around the room as we began to discuss kindness over capability, amongst other altruisms.
As the clock struck 10 today only a third of us were here. Our lead for the day unwell, one who’s train who stood still, one (myself) failing to board with a ticket, and another, held up by a train fatality.
How does one keep a business running when core staff in a small business are ill, when people make honest, but silly, mistakes, and when the horrors of commuting life hit home?
Do we need hierarchy to keep people in line and fearful and plodding into work ill, fearful enough to not mistakes with train tickets or to get an earlier train?
Or do we have to trust in each other's kindness that we meant well, and laugh at the irony that on the day we discuss workplace flexibility, 4 out of 6 us weren't in the office at the time we said we would be?
Tomorrow, in our Surrey Quays abode, Kaleidoscopians will be coming together to plan the future of our organisation. To paint the scene for you, that’s 6 of us moving our intense gazes around the table as we ponder how to build an ethical organisation, owned by all, aiming to think differently about health and healthcare.
Some of the questions we’ll be wresting with include:
Working out who we are at our core. What does it take to be part of a mission driven organisation? Do we need people to be kind first and foremost, or capable? Which begs the question of what does capable look like at our organisation:
Are we following the right folks? Tomorrow we’re set to assess two alternative ways of running organisations, one pioneered by Brian J Robertson, Holacracy, a world of no hierarchy, but a ‘nest of circles’, and Frederic Laloux’s reinvented ‘teal’ organisation, preaching ‘inner rightness, service to the world, with calling and purpose”.
How do we assign roles? Everyone is being asked to write about themselves, on the skills and qualities in which they shine, and identify those where they falter. This ‘resume’ will then be shared with the group, from which we will decide who does what at Kaleidoscope.
How do we keep in line without line managers? A buddy system has been proposed, in which we pair up with someone else whose ‘resume’ is near opposite to our own. With this, they can act as a counterbalance to trickier questions we’re asking ourselves, such as, can I take 3 weeks off to go do an Eat, Pray, Love journey?
Quite simply we want to make work work. We want for work not to feel like a chore to pay the mortgage but a soul serving vocation. In practice though…..well, we’ll find out tomorrow!
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs about our experiences building Kaleidoscope.
This series is intended as a warts & all account of the trials, tribulations & successes we experience in setting up & successfully running a radically different organisation, but you should know that it may end up being a warts & all account of how we set up an unsuccessful, radically different organisation.
The first thing you should know is that at Kaleidoscope we will take risks & we are open to failing.
The second thing you should know is that when we say radically different, we mean;
Being a mission driven organisation; Kaleidoscope exists to improve the health and care of people in the UK by bringing people together to think differently. This means that our business model is a combination of more traditional consultancy work and pro-bono or subsidised “mission-centric” stuff which we do with the sole purpose of furthering our mission.
Our workforce is a wonderful & eclectic collection of people with diverse backgrounds but there are three things that we have in common. The first is a soul-level belief in improving “the world” (specifically, but not limited to, health & care delivery). The second is a weariness or frustration with traditional, hierarchical models of business delivery, where the organisational values are often not translated into the day to day work place. The third is that we are, or at very least try our best to be, kind people who want make work a fun, joyful experience for ourselves and our colleagues.
We don’t believe in hierarchy. We think hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations represent an old, outdated way of doing business. Not only this, but we believe that they will eventually be obsolete. The best way to understand what we’re on about is to take a peek at the work of Fred Laloux.
We'll blog on a semi-regular basis, and be great to get your comments and views as to what we're up to and who we can learn from. Thanks for reading!