The Transformational Spiral

[Updated 11/12: “Structures” -> “Systems”; Structures constrain, Systems enable]

I was talking to my friend/pastor John Isaacs about his work with TASCC, and I was struck by the parallels between what he was doing in the Christian community and what I’m trying to do within the technology community. In particular, the goal is NOT to engender a short-lived fad driven by our own personality, but nurture a long-lived, self-sustaining movement. In short, to not merely do a good work, but a great work.

What’s make the difference? I call it the Transformational Spiral, and it requires:

* Authentic Leaders
* Personal Relationships
* External Beneficiaries
* Sufficient Systems

Click [Read More] for my attempt to unpack that.

My thinking in this area is strongly influenced — one might say driven! — by Jim Collins‘ “From Good to Great,” which my friend Vince just lent me on AudioBook. The idea of a Transformational Spiral is that we don’t just need a collection of individually virtuous acts and attributes, but rather an interlocking system of mutually-reinforcing behavior patterns which generate a self-reinforcing Virtuous Cycle.

While this may not be a complete list, I believe a Transformational Spiral requires properly identifying at least these four things — in ever-widening circles of inclusion:

A. Authentic Leaders who provide

* Legitimate Authority (“Level Five Leaders”)
* Realistic Hope (“The Stockdale Paradox”)
* Comprehensive Vision (“The Hedgehog Concept”)

B. Personal Relationships where we
* Trust each other’s Intentions
* Respect each other’s Knowledge
* Share each other’s Pain
C. External Beneficiaries for whom we
* Create more value than we Capture
* Humbly Receive what they Gladly Give (and vice versa)
* Die to Ourselves that They may Live
D. Sufficient Systems which
* Recognize and Honor what is Right
* Discover and Confront what is Wrong
* Remember and Leverage what Works