The 7 Habits
of Effective Organizations
Text: Sebastian Klein & Martin Wiens | Illustrations: Robert Löbel & Dominik Wagner
How to find out what the next evolutionary step for your organization is

Transformation always means identifying the next evolutionary step an organization is ready for: The next level to which it can develop from within itself. The path to this may well be a step out of the comfort zone, but it shouldn’t be so painful that it tears the organization apart. Furthermore, it needs to be clear why this step is being taken at all, i.e. what current tensions are supposed to be resolved with it.

This is exactly why we have developed the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Organizations: A simple framework to take a snapshot of the present situation which serves as a basis for the next development steps. In the 7 Habits we have summarized the most important characteristics of an organization: They are formulated as positive characteristics, i.e. in such a way that every organization should in principle have the goal of positioning itself as far to the right as possible on the scale.

In the following we have briefly described the tool.

1. Clear Alignment

The first habit of effective organizations is clear alignment. Alignment includes many elements such as a common purpose, strategies and goals and the communication associated with them. An organization can only be effective if everybody knows exactly which way it’s supposed to be going so that they can help. If a team were (unanimously) on the far right, it would mean that everyone is completely clear what is to be achieved together. Everyone has the same picture and their work aims in exactly the same direction.

2. Fully-used Potential

The second habit of effective organizations is fully-used potential. This means that the full scope of potential inside a team and the organization in general is brought to light and put to good use. In a team, which is located on the far right, all members would agree with the statement that all their skills and strengths are known but also, that there is an understanding of how to best put them to use.

3. Distributed Authority

The third virtue is shared responsibilities. A prerequisite for this virtue is that the responsibilities are clearly named and, for example, represented in roles. In a team, which is located on the far right here, all responsibilities and expectations that exist are clearly named and assigned to the people who can best fulfill them. And, of course, for these roles to be successful, they also need to have the authority to make decisions.

4. Individual Effectiveness

An organization that wants to be effective must ensure that the people who actually represent it are able to work well. Individual effectiveness occurs when all members have the skills and knowledge necessary to work effectively. All people should therefore be able to organize themselves without outside support, make meaningful decisions and contribute to the greater whole.

5. Team Effectiviness

Even if everyone works well on their own, this does not yet create a functioning team. Teams are effective when everyone is able to communicate effectively and synchronize work results. And if, for example, meeting routines are designed in such a way that meetings do not waste time and energy.

6. High Adaptability

The sixth habit means that teams and entire organizations are able to develop from within themselves and constantly adapt their structure and rules to changes in their turbulent environment. This requires championing a mindset of neverending change and improvement. A team that places itself on the right-hand side of the scale is able to adapt quickly and smoothly - continuously and without external support.

7. Conflict & Feedback Competence

Closely connected with the previous point is the seventh and last habit: Just as the organization must continue to evolve, so too must the people within it. In effective organizations, people are able to give each other constant feedback, are hungry to learn from it, and also to resolve conflicts in a constructive way so that they emerge stronger. Teams on the right would therefore say that they are able to solve all their conflicts in a way that benefits the team.

How we work with the 7 Habits

The 7 Habits are intended to draw an ideal-typical picture of an organization and should point out a shared view of where a team could be by the end of the Loop. We do so by examining the status quo of where a team is currently located in terms of the 7 Habits dimensions.

The following questions can help:
  • Are we aligned crystal clear and do we all have a shared picture of where the journey is headed?
  • Are all potentials known and are they used appropriately?
  • Are all responsibilities clearly known and distributed within the team?
  • Is everyone in the team as individuals as effective as they could be?
  • Is teamwork effective, do the joint meetings give energy and clarity?
  • Does the team itself make adjustments and continuously develop structure and rules?
  • Is feedback given regularly in the team and are all conflicts resolved constructively?
To get an objective picture, we ask each team member for their subjective view of the situation.

They can, for example, indicate their opinion by placing small sticker dots on a board showing all seven habits as left-to-right axes. Another option is to ask everyone to arrange themselves in a row between two points in the room according to where they see the team currently in terms of each habit. If there are big differences in the assessment - for example, one person finds the alignment crystal clear, others find it completely unclear - it is worth discussing where these differences come from.

The next step is to develop a target level.

Because a target can be found for every current situation. Of course, the team may be tempted to try to leap straight to the ideal state for all seven dimensions at once, but this is no more attainable than it would be to get Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 80s body by doing a single bicep curl. Realistically, however, this end should be regarded as an ideal target state that can never be reached. The question must therefore be: “What is the next sensible developmental step we can take for each dimension that gets us one step closer to the ideal state? (in each of the seven habits)?” or “How can we come one feasible step closer to the ideal target state?”

From there on, we move step by step towards the target state.

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