In my role as an organizational well-being officer at IBSS Corporation, I was given a unique opportunity. As part-scientist, part-community builder, and part-alchemist, I was able to bring my personal and felt understanding of well-being and investigate the work environment to see what was missing and create experiments to address the gaps. With great interest and enthusiasm, I explored all facets of employee well-being and built, reverse engineered and validated those conditions and components that were needed for well-being to thrive.
I was excited and curious to learn how an organization would look and function that put the well-being first of its employees, customers, suppliers, community, and even the earth.
- How would people feel going to work? How would that impact customer relationship and loyalty?
- What would that mean to suppliers who work with the organization and would they begin to absorb some of that well-being into how they operate?
- How would the organization be viewed by local and other communities? Would they consider the organization part of the community or just another name on a building they see as they walk by?
During my 3-year tenure, I investigated and experimented constantly. At the end of that window, I finally began to uncover the key fundamentals an organization needs to support the well-being of its employees. Then the pandemic hit. I don’t know if it was all the medical talk about vaccines and DNA or that I just had more alone time than usual to contemplate organizational well-being and transformation, but about six months later I had an aha moment! My insight involved genetics—specifically, the DNA of an organization.
“Double helix” is the biological term for the instantly recognizable structure of DNA. Often visualized as a twisted ladder or spiral staircase, the double helix consists of two strands of DNA wound around one another. Each of these strands holds different information that, when combined, form the language of the genetic code. I applied the double helix analogy to an organization’s structure, starting with the idea that these two DNA strands represent the building blocks for deep change and transformation.
- Structure: I call one strand the structure. This is the backbone of an organization, and it consists of all the operating procedures and workflows that are used to create internal change such as policies, processes, strategies, org charts, IT systems, etc. These are often used as levers to create change in an organization because they are typically measurable, tangible, and easy to see.
- Relationships The second strand, I call relationships This strand encompasses the individual work relationships employees have with the dozens of other employees they regularly interact with and the quality of those relationships.. Unlike structural elements, relationships aren’t something easily seen or measured, but it can be felt. It’s very similar to when a good facilitator can feel the group, or a performer can feel the crowd.
- The double helix’s twisted DNA strands are connected in the center by hydrogen bonding. This was the critical piece I soon realized was missing. The golden thread binding structure and relationships together is shared purpose. From an organizational standpoint, this third component may be the most important.
Aristotle famously said: “…the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts…” When the raw materials of structure, relationships, and shared purpose bond together they transmute into something very different, something far greater. This new harmonious state or way of functioning is experienced as emergence or flow. To achieve effective organizational change, all three of these fundamental building blocks must be present and working together.
I call this powerful trio of structure, relationships, and shared purpose the DNA of Transformation. It provides the unique genetic code that each group or organization needs to become a place of well-being, connection, care, compassion, empathy, and love while fulfilling its purpose. In my experience, this model can affect change on all levels—with people, teams, organizations, and systems. When organizations change at a DNA level the transformation becomes so deep that going back to the old ways of operating is just not possible. It’s like a butterfly trying to get back into its cocoon to become a caterpillar again—it just doesn’t happen! Does your organization know the right keys to nurture successful change and unlock well-being?
Derick Carter is a heart-centered facilitator, trainer, coach, and leadership consultant who guides organizations, communities, and emerging leaders to create social and organizational change, enhance well-being, and build togetherness. Having worked as a well-being officer for an award-winning government contractor, Derick is passionate about empowering organizational transformation, health, and wellness through his DNA Change Model, which binds structure and relationships with shared purpose. Derick also works at the forefront of heart-centered leadership development and is committed to collaboration and growing organic action from collective wisdom. With over 25 years of experience, Derick’s broad client base includes Fortune 500 companies to mid-size and small businesses, government agencies, non-profits, social enterprises and communities, and public works organizations. Additionally, Derick is a certified Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement instructor, Functional Integration practitioner, and Heart-Centered Meditation guide.
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