The Open Organization – 2nd Edition

OpenOrgCover2ndEditionIn 2014 I published what is thought to be the seminal work on the subject of Open Organizations. My goal was to present a text that provided a template for developing an Open Organization.

Nearly a year after my book was published, Jim Whitehurst CEO or Red Hat published his book The Open Organization. Igniting Passion and Performance. What I love about Jim’s book aside from the cool title is that he approached the subject from his perspective as a leader leading an Open Organization. Jim’s book put skin on the idea of Open. I would argue that Jim humanized the concepts. It is one thing to write about an organization from a case study perspective and an entirely new experience when the writer is living it out in real time.

Since the publication of my book, I have continued researching and writing on the subject of Open. I am proud to say that I am now an active member of the group as an Ambassadors and Open Evangelist. Because the idea of an Open Organization is still evolving I felt it time to produce a 2nd edition of my book and address some of the changes. While most of the text remains the same and changes were mostly mechanical in nature, there are four major changes in this edition. They are:

  1. The book is now in softback and the price is much more reasonable than the original text. $30.00 on Amazon.
  2. More detail was added to Chapter 4 under the heading of Meritocracy. I begin to address some of the early challenges researchers have noted in Meritocratic organizations.
  3. More detail was added under the heading of Holacracy in Chapter 4. Where in the early text I recognized Holacracy as a form of Open, I have since stepped back from that idea and no longer consider it to be a pure Open system.
  4. In this text I begin to more deeply address the concepts of a distributed workforce. The implication of a growing distributed workforce is central to the expansion of the 21st century workforce.

You might be wondering what comes next. I will continue to publish articles, blogs, and videos on the evolution of Open Organizations. I am also writing my next book which will focus in on some key elements of the 21st century organization.

To get a copy of The Open Organization 2nd Edition – visit Amazon HERE.


Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at


Does your organization have cultural flu?

I was talking with a friend recently and he lamented that his employees email him over everything. Without hesitation, I told him that someone in his organization must have taught them to do that. Either knowingly or unknowingly someone has modeled this behavior. It was not necessarily done with malice. He went on to say that a former supervisor had caused some issues internally and it was at that moment it occurred to me that his culture had the flu. Cultural flu is passed to unsuspecting individuals through behaviors and actions. You see, culture is very much the central nervous system of an organization. Organizational culture, like any culture, holds our beliefs, values and behavioral norms. While they may not have intended on creating an organizational bottleneck, the presence of certain actions may have modeled behaviors that eventually infected other members within the organization. Organizational culture is very interesting to study because it is so pervasive. The problem we encounter is that when one is immersed long enough in a given culture, we begin to grow accustom to the norms and may even participate in those norms knowingly or otherwise. Once a cultural norm has been established, it is difficult to change it. We can use a fancy phrase called cultural relativism to describe what happens when you take on a cultures belief system. Simply put, we will defend what we hold to be true; even when what we hold to be true is not healthy or helpful. I would caution that culture should not be a scapegoat for every problem an organization encounters. Sometimes our problems begin with bad leadership, ineffective training, or poorly designed processes. Regardless, each could play to the bigger problem of how the culture of an organization is changed over time. While change is never easy, beginning to identify and address these cultural issues is important to your organizations long-term success. As an organizational doctor, I would prescribe a regime of assessments to help determine whether your organization has a cultural flu. Once identified, we can begin to develop an approach that is specific needs of the organization. The pathway to a healthy organization runs through the organizations culture.


Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at or (615) 216-5667.

From Massive Losses to 36% in Profit in Only 49-days

business-people-working-togetherHow do you explain what you do when your title is Business Consultant? Business consulting is a wide-open vague description of so many things one can offer to an organization. It is easy to describe key areas of focus, but the reality is that a business consultant is more than just their specialty area. A good consultant will be able to see the organization three dimensionally and then offer a wider view than the members are able to see on their own. When I engage with a new client my first order of business is to get a deeper understanding of the organizations and leadership process. Understanding how the organization operates is the key to understanding how the process of organizational change will be achieved. Is there alignment between what the stated goal and the followers? Do the followers see the operation of the organization the same way the leaders do? All are key questions to understanding the culture of the organization. A cultural assessment allows for certain organizational attributes to better manifest themselves before you. In other words, if you know what you’re looking for you can find it much quicker. Case in point, a client was losing a large amount of money each month. They knew there were problems but didn’t really know where to look or how to fix it. Through the process of interviews, assessments, and observation it became clear where the bottleneck was. After much coaching and consulting, the final resolve was that a certain member of the team was no longer needed and was dismissed. While we attempted to save the individual the reality was that within 49 days, expenses dropped by 18% and income went up 36%. It was a dramatic shift within the organization and showed that the assessment was spot on.  Not only did the client see a shift in expenses and revenues, but also an increase in efficiency in their process.  Sometimes organizational change requires a shift in approach and sometimes it requires a shift in staff.  Change of this nature has to have the embrace of the leadership and should be explained properly to the staff. Interesting how one change is the difference between profits or large losses.


PIC3Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership candidate with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at

When Not Knowing Can Hurt Your Organization

busConsultantIt is one thing to know that you don’t know and entirely different when you don’t know that you don’t know.  When I first engage with a new client I assess the organizations strategic team and their internal culture among followers. These assessments allow me to examine the alignment between the c-suite executives and lower level managers as well as the way followers perceive how things are in a company matched against their preference in the future. These assessments allow me to build a values framework to better interpret a variety of organizational phenomena such as core values, assumptions, interpretations and so forth. These assessments allow me the first insight into what is happening underneath the flashy exterior of the organizations first impressions. In fact, these assessments have exposed indicators of problems. Case in point, a client engaged us to conduct a corporate culture assessment. The assumption was that all of the followers within the organization were happy and that the assessments would prove that they were on the right track. In fact, the assessment exposed a glaring problem within a division of the organization. There appeared a respondent that was unhappy and seemed to indicate that the management was not interested in the follower’s well-being. This came as an utter surprise to the stakeholders. In fact, it bothered them so much that they asked me to please expose who the respondent was because they wanted to fix the problem. As it turned out, the individual in question was considered the company’s best employee and was up for a promotion. The assessment process showed that sometimes we don’t know that we don’t know. In other words, the organization didn’t realize that they had a perceived problem with this individual. The individual felt overlooked and left out of the process and rightly so. The leaders didn’t realize that their star employee was in fact disillusioned. This permitted leadership within the organization to re-evaluate how they communicate internally and they were able to turn this problem around.

We, as leaders, must understand that focusing on what is in front of us is only half the process of leading. We must be aware of the hidden things within our organizations. There are many assumptions people make about what is happening around them. Sometimes we think we know, but in fact we don’t know what we don’t know.


PIC3Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership candidate with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at

Why We Change | Understanding and Leading the Driving Forces of Change within a System

It is early Monday morning at Any+Company, Inc. and you make your way to your office with a great burden weighing heavily on your mind. The company has struggled since the market crash of 2008 and it is becoming painfully clear that business as usual is no longer. You know change must come to the organization if it is going to survive. The lingering question on your mind is how do we make those changes? The culture of the organization worked prior to the crash, but now with tough competition and tight margins, you are faced with doing more with less human capital than ever. As you ponder the need to structure your organization for the realities of the 21st century, you remember a conversation you had with a colleague on social change. If anyone can give insight into your conundrum, it has to be him. With a few keystrokes, you send him an email asking for insight into how a leader can effect positive lasting change within their organization. Little did you know at that moment you were about to embark on a journey through the complex world of social change theory.

Later that morning the phone rings and it is your colleague. He begins to explain that change and more specifically social change is complex and requires tools and models to make better sense of the world around us. Whether change is required within an organization, a community or the world at large we must consider the working theories as explanation of the dynamics and characteristics of our changing world. Unfortunately we find that it is not as simple as one tool or idea but many different theories that begin to construct the understanding of change. As a leader you may be struggling with questions like: what motivates human action; how do things change; or what will be the most significant change over the next 10 to 20 years? To create change, we must consider all the driving forces present within a given system.

But what are those driving forces, you ask? This is where it gets complicated. Driving forces can be viewed through the lenses of any of the ten sociological theories: progress, development, technology, culture, cycle, conflict, market, power, evolution, or emergence.


Diagram 1: Bishop and Hines (2012) Social Change.

To assist you with understanding the process of change theories, your colleague sends you a diagram from a text he has been reading on Social Change by Bishop and Hines. He explains that:

  1. Progress theory assumes that today is better than yesterday and the future will be better than today. So you might ask how progress theory will play into the changes within your organization. How is today better than yesterday and how will the future be better than today?
  2. Development theory assumes society will grow increasingly complex and moving in a consistent direction over time. You might begin to ask how society has increased in its complexity since the crash of 2008 or in which direction does society appear to be moving and what you should do about it as a leader or organization.
  3. Technology theory assumes there is a primary driver and that technological development proceeds on its own and is indefinitely capable of supporting individuals at a higher standard of living. You may begin to ask how technology is driving the changes being created in your industry. Can that technology sustain a higher standard of living?
  4. Culture theory assumes that a society is based on its culture more than on its material environment or its technologies and that ideas are the key component that gives the culture the ability to drive change. What influence does the culture have on the organization and what challenges will the organization face as it seeks to make necessary changes? What is the makeup of worldviews within our system? Our worldview is a set of ideas we hold related to the basic makeup of our environment.
  5. Cycle theory assumes there is no specific directional change and that change can be experienced in terms of peaks and valleys; that change eventually reverses over a long period of time. You may begin to ask yourself if your organization or even your industry experiences cycles of business. You might need to identify time frames for those cycles and then begin to examine what forces are at place and when will the cycle move from a peak to a valley and back again.
  6. Conflict theory assumes there are different groups in conflict with each other, working to achieve their own goals and implement their own agendas. Conflict binds people of a given group more closely together and conflict amongst groups motivates individuals to work harder for their own goals and increases the rate of certain social changes. You may want to know which groups within your organization are in conflict with other groups in the organization. What is motivating the groups to work harder and are those groups in conflict with the overall goals of the organization?
  7. Market theory assumes there are no limits to our wants and that conflict and competition will be the motivators for our actions. Market theory believes that the production of goods and services are the most important mission of its society and economy and that investment is the mechanism for progress. You may ask what influence the market and competition plays on the changes the organization is experiencing.
  8. Power theory assumes that people are free to influence the future as they wish and that they make conscious choices to influence the future so that they can achieve certain goals for themselves and for or despite others. This theory believes that some people are more able to get what they want than others. You may wish to consider how the individuals in your organization are able to influence the future of the organization and to what extent the individuals will be able to make choices about that future that will render certain goals for themselves.
  9. Evolution theory assumes that there are three elements required for it to work: 1) differences among the individuals in the evolving entity; 2) a higher probability that some of the individuals will produce based on the fitness of the environment and; 3) there is an ability to pass traits from one generation to the next. You may wish to examine the differences within the individuals, the fitness of the organization and the probability that the individuals will produce based on the environment as well as how well the individuals are able to pass the successful traits on to others in the organization or system.
  10. And finally,The Emergence theory assumes social change rises from the bottom rather than the top-down. It assumes that the system consists of multiplicity of agents, each operating to achieve goals in an environment of other agents. This is much simpler form of conflict theory. No one knows yet how these patterns manifest themselves. You might consider the idea of an Emergence theory as encompassing all of the theories. You might begin to ask question such as, what changes in the system currently are seen as rising from the bottom up.

By now your head is spinning and you realize more than ever that change really is a complex matter. You begin to wonder why you can’t just pick on over another. Your colleague cautions you. To consider only one theory, void of any others, will render your view of change and your organization with bias. Once we begin to understand the root causes of change and we consider the basic assumptions, we are able to understand the dynamics of change itself. Your colleague warns you to avoid the trap many researchers fall into over change. They will choose only one theory and its assumptions without thinking about or considering that each theory results in a differing image of the future. As the future is altered by choosing one theory over another so will your choices be altered any scenarios you may wish to consider.

As you prepare to leave your office that evening you begin to realize that change is contingent on both internal and external forces. You think back over the ten theories your colleague provided you. You have your work cut out for you, but now that you have the basic structure of theories, you begin to evaluate the organization along these theoretical lines to create a picture of not only where your organization is but where it could be headed. You hear your friend’s final remarks as you close and lock the door. “Your ability to consider as many alternative scenarios and approaches as possible will depend on your ability to apply as many of these theories as possible and that will help you affect change in your organization.” As you get into your car and start the engine you begin to think through the ten theories and how each of them applies to your organization and the individuals within. Much work is needed but at least you have direction. The heavy mental weight you felt that morning begins sliding away and you begin to see the most logical path to developing answers to how you will compete in the 21st century. You know that your ability to compete is locked in your ability to anticipate and plan for the change necessary.


Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Maximum Change, Inc. is a Leadership and Business Consulting firm located in Middle Tennessee offering business & leadership consulting, speaking and training. Philip Foster is a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization, Strategic Leadership, Planning and Strategic Foresight. Facilitating change through the design and implementation of strategies, strategic foresight and strategic planning

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667

Majoring on the Minors | Perpetuating religious schisms of the past

Tickle (2008) argues religion is a social construct as well as an individual way of being and understanding (p 33). Language, customs, values, traditions, religion and laws are all part of what James Sires called cultural relativism. Cultural relativism relies on the ideal that culture will preserve itself when threatened (Sire, 1999, p 87). Perhaps this unto itself explains why we can observe thousands of years of societal and religious turmoil? Understanding people within a given culture requires familiarity with local conditions and the context from which people develop and express viewpoints and make decisions (Black et al., 1999, p 121-124).


Tickle (2008) states “any established or organized religion is the soul of the culture or society that, in turn, is the body in which and through which religion acts” (p 33). Black et al., (1999) use the imagery of a Kaleidoscope in dealing with paradigms and knowledge (p 61).  Black et al., (1999) note individuals encounter new paradigms, like the changing images in a kaleidoscope; they view these paradigms as actual maps, conveying entire histories of cultural bias (p 61).


If we are to consider Tickle’s (2008) assertion that schisms occurred because of such things as leavened bread, language of text or the methodology by which we connect with God; it is difficult to interpret these things on the surface as necessarily cultural in nature. If we are a product of our culture and our culture is a product of history, then why is it that churches do not invest time in unpacking the history of religion? Perhaps our reasoning is tied up in Sires argument of cultural relativism. In essence, I don’t think we really like to consider the messiness of our past as a platform for why we believe and do the things we do today. By ignoring our history, are we not perpetuating the schisms of the past and thereby putting man’s rules before God’s commands?




Tickle, Phyllis (2008). The Great Emergence. How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


Sire, James W. (1997). The Universe Next Door. Third Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press


Black, J.S., Morrison, A.J. and Gregersen, H.B. (1999). Global Explorers. The Next Generation of Leaders. New York, NY: Routledge.


Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/President of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667