Tribes and tribalism- processes, problems and (possible) solutions in the organizational setting.
During the last twelve years I used to organize or to be part of large and different groups of hikers in morocco. Every time a strange thing happens during and at end of the journey. It might be the first time they meet each other, but the hikers create instinctively small informal groups inside the big one. Even if the group have the same main purpose, which is get safely the summit of the mountain, the small groups have different cross-purposes: Taking pictures, challenging the others, being the first to get to the summit, etc. The competitive nature of the trip intensifies the identity to one of the small groups. Some times, the participants start from different points, but at the end, they find a way to join their initial small group members.
At the end of the travel, we can clearly distinguish the different small groups and “us vs. them” mindset: We are part of the same tribe and the others are the competitors. By moment, this belonging creates solid friendship so, people keep in touch after the travel.
The amazing part is the social interaction in the website after the trip. Through the comments we can easily identify the small groups who shared the same experience.
During my travels, I used to be the group’s leader. My main objective was to create one identity for JVS group members (Je Veux Sortir Au Maroc = I want to go out in Morocco). To do that, it was necessary to pass throw the 4 steps of the group development: Orientation when I defined, with the community members, the rules and goals, Conflict when we had to have disagreements and resistance about the destinations and some fundamental rules, Cohesion when the group accepted and trusted my leadership and started to share ideas, stories and experiences, and finally Effective Structure when the task relevant defined roles were accepted by the group members and the group has his great success.
I’ve done this kind of voyages several times, and it’s always the same thing. People need to be part of a group or a tribe. The others are not part of our tribe, so we need to ignore or to compete with them. I think that we have the same phenomena in the business world.
A tribe is a group of people who feel connected to each other in meaningful way, because they share something in common that matters to them. The connection can be based on anything: kinship, ethnicity, ideology, religion or a life style. (laplante, 2018)
People naturally form tribes; they are the basic structure block of any large human organization. A tribe is composed of 20 to 150 people. It always has more power than the leader, its success is closely related to its culture and finally, tribes emerge from the language people use to describe themselves, their jobs and others. Tribal Leaders can upgrade the tribal culture (by focusing on the language and behavior of the tribe) as the tribe embraces the leader. (Logan, 2009) (Davis-Brown, 2015)
There are five sequential stages that people (and tribes) can move in and out of. Each stage has a unique set of leverage points that will help move the individual/tribe forward.
This tribal mentality is mostly compromised of negative feelings such as despair and a collective belief that “life sucks. People in this tribes may create scandals, are untrustworthy and may even threaten violence to others: Street gangs, organized crime group, etc. This stage represents 2% of workplace cultures. (Caspi, 2011)
These people perceive themselves as victims with a mind-set of “my life sucks.” Personalities are apathetic, passively antagonistic and resistant to change. People in this group are complacent and are not willing to be progressive. Members are separate from each other, feel powerless and oppressed and the relationships are ineffective. They focus on victimization. This stage represents 25% of of workplace cultures. (Caspi, 2011)
This is the stage of personal accomplishment: “I’m great (and by definition you’re not)”. People have to win by outworking and outthinking their competition. They hoard information as a strategy to stay on top. Known as lone warriors, they have a need to be and strive for the best, sometimes at the expense of others. The Primary characteristic of stage 3 is the formation of dyadic (two person) relationships. This stage represents 49% of workplace cultures. (Caspi, 2011)
Stage 4 is the point where an organization has learned to use its tribal structure to promote its business objectives (a noble cause) that all of the employees have internalized. It’s also defined by the transition from “I’m great” to “we’re great.”. These people are great team players who value the development of the group as a whole. They are loyal, dependable and good leaders. In those tribes, management and staff use the triad as the favored form of interaction. The tribe is constantly moving in the direction of its noble cause and finally the united tribe competes with an outside adversary rather than with each other. This stage represents 22% of workplace cultures. (Davis-Brown, 2015)
A rarity among tribes. Characterized by innocent wonder and a strong belief that “life is great.”. Less than 2% of workplace tribal culture, these people have noble mindsets that outrank competitive folly. They are determined to make a positive global impact. (Caspi, 2011)
In order to develop a company culture that produce success, tribal Leadership aim to
upgrade groups/cluster of people from stage to stage. Leaders should know to use the language of each stage in their organization. To upgrade the tribe stage they must change the language of the tribe. Finally, while tribal leaders do their work for the good of the group, they are rewarded with loyalty, hard work, innovation, and collaboration.
Tribes in my Organization
CGI is a global decentralized company composed of three organizational levels: Strategic Business Units (SBU), Business Units (BU), Sectors. A Strategic business unit is composed of multiple business units. A business unit is centered on several sectors or geographical areas called micro market. Sectors or micro markets can be Communications, Financial Services, Capital Markets, Corporate and Transaction Banking, Retail Banking, Insurance Government, Central and Federal, Provincial and Municipal, Space, Defense and Intelligence, Health and Life Sciences, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Retail and Consumer Services, Transport and Logistics, Utilities etc. Each sector has its own financial objectives and autonomy. CGI success story is based on its decentralized organization, good governance model, employee and leader’s empowerment and local sectors and business units’ commitment. After the merge with LOGICA in 2012 (CGI Inc, 2012), CGI became the 5th actor in services worldwide with more than 72000 employees in the different continents.
In 2015, for its operations, CGI has adopted a decentralized urban metro-market proximity model complemented by a network of delivery centers. Client proximity Business Units (facing client) own client relationships in their urban metro market and bring to their clients all of CGI’s offerings. The delivery Center business units provide services to CGI clients through client proximity Business Units.
CGI Morocco Business Unit has the same organizational model. It’s a delivery center who provide services to CGI clients through client proximity Business Units (Facing Client Business Units). In this context, the first identified tribes are the Delivery centers and the facing Client Business Units. Both of them should serve the clients needs and the company goals, but the reality is different. Each one of them considers the other as a competitor in term of revenue and gross margin and not an ally who has the same objectives. The major part of these organizations are in stage three, specially the facing client business units. They consider them selves as great and the others are not. Recently, the global management figure out this problem and has set rules to bring them to stage four. One of the basic rule is revenue and objectives sharing. The facing client BU is accountable for the Delivery centers results and vice-versa.
Inside the Moroccan BU we can easily identify several tribes and groups created natively by the organizational model:
- The business unit leaders, the vice presidents and the program managers
- The directors in charge of the operations
- The members (consultants, developers, testers, technical leaders and project managers)
Each tribe has his own role, objectives, goals and needs. This organizational model sets the environment for each group to adopt a mindset that is more “us vs. them” rather than “we are one team”.
The manager’s population is also divided into several tribes. Some have more influence than others. For instance, the tribe of LOGICA’s managers and CGI’s ones who joined the company after the merge. In my opinion, these tribes are also in the stage three. LOGICA’s mangers consider them self as the best and the others need to make effort to get their level. The BU leaders are trying to merge those tribes and create one big team who serves the company goals and not tribes ones. Still, the leverage points are not used efficiently.
The members’ tribe is powerful, it’s composed of more than eighty percent of CGI employees, due to the complicated current economical context. All the world global companies suffer form high competency and the lack of qualified resources on IT services. In 2018, the turn over ratio overpass 13% (Booz, 2018) for technologies software. So, the Members’ tribe has more power than ever to challenge the management tribe in term of Salary, training, social advantages etc. The management tribe is aware of the growing influence of the member’s tribe. It imagined several solutions to face this problem: creating a real proximity between the managers and the members (More one 2 one meeting), offering more training, developing and deploying an efficient talent management which give the members a clear vision about their career pathway for three years, and finally isolating the outsiders. The management tribe gave the members tribe more information and transparency about: the organization, the goals and the vision. All of these actions have one goal: get all the tribes to the stage 4 and make the managers and members tribe talk the same language: We are great.
Inside the members’ tribe, we can also find informal groups and subtribes: technological tribes, corporate tribes, trainee tribes, non engaged and actively disengaged employees’ tribes etc. The disengaged employee tribe still influences the other tribes by getting more members every month. The influence of the disengaged employees’ tribe can be reduced by improving their –engagement throw the following steps: (Gleeson, 2017) : 1) Put Everyone in the Right Role; 2) Give Them the Training; 3)Task Meaningful Work; 4) Check in Often; and 5) Frequently Discuss Engagement. In my organization, the management tribe had already started actively this long journey, still, more efforts have to be made in order to get the wished results.
naturally form tribes; They will always do. The organizations leader’s role is
to use the tribe’s power and influence to serve the company goals by defining
its noble cause. They shall also create and unite the tribes to competes with
an outside adversary rather than with each other. Making organizations more
tribal isn’t just virtuous for business results but also for the individuals. By
making the organization more tribal, the leaders are not only improving
competitiveness but also connecting to what it means to unite as a group and
what it means to be a human being.
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