Building congruence – increasing the ‘flow’ and ‘flourish’ within organisations


Organisational congruence is a state of accordance or harmonious alignment within an organisational community, where ‘a skilful blending of the parts achieves an elegant harmony’ (Sisodia, 2010) and the community acts ‘as one’. These vital and cohesive communities enjoy enabling leadership, share a common purpose and are committed to co-creating their future together. They have an internal vibrancy which could be seen as a fusion of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow and Martin Seligman’s idea of flourish (Seligman, 2011). 

Imagine an organisational community having ‘an energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991) and ‘cultivating their talents…in deep lasting relationships.. and feeling pleasure [by] contributing meaningfully to the world’ (Seligman, 2011). This flowing and flourishing community is what I believe a truly congruent community would feel like.

Some of us may have experienced times of congruence in organisational groups and teams. But I doubt many of us have experienced this congruence as a relatively constant and cohesive force within an organisational community. In my career I can only recall five organisational teams that I think enjoyed a real sense of congruence, but in every case they existed as island communities within a largely incongruent organisation. And I can only remember one organisation where I think the whole organisational community enjoyed real periods of congruence.  

What is it about the leadership and culture of so many organisations that fails to make them places where ‘most people can work with people they like and respect,…sharing a purpose they care about, and within a culture that enables and acknowledges their personal contribution’?

Based on the thinking behind The Congruence Framework, an organisational culture that embraces the following action-attitudes (or cultural values) will enable and encourage organisational congruence.

  • Be purposeful – discover and pursue the shared purpose (the ‘why’) of the organisational community; light a pathway for the future that shows the shared benefits of an on-purpose journey; and ensure that ‘who’ the organisation is remains in synch with ‘what’ the organisation does.
  • Love your people – build a culture of community; host community conversations that build meaningful trust-based relationships; and enable all stakeholders to be active participants in the life of the organisation.
  • Embrace difference and diversity – make the time and space for community learning; find ways to engage the collective know-how, knowledge and intelligence of the organisational community; and value the learning opportunities that difference, diversity, dissent and change present.
  • Think win-win – put others first; seek mutual benefit; and collaborate with the organisational community to create purposeful outcomes that generate equitable-shared value for all stakeholders.
  • Invest in goodness – be a responsible ‘corporate citizen’ and build a sustainable organisation by investing in the social, cultural, economic and ecological wellbeing of your stakeholder communities.
  • Be an enabling leader – create and hold the space for all of these things to happen.

Of course these action-values work just as well for individuals seeking to increase the ‘flow and flourish’ in their lives.


Books referenced in this post:

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By | 2014-06-17T21:04:34+00:00 March 20th, 2014|Congruence|2 Comments


  1. TonyC March 27, 2014 at 08:51 - Reply

    From the book….‘Organisational congruence is not a perfect or static state. It is a vibrant state of ‘being’. Congruent organisations will experience flows of congruence, periods where they are more or less harmonious and in agreement. Like any other organisation, they will experience unforeseen challenges and periods of disruptive change. It is the response to these challenges that distinguishes the congruent organisation. They have a culture that embraces change in a way that maintains the energy and commitment of their stakeholder communities.’ – The Congruence Framework
    And a thought…People often use the concepts of vision, mission, purpose and intent as interchangeable references to the primary organisational objective or goal. Purpose as the raison d’être of the organisation is not a goal or objective –‘it is always true in the present’. It seems feasible to me that the UN (or any large organisation or community) could have a single purpose that was shared by all of its constituencies. The manifestation of that purpose would obviously be different for each operating unit.

  2. Julie March 26, 2014 at 14:55 - Reply

    The 5 action-attitudes are all great. I ask myself, however, if there is an optimal organizational size for the flowering of such practices. I suspect there a law of diminishing congruence returns the bigger an organization gets. The UN, for example, is a network of agencies, funds and programmes, each with its own mission/purpose. “One UN” or “delivering as one” is an oft-cited mantra and a valid operational objective, but because each component organization has a different mandate and different management priorities, it is difficult to achieve system-wide congruence other than at a highly conceptual level (which most people would say has limited meaning). The same could doubtless be said of other large organizations. Perhaps it is only natural for communities to ebb and flow in their congruence, for congruence to be conditioned by scale and possibly also immediacy, and for realistic expectations of congruence to be shaped accordingly.

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