Friday, July 31, 2015


I often get asked if I think everyone in an organization should be an Edgewalker?  My answer is no.  An organization full of Edgewalkers would be chaotic.  Edgewalkers are the explorers and bridge builders, and they are drawn to be on the boundary of the organization.  It would be like having a Native American tribe full of scouts, with no one to watch the children or skin the buffalo.  If everyone was an Edgewalker in an organization, there would be no one to take the orders, keep the records, answer the phone calls and do the other work that keeps the engine running.

Those tasks are the role of the Hearthtender.  In every well-functioning organization, you have people who have a strong spirit of service and who have a gift for managing the details of the day-to-day work.  Hearthtenders are not drawn to change the way an Edgewalker is, but they welcome change if it makes their jobs more efficient and makes it easier to be of service to customers, whether those customers are internal or external.

I used to work in the organizational development department of a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Arizona.  One day people from Corporate got the bright idea that they could save money and please the stockholders if they held a layoff.   They got rid of most of the administrative assistants.  It was clear to me that they had no understanding at all of the huge role administrative assistnts play in getting the done. As you might expect, things quickly came to a standstill.

Two weeks later, all of the administrative assistants were back on the job.  The leadership had developed a new appreciation for the importance of the Hearthtender role.

I am collecting data on the typical distribution of each of the five Archetypes of Change in organizations - Edgewalkers, Flamekeepers, Hearthtenders, Placeholders, and Guardians.  My suspicion is that Hearthtenders will be the largest group by far.

If you are a leader trying to create transformation in your organization, it is very important to consider the worldview of the Hearthtenders, and to frame the positive benefits of the change in a way that appeals to people who value efficiency, a sense of personal connectedness, and the opportunity to be of service.  Most organizational change is pretty disruptive, and Hearthtenders will resist change that gets in the way of them doing their work in an effective way. 

What ways have you found to get Hearthtenders on board?  Do you have a story of Hearthtender resistance to change - one with a happy ending? I'd love to hear from you.