Tools for successThey are Corporate Transformation Tools® – innovative devices to help companies build vision-guided, values-driven organisations. And, says creator Richard Barrett, they are key to achieving and maintaining success in the 21st century.
Richard Barrett is a man on a mission, and his passion for the topic of discussion is infectious. “Our impact at a global level can be enormous,” he says. “And that’s why I set up this company – to change the philosophy of business at a global level. I’m not content to have a minor impact.”
“This company” is Richard Barrett & Associates, which was founded in 1997. Barrett is a managing partner. It has offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, but it is based at his home, a 24-hectare property that lies in the shadows of America’s Great Smoky Mountains and is accented by the charm of its location in the small town of Waynesville, North Carolina. The company is purposely small, employing only seven people. But it looms large on the global horizon. And Barrett has plans for it to loom even larger.
Barrett’s philosophy is simple: In an era of increasing global competition, where knowledge and technology flow freely, human capital is becoming the one sure way to build a real corporate advantage. This is accomplished by building what Barrett calls “full-spectrum consciousness” organisations – businesses with measured values and vision that focus on such things as leadership development, employee fulfilment and customer care.
Barrett’s company offers a series of what Barrett calls “corporate transformation tools” – survey instruments aimed at helping businesses, consultants and human-resource professionals develop and manage their organisation’s culture. The tools are based on Barrett’s “seven levels of consciousness” model.
“What I’ve done basically is extend Maslow’s model of the hierarchy of needs,” he explains. American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) said people start by focusing on their survival needs, then go on to relationship needs and self-esteem needs before reaching self-actualisation.
“What we’re saying, in a slightly different way, is that we all have seven types of needs,” says Barrett as he points to a diagram of his model. “You’ve got survival, which is the basic thing. Then you’ve got relationships, self-esteem, transformation, meaning, making a difference and service.”
The model is universal and applies to just about any aspect of human life. “Maslow, I believe, had it right and slightly wrong,” says Barrett, noting the psychologist’s model stopped at level four. “I can put names to these higher levels of consciousness,” he says, pointing to levels five through seven on his own model. Level four is called the level of transformation because levels below it concern self-interest, while those above deal with the common good. So, level four is where one begins to make choices.
“We’re looking for the full spectrum. We’re looking for a high number of matching current cultural and desired cultural values,” says Barrett, as he begins explaining the assessment process.
In a Web-based survey, which typically takes no longer than 15 to 20 minutes to complete, individuals are asked to make 10 choices from each of three separate templates. The first concerns an individual’s personal values, the second deals with how the person’s organisation operates, and the third asks for values the individual believes are essential for a successful organisation. The reason this is unique, says Barrett, is that every one of the 80 or 90 choices listed in the templates is linked to one of the seven levels of consciousness. The choices are simple, couched in such words as “honesty,” “profit,” “responsibility,” “financial stability,” “bureaucracy” and “customer collaboration.”
Survey tools are available in 14 languages. The results provide a diagnostic of an organisation’s culture. “What people say about the results is ‘It’s so insightful,’” says Barrett. His company has determined that successful organisations operate from all seven levels – called full-spectrum consciousness.
Barrett’s company has trained about 450 consultants, who are members of a global network and partners in his grand vision. His company has also performed assessments for about 250 organisations. Clients include Microsoft, Siemens, KPMG, Volvo Aero, L’Oreal, Ericsson Business Networks, Munich Re, McKinsey & Company and SEB Bank. There are also government agencies such as the Netherlands’ Air Traffic Control and the US Internal Revenue Service.
This tool is perfect for assessing merging cultures, says Barrett. “The problem is most mergers are driven not by common sense but by level three consciousness: ‘I’m big! Look at me! I am the boss now!’ They say it is driven by the market but it’s not, because 60 to 70 percent of mergers are failures.”
Barrett hails from Yorkshire, England, and is quick to point out that his mother, who is 91, still lives in the house where he was born. The first 20 years of his career were spent in civil and transport engineering. Considered a leader in his field, Barrett began advising the World Bank in 1986 on urban transport projects around the world. But eventually he wanted more.
“In 1990, I realised I was absolutely bored stiff,” he recounts with a chuckle. For two decades, he had read few engineering books, delving instead into psychology, science and spirituality. He devoured the complete works of Swiss psychiatrist Karl Jung (1875-1961). And he read Maslow.
“I thought, ‘This is clear,’” he remembers. So, he wrote a book of his own, called A Guide to Liberating Your Soul (1995). “It took me five years to write that book, because it was my own transformation I was writing about. It was what I was going through, which was to find meaning in my life.”
Barrett founded the Spiritual Unfoldment Society at the World Bank in 1992 and by 1995 had a job as the bank’s “values coordinator.” He knew before the first book was finished that his second book would be about corporate transformation. Liberating the Corporate Soul was published in 1998 and became a best seller in corporate circles.
Barrett soon realised that for companies to successfully transform their cultures, the organisation’s individuals had to change their behaviours first. “Cultural transformation is about personal transformation,” he stresses. He also explains that negative behaviours are based in fear and are found only in the three lower levels of consciousness. And that there is a financial cost to having these potentially limiting values.
“It’s a rough estimate, but what we’re finding is each potentially limiting value increases expenses by about 7 percent,” he says, adding that if a company has four such values, it could be a serious threat to profits.
“This is how we’re going to change the world – by doing these assessments. They start conversations we’ve never had before,” says Barrett, as he provides a glimpse at what is still to come. “I have this huge vision of what we can do.” Barrett says that he is now applying his concept to society as a whole to nations, communities, schools and even to families.
Barrett is also working on a third book, titled Love, Fear and the Destiny of Nations, which he expects to be published in 2002. This book, he says proudly, will be what he is ultimately known for in his career. He is a man deeply driven by personal passion. He wants to change the world, but freely admits he cannot do it alone. “The people we work with have to do it themselves. We can bring the awareness. We can bring a way of measuring culture. And we can bring trained people who can help companies transform. We’ve got all the tools they need. But they have to actually do the work.”
business journalist based in Georgia, USA
photo Alan Marler