In the book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux, we discover a new way of creating and relating to organizations as living entities, and a call for us to bring a spiritual, soulful and conscious mindset to how we work in and interact with organizations. Ultimately, we are positively influencing organizational cultures and our stakeholders’ experiences (employees, customers, supplies, etc.).
Laloux’s real life case studies offer examples of organizations living in a new stage of development called “TEAL” and realizing high profits, market share and success. These organizations range in size, sector, profit or non-profit, with the largest example in his study having 40,000 employees.
“A radical inner transformation and rise to a new level of consciousness might be the only real hope we have in the current global crisis brought on by the dominance of Western mechanistic paradigm.”
Stanislav Grof, Psychiatrist and Researcher
Evolutionary Transformation to Teal
The three key breakthroughs to the evolutionary state (“next stage of human consciousness”) which Laloux calls TEAL are:
- Self-management: Even though some organizations may be large scale, they are structured as team-based, peer-relationships. The role of formal leaders and hierarchy no longer plays a part. This does not mean there are no structures but they take a different form to support self-management (see Holacracy as one example: http://www.holacracy.org/)
- Wholeness: Bringing our whole selves to the workplace – emotional, intuitive, spiritual.
- Evolutionary Purpose: Having a purpose we serve from a place of inquiry versus prediction/control and planning.
These elements are quite different than the traditional management paradigm and can cause disruptions to people’s belief systems, desire for hierarchical structure, control, power and predictability. The examples provided by Laloux of founders and leaders of TEAL organizations actually view their organizations as different than most: rather than thinking about what one can ‘take from the organization’ and profit from it, it’s more about truly listening to your organization and asking – ‘what is best for this organization at this time’; what is the right thing to do?
From Red to Teal
Laloux describes the evolutionary transition of organizations from Red to Teal. The first stage, called Red, involves a wolf-pack type leadership with command authority and division of labour. The next level is Amber, an Army type of metaphor, with formal roles, hierarchy, scalable and stable. The next level is Orange, where Management by Objectives and competitiveness live, and breakthroughs are innovation, accountability and meritocracy to the next level of evolution. The penultimate level, Green, focuses on culture, is values-driven, and holds stakeholders (all types) as the primary purpose of the organization. The final stage, according to Laloux, is the evolution of Teal.
Organized crime and street gangs
Catholic church, military, government organizations
Banks, Multinational companies
Ben & Jerry’s, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Zappos
Buurtzorg, FAVI, Holacracy, Morning Star, Patagonia, AES
Conditions for Success:
Laloux’s examples are compelling cases for the importance and necessity of this evolution. Successful evolution to Teal, however, is not a foregone conclusion. Two make-or-break conditions necessary for success are:
- Top Leadership – Founder or CEO must have an integrated worldview and psychological development consistent with TEAL developmental level
- Ownership – Owners and or Board members must support this fully. (“When organizations hit a rough patch or faces a critical choice, owners will want to get things under control through top-down, hierarchical command and control mechanisms.)
Laloux argues that without these two conditions present, no matter how many efforts are made to implement Teal, it is not possible and will not be successful. In fact, he provides an example where, after a switch in ownership, the organization defaulted back to Orange even after several years of successfully sustaining Teal.
If the two conditions are not present, Laloux recommends focusing on bettering the existing cultures within the “Orange” or “Green” stage versus taking on an insurmountable challenge.
Possibilities for our Future:
Though still in its early days, the philosophy and mindset behind Teal is very promising as it creates opportunities for:
- Emergence and quicker responsiveness
- Engagement of all levels within an organization
- Meaningful work and alignment with values
- Retention and satisfaction
- Making a difference in our world (beyond the perspective of ‘what have you done for me today’)
- Bringing the importance of the ‘soft’ side to the ‘hard’ side – recognizing the importance of intuition, mindfulness, connectedness and heart
With Millennials entering our workforce and having a strong desire for purpose and meaning, wanting to ensure they have work-life balance and flexibility, collaboration, transparency and career opportunities (not so much vertically but challenging opportunities), the TEAL organization creates the environment for this generation to thrive.
It will be interesting to observe the evolutionary model of a more human consciousness to organizational entities. Will this become our new ‘normal’ in the years to come or will there be pockets of organizations that embody these principles but the majority of organizations defaulting to Orange and Green?
For a quick read about Laloux’ work, check out this brief video on Lean & Agile Adoption:
And an article by Laloux:
For information about challenges with Holacracy see recent article about Zappos: