This may be the first time that I have read a book that inspires me to write my reflections on what I read. I have just read ‘Reinventing Organizations’, by Frederic Laloux, that helped me understand Evolutionary Teal organisations.
The book presents a model that maps organisational structure and design to stages in human development. It features research on Evolutionary Teal organisations, which is the last stage in his thinking. The earlier stages are given colours, too. A visual representation of the model can be found here.
The metaphor best used to describe the Evolutionary Teal organisation is a living system, which has three fundamental principles: wholeness, self-management and evolutionary purpose at its heart. Think of a natural ecosystem such as the ocean where great complexity is organised using fundamental principles.
Teal organisations really stand out in a world where many organisations can be likened to machines with set processes, hierarchy and targets. Laloux’s book paints a picture of a very different future. The assumptions about the way the world is and how people are in that world shift from scarcity and control to abundance and trust.
We know that many aspects of how we work are not sustainable. Energy and mineral resources have finite timelines. There is significant negative impact on people working in many of today’s organisations. So hearing about businesses that are hugely successful taking a very different approach gives some real food for thought and hope. The beliefs and ideas in this book resonate very strongly with me.
In an Evolutionary Teal organisation people bring their whole self to work. In many businesses today the people who work in them bring a version of themselves to work — their professional self. Leaving at home their own aspirations, ideas, creativity and many other things that make them a complete person.
Being accepted in an organisation for all of who you are has huge benefits. The strength and depth of connectedness and teamwork deliver exceptional performance. On an individual level there is greater confidence and wellbeing. People use all of their strengths in ways that are just not possible in other organisational types.
There is no hierarchy or management in an Evolutionary Teal organisation. Groups of people organise and manage themselves in the way that best suits the business. The underlying belief that people can be trusted to work towards a common goal is hugely attractive. That’s who I am!!
If someone has an idea, they can make it happen. There is no approval process. There is individual responsibility and consultation with others who are affected. Just imagine the potential this unlocks. The results achieved by the organisations featured in the book demonstrate that it works while delivering amazing outcomes.
I am aware of the huge mental leap that some may need to make to accept this concept. It brings up lots of practical questions about how an organisation can function, managing people and workflow. I will come back to this in a later article.
The purpose in an Evolutionary Teal organisation is the guide for all actions. It is not the visions and mission statements we often see in many organisations today. It is the expression of what everyone understands the organisation wants to become. That may sound a little woolly but in these organisations it is the core of what drives people. Compare that with how effective most vision and mission statements really are.
Employee engagement is a significant initiative in many businesses. It is often a key performance indicator. There is a well-established link between levels of employee engagement and organisational performance. The way it works within an Evolutionary Teal organisation takes this to a whole new level. People in a Teal orgnaisation have been actively involved in agreeing the purpose. They are very tuned in to sensing what is needed to achieve the purpose. In other words they are truly engaged.
In his book Laloux presents an alternative approach to running a business that actually works. The companies featured cover different industries and sectors too. More than that it is a model that can continue to evolve in an ever-changing world. The principles of wholeness, self-management and purpose allow agility, flexibility and speed of response. If you are really honest, do you see that in your organisation? If not then what do you believe the future implications might be?
There were many light-bulb moments for me when I read this book. It felt many times that my own thoughts and beliefs were being so clearly articulated. I think the ideas and real life examples provide something to aspire to. I am working with my colleagues at Meeting Magic to bring benefits from this way of working to our clients and for us as a team. You can see more about this on our website and here in a recently published article in the Enlivening Edge newsletter.
So if any of this has sparked some thoughts in you I’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch. I also highly recommend reading Frederic Laloux’s book, ‘Reinventing Organizations’.