Useful highlights from
A Guide to Creating Organizations
Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frédéric Laloux
Part 1 - Historical
and Developmental Perspective
Changing paradigms: past and present organizational models
is highly sensitive to people’s feelings. It insists that
all perspectives deserve equal respect. It seeks fairness,
equality, harmony, community, cooperation, and consensus.
The self operating from this perspective strives to belong,
to foster close and harmonious bonds with everyone.
- While Orange is
predominant today in business and politics, Green is very
present in postmodern academic thinking, in nonprofits, and
among social workers and community activists.
Achievement-Orange seeks to make decisions top-down, based
on objective facts, expert input, and simulations,
Pluralistic-Green strives for bottom-up processes, gathering
input from all and trying to bring opposing points of view
to eventual consensus.
- Green’s brotherly
outreach is only rarely returned in kind by Red
egocentricity, Amber certainty, and Orange contempt for what
it sees as Green idealism.
relationship to rules is ambiguous and conflicted: rules
always end up being arbitrary and unfair, but doing away
with rules altogether proves unpractical and opens the door
for abuse. Green is powerful as a paradigm for breaking down
old structures, but often less effective at formulating
- Green leaders
should not merely be dispassionate problem solvers (like in
Orange); they should be servant leaders, listening to their
subordinates, empowering them, motivating them, developing
- The focus on
culture elevates human resources (HR) to a central role. The
HR director is often an influential member of the executive
team and a counselor to the CEO. He heads a large staff that
orchestrates substantial investments into employee-centric
processes like training, culture initiatives, 360-degree
feedback, succession planning and staff morale surveys.
Organizations insist that there should be no such hierarchy
- Businesses have a
responsibility not only to investors, but also to
management, employees, customers, suppliers, local
communities, society at large, and the environment.
1.2 - About stages of development
- Leaders in Green
Organizations maintain that the “stakeholder perspective”
might come with higher costs in the short term, but it will
deliver better returns in the long run for all parties,
- As a human race,
we have done much harm to each other by means of
colonialism, slavery, racism, and sexism, in the name of one
group being “better” than other groups.
psychologically, and morally, moving on to a new stage is a
massive feat. It requires courage to let go of old
certainties and experiment with a new worldview. For a
while, everything can seem uncertain and confused.
- What can be done
is to create environments that are conducive to growing into
- Consciously or
unconsciously, leaders put in place organizational
structures, practices, and cultures that make sense to them,
that correspond to their way of dealing with the world.
- Looking to values
and mission statements to inform decisions only makes sense
as of the Pluralistic-Green paradigm.
1.3 - Evolutionary-Teal
- The most exciting
breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur
because of technology, but because of an expanding concept
of what it means to be human.
- The shift to
Evolutionary-Teal happens when we learn to disidentify from
our own [fear and control-driven] ego.
- We make room to
listen to the wisdom of other, deeper parts of ourselves.
- What replaces
fear? A capacity to trust the abundance of life.
Evolutionary-Teal, we cross the chasm and learn to decrease
our need to control people and events. We come to believe
that even if something unexpected happens or if we make
mistakes, things will turn out all right, and when they
don’t, life will have given us an opportunity to learn and
- The ultimate goal
in life is not to be successful or loved, but to become the
truest expression of ourselves, to live into authentic
selfhood, to honor our birthright gifts and callings, and be
of service to humanity and our world.
- Put this all
together—a fearless rationality and the wisdom that can be
found in emotions, intuition, events, and paradoxes—and
Evolutionary-Teal turns the page from the
rational-reductionist worldview of Orange and the
post-modern worldview of Green to a holistic approach to
- With this stage
comes a deep yearning for wholeness—bringing together the
ego and the deeper parts of the self; integrating mind,
body, and soul; cultivating both the feminine and masculine
parts within; being whole in relation to others; and
repairing our broken relationship with life and
longing for wholeness is at odds with the separation that
most existing workplaces foster, albeit
unconsciously—overemphasizing the ego and the rational while
negating the spiritual and emotional; separating people
based on the departments they work in, their rank,
background, or level of performance; separating the
professional from the personal; separating the organization
from its competitors and the ecosystem it is embedded in.
- Leaders operating
from Evolutionary-Teal were by far the most successful.
- The [Teals] find
unbelievably more solutions than all the others put
- I found that the
average time it took the [Teal] group to arrive at a
solution was amazingly shorter than it took any of the other
- The more complex
our worldview and cognition, the more effectively we can
deal with problems we face.
of the corporate ills today can be traced to behaviors
driven by fearful egos: politics, bureaucratic rules and
processes, endless meetings, analysis paralysis, information
hoarding and secrecy, wishful thinking, ignoring problems
away, lack of authenticity, silos and infighting,
decision-making concentrated at the top of organizations,
and so forth.
Part 2 - The
Structures, Practices, and Cultures of Teal Organizations
2.1 - Three
breakthroughs and a metaphor
Organizations have found the key to operate effectively,
even at a large scale, with a system based on peer
relationships, without the need for either hierarchy or
Organizations have developed a consistent set of practices
that invite us to reclaim our inner wholeness and bring all
of who we are to work.
- Breakthrough of
Teal Organizations: transcending the age-old problem of
power inequality through structures and practices where no
one holds power over anyone else, and yet, paradoxically,
the organization as a whole ends up being considerably more
- In every team
context: they set direction and priorities, analyze
problems, make plans, evaluate people’s performance, and
make the occasional tough decisions.
- Team members
distribute these management tasks among themselves.
- Because there is
no hierarchy of bosses over subordinates, space becomes
available for other natural and spontaneous hierarchies to
spring up—fluid hierarchies of recognition, influence, and
skill (sometimes referred to as “actualization hierarchies”
in place of traditional “dominator hierarchies”).
Organizations…keep staff functions to an absolute bare
minimum. They understand that the economies of scale and
skill resulting from staff functions are often outweighed by
the diseconomies of motivation produced.
- The absence of
rules and procedures imposed by headquarters functions
creates a huge sense of freedom and responsibility
throughout the organization.
- The weekly
meetings that used to bring together the heads of sales,
production, maintenance, finance, HR, and other departments
are now held at the level of every team.
- To align and make
decisions; beyond that, there tend to be no regularly
scheduled meetings at all. Meetings are planned only ad hoc,
when a topic demands attention, with the relevant people
around the table. It’s an organic way of running an
organization, where structure follows emerging needs and not
the other way around.
across teams: form follows function.
- Meetings and
roles in self-managing structures emerge spontaneously; they
subsist as long as they add value to the ecosystem.
- When trust is
extended, it breeds responsibility in return. Emulation and
peer pressure regulates the system better than hierarchy
- Teams set their
own objectives, and they take pride in achieving them.
- When people work
in small teams of trusted colleagues, when they have all the
resources and power to make the decisions they feel are
needed, extraordinary things begin to happen.
organizations are built not on implicit mechanisms of fear
but on structures and practices that breed trust and
responsibility, extraordinary and unexpected things start to
- Trust the
collective intelligence of the system.
brings the principles that account for successful
free-market economies inside organizations.
- Valve, employees
have desks on wheels…Because people move around so often,
the company has created an app on its intranet [intranets
are a BIG deal within Teal orgs] to locate colleagues. It
renders a map of the office in real-time, showing the spots
where people have plugged their computers into the wall.
Organizations reverse the premise: people are not made to
fit pre-defined jobs; their job emerges from a multitude of
roles and responsibilities they pick up based on their
interests, talents, and the needs of the organization.
- The traditional
tasks of a manager—direction-setting, budgeting, analyzing,
planning, organizing, measuring, controlling, recruiting,
evaluating, and communicating—are now scattered among
various members of a team.
2.2 - Self-management (structures)
- Job titles and
descriptions hardly do justice to unique combinations of
roles, and they are too static to account for the fluid
nature of work in Teal Organizations.
- People can give
up one role and take up another without needing to go
through the cumbersome and often political processes of
appointment, promotion, and salary negotiation.
- From the
Evolutionary-Teal perspective, job titles are like honeypots
to the ego: alluring and addictive, but ultimately
- The organizations
I researched didn’t only drop job titles; almost all of them
also decided to drop words like employee, worker, or
manager, and replace them with something else—most often
- Anybody can put
on the hat of “the boss” to bring about important decisions,
launch new initiatives, hold underperforming colleagues to
account, help resolve conflicts, or take over leadership if
results are bad and action is needed.
2.3 - Self-management (processes)
is not a startling new feature of the world. It is the way
the world has created itself for billions of years. In all
of human activity, self-organization is how we begin. It is
what we do until we interfere with the process and try to
control one another.
- In principle, any
person in the organization can make any decision. But before
doing so, that person must seek advice from all affected
parties and people with expertise on the matter [this is the
invaluable Advice Process].
- Yet everybody
with a stake has been given a voice; people have the freedom
to seize opportunities and make decisions and yet must take
into account other people’s voices.
- The advice
practice: in his experience, it creates community, humility,
learning, better decisions, and fun (notice how these align
with values that are important at the Evolutionary-Teal
- The sharing of
information reinforces the feeling of community. Each person
whose advice is sought feels honored and needed.
principle, consensus sounds appealing: give everyone an
equal voice (a value particularly prized in Green). In
practice, it often degenerates into a collective tyranny of
comes with another flaw. It dilutes responsibility. In many
cases, nobody feels responsible for the final decision. The
original proposer is often frustrated that the group watered
down her idea beyond recognition; she might well be the last
one to champion the decision made by the group. For that
reason, many decisions never get implemented, or are done so
only half-heartedly. If things don’t work out as planned,
it’s unclear who is responsible for stepping in.
- While consensus
drains energy out of organizations, the advice process
boosts motivation and initiative.
- The larger the
purchase, the more people are typically involved in the
- When there is
value in coordination, people simply start to coordinate.
between trust and control is seldom debated on a rational
a choice that gets made based on deeply held, often
unconscious assumptions we hold about people and their
- [Colleagues in a
Teal org] Are creative, thoughtful, trustworthy adults,
capable of making important decisions; Are accountable and
responsible for their decisions and actions; Are fallible.
We make mistakes, sometimes on purpose; Are unique; and Want
to use our talents and skills to make a positive
contribution to the organization and the world. 46
mechanisms and hierarchy are needless and demoralizing
- People are
systematically considered to be good. (Reliable,
self-motivated, trustworthy, intelligent) There is no
performance without happiness. (To be happy, we need to be
motivated. To be motivated, we need to be responsible. To be
responsible we must understand why and for whom we work, and
be free to decide how) Value is created on the shop floor.
(Shop floor operators craft the products; the CEO and staff
at best serve to support them, at worst are costly
- At the core, this
comes down to the fundamental spiritual truth that we reap
what we sow: fear breeds fear and trust breeds trust.
that call for hierarchy and control. Only by shining light
on these fear-based beliefs can we decide to choose a
different set of assumptions.
- In Teal
Organizations, there are no unimportant people. Everybody
expects to have access to all information at the same time.
It’s a “no secret” approach that extends to all data,
including the most sensitive.
- In the absence of
hierarchy, self-managing teams need to have all available
information to make the best decisions. Any information that
isn’t public will cause suspicion (why else would someone go
through the trouble to keep it secret?), and suspicion is
toxic for organizational trust. Informal hierarchies
reemerge when some people are in the know while others are
- Intranet as a
central repository where everybody can publish and retrieve
information in real time.
- In self-managing
organizations, disagreements are resolved among peers using
a conflict resolution process. This process is so
fundamental to collaboration without hierarchy that many
self-managing organizations train every new recruit in
- People simply
follow the advice process: they bounce the idea off the
relevant people that a role must be created (or modified or
scrapped). Or they simply discuss it in a team meeting.
- For each role,
you specify what it does, what authority you believe you
should have (act, recommend, decide, or a combination
thereof), what indicators will help you understand if you
are doing a good job, and what improvements you hope to make
on those indicators.
- In Teal
Organizations, people don’t compete for scarce promotions.
You can broaden the scope of your work and increase your pay
if your colleagues are ready to entrust you with new roles.
- In Teal
Organizations, people have roles, which come with clear
areas of responsibility, but no turfs. No part of the
organization belongs to anybody.
- People who have
freedom in their work are eager learners; they can be
trusted to shape their own journeys. Careers in
self-managing organizations emerge organically from people’s
interests, callings, and the opportunities that keep coming
around in a liberated workplace.
Organizations measure indicators like team results,
productivity, and profit, just like other
organizations—except that they mostly tend to do so at the
level of teams or process steps, and they don’t bother to
measure individual performance (contrary to Orange
Organizations that believe in individual incentives and
therefore need individual metrics).
- At AES, Dennis
Bakke installed a beautiful practice of team appraisal with
his closest peers. They got together once a year, often over
dinner in one of their homes to make for a relaxed, informal
setting. Every person in turn shared his or her
self-evaluation. Other team members commented, questioned,
or encouraged each other to reach a deeper understanding of
their potential and performance.
- A few simple
questions can turn appraisal conversations into moments of
joyful and soulful introspection.
- A person with
“performance issues” might shed one or several roles in
which she fails to deliver and take up other roles that
better match her skills, interests, and talents.
- What about
compensation and incentives in Teal Organizations? Here
again, they deeply question standard management practices
and come up with different methods; these include the
process to decide who deserves how much pay (people set
their own salaries, with guidance from their peers), how
people are incentivized (incentives distract people from
their inner motivation, so we are better off without them),
and what type of salary differences are deemed acceptable
(people at the lower end of the scale should make enough to
have their basic needs met).
- People set their
own salary, using the advice process—they had to seek advice
and recommendation from their peers around them. In that
way, people were made fully responsible for assessing their
own contribution and validating it in the eyes of the
perspective is that all colleagues are fundamentally of
equal worth and that all work done with love and dedication
is to be honored equally, be it strategic thinking or
scrubbing the floors. 67
- They are complex,
participatory, interconnected, interdependent, and
continually evolving systems, like ecosystems in nature.
Form follows need. Roles are picked up, discarded, and
exchanged fluidly. Power is distributed. Decisions are made
at the point of origin. Innovations can spring up from all
quarters. Meetings are held when they are needed. Temporary
task forces are created spontaneously and quickly disbanded
2.4 - Striving for wholeness (general practices)
- Lots of natural,
evolving, overlapping hierarchies can emerge—hierarchies of
development, skill, talent, expertise, and recognition, for
- At ESBZ, all
teachers are trained in Nonviolent Communication, and so are
- People have to be
okay with having a conversation about how they are feeling,
what they need, and listening to what the other person
- Why don’t we
strive for offices that celebrate life, that are warm and
full of textures, cherished objects, and comfortable sofas?
absence of real kitchens in our organizations is a powerful
revealer of how we think about our workplaces. They are
transient and somewhat lifeless places, where we rent out
our labor for a few hours, but not places we invest in, in
the way we invest in our homes.
- Nature is a great
healer of the soul. When we are immersed in nature, we tend
to slow down and find a deeper connection with ourselves and
the world around us.
2.5 - Striving for wholeness (HR processes)
a deeper level, the matter of windows opening or not is
revealing about our relationship at work with nature and
with ourselves. How far have we taken the madness of control
when we seal ourselves off from even a breath of fresh air?
that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has
made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think
too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need
humanity; more than cleverness we need kindness and
gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent
and all will be lost.
- Of course, skills
and experience matter, but generally they take second place.
Roles are so fluid that it makes little sense to hire
somebody for one particular box. Organizations in this
research have also found that when people are
self-motivated, they can pick up new skills and experience
in surprisingly little time.
- New colleagues
are also trained in the assumptions, ground rules, and
values that allow people to show up more authentically. The
initial Buurtzorg training also includes techniques for
conflict resolution and Nonviolent Communication. All new
hires at Heiligenfeld go through six training modules that
include topics like “self-mastery” and “dealing with
Organizations offer two types of training rarely found in
traditional organizations: training to establish a common
culture, and personal development training. Skill training
programs are still around, but are delivered with a
twist—they are often led by colleagues rather than external
trainers and are deeply infused with the company’s values
Communication, how to deal with conflict, and how to get
things done without hierarchy.
- Typically, the
courses go from the inside out: they help people connect
with and discover who they are, and then find authentic ways
to express their selfhood about the subject matter.
- With no job
description, with no one telling us how to do a particular
job, we might as well do it from our own selfhood, and
infuse it with our unique personality and talents.
work in corporate cultures that invite us to disown some of
the things we care most about.
- We can approach
the world from one of two sides: from a place of fear,
judgment, and separation; or from one of love, acceptance,
- [The Center for
Courage & Renewal] shunned the usual practice of
assessing people with a rating scale on some performance
criteria. Instead, the center simply framed a few questions
that turned the appraisal into a moment of joint
has gone really well this year that we might celebrate?
has been learned in the process?
didn’t go as well or might have been done differently?
How do we “take stock”
of where things are now compared to where we thought they
are you most excited about in this next year?
concerns you most?
changes, if any, would you suggest in your functions?
professional development will help you to grow in your current
job and for your future?
can I be of most help to you and your work?
you think about your work in the year ahead, what specific
goals will guide you?
- [At the hydraulic
parts company Sun]
- State an
admirable feature about the employee.
- Ask what
contributions they have made to Sun.
- Ask what
contributions they would like to make at Sun.
- Ask how
Sun can help them.
- Feedback should
be given on the spot, all year round, and not left unsaid,
waiting for the appraisal discussion at the end of the year.
- Not a single
organization in this research has laid people off during
times of downturn. Self-managing organizations are
exceedingly flexible and accumulate little overhead;
- The right size of
a workforce is equal to the number of people needed to make
the workplace fun. Having too many employees demoralizes
colleagues and causes turf battles.
- Listening to evolutionary purpose
- Workplaces where
we feel we can show up with all of who we are unleash
unprecedented energy and creativity.
- When an
organization truly lives for its purpose, there is no
competition. Anybody that can help to achieve the purpose on
a wider scale or more quickly is a friend, an ally, not a
- But even when I
[de Blok] take the perspective of Buurtzorg as an
organization, I believe very strongly the more open you are
about what you do, the more advantages come back to you. If
you are open, people will receive you in friendlier ways.
- The organization
evolves, morphs, expands, or contracts, in response to a
process of collective intelligence. Reality is the great
referee, not the CEO, the board or a committee. What works
gathers momentum and energy within the organization; other
ideas fail to catch on and wither.
Organizations’ approach to marketing is almost simplistic.
The organizations simply listen in to what feels like the
right offering. There are no customer surveys and no focus
groups. Essentially, marketing boils down to this statement:
This is our offer. At this moment, we feel this is the best
we can possibly do. We hope you will like it.
- What product
would fill a genuine need in the world?
also invites the intuitive power of the right brain.
- Instead of trying
to predict and control (the goal behind all planning and
budgeting practices), Teal Organizations try to sense and
- The deep
challenge here: it requires letting go of our beautiful
illusion of control, our comforting illusion of control. The
illusion that we’ve done our job as leaders: we’ve done all
the analysis, we’ve got the plan, things are going to go
according to plan, we are in control. It’s a much higher
bar, and a much scarier standard to let go of those
illusions, to get clear on purpose and to stay conscious and
present in every moment.
such [complex] systems, it becomes meaningless to predict
the future, and then analyze our way into the best decision.
When we do, out of habit, we only waste energy and time
producing an illusion of control and perfection.
- Shoot explicitly
not for the best possible decision, but for a workable
solution that can be implemented quickly. Based on new
information, the decision can be revisited and improved at
- From an
Evolutionary-Teal perspective, targets are problematic for
at least three reasons: they rest on the assumption that we
can predict the future, they skew our behavior away from
inner motivation, and they tend to narrow our capacity to
sense new possibilities.
- FAVI captures the
thinking about budgets in a provocative statement: “In the
new way of thinking, we aim to make money without knowing
how we do it, as opposed to the old way of losing money
knowing exactly how we lose it.”
- In a world where
organizations are self-managing, living systems, we don’t
need to impose change from the outside. Living systems have
the innate capacity to sense changes in their environment
and to adapt from within.
- Where are we
still stuck in the machine paradigm? How can we help the
organization express itself fully as a living system?
- Moods determine
what is possible: every mood predisposes us to a particular
course of action, and closes us to many others.
- What is the mood
that would best serve the organization at this moment in
time so as to achieve its purpose? It might well be
playfulness or concentration, but perhaps it is something
else altogether—a mood of prudence, joy, pride, care,
gratitude, wonder, curiosity, or determination.
Frederick Buechner described [it] as “the place where your
deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger”—we often feel
overcome with grace. It feels like we have grown wings.
Working from our strengths, everything feels effortless and
we feel productive like rarely before.
- What is your
sense of your life trajectory? How could working here fit
with what you sense you are called to be and to do in the
world? What aspect of the organizational purpose resonates
with you? What unique talents and gifts could you contribute
to the organization’s journey?
- Questions about
our purpose and calling are simple to ask but can be
difficult to answer.
- The more clarity
there is around what the organization is called to do, the
more people can enter into resonance with it.
(Pluralistic-Green) stakeholder model organization is still
viewed as an entity that we humans need to steer, so that it
can serve all stakeholders.
Evolutionary-Teal perspective—views the organization no
longer as property, not even shared property in service of
its different stakeholders. The organization is viewed as an
energy field, emerging potential, a form of life that
transcends its stakeholders, pursuing its own unique
- We don’t need to
foresee the future to devise a perfect strategy, we don’t
need to force change to happen, we don’t need to make
detailed budgets and kick ourselves when we don’t meet the
2.7 - Common cultural traits
- The world knows
how to create itself. We are its good partners in this
process. Or we can be.
- Culture is how
things get done, without people having to think about it.
a hierarchical structure that gives managers power over
their subordinates, a constant investment of energy is
required to keep managers from using that power in
hierarchical ways. Stop investing in culture, and the
structurally embedded hierarchy is likely to take the upper
- Context and
purpose drive the culture that is called for in an
- We relate to one
another with an assumption of positive intent. Until we are
proven wrong, trusting co-workers is our default means of
engagement. Freedom and accountability are two sides of the
- All business
information is open to all. Every one of us is able to
handle difficult and sensitive news. We believe in
collective intelligence. Nobody is as smart as everybody.
Therefore all decisions will be made with the advice
- We each have full
responsibility for the organization. If we sense that
something needs to happen, we have a duty to address it.
It’s not acceptable to limit our concern to the remit of our
roles. Everyone must be comfortable with holding others
accountable to their commitments through feedback and
- We choose love
- We strive to
create emotionally and spiritually safe environments, where
each of us can behave authentically.
- We honor the
moods of…[love, care, recognition, gratitude, curiosity,
fun, playfulness…]. We are comfortable with vocabulary like
care, love, service, purpose, soul…in the workplace.
- In the long run,
there are no trade-offs between purpose and profits. If we
focus on purpose, profits will follow.
Part 3 - The
Emergence of Teal Organizations
3.1 - Necessary conditions
shows that efforts to bring Teal practices into subsets of
organizations bear fruit, at best, only for a short while.
the pyramid will get its way and reassert control.
- The level of
consciousness of an organization cannot exceed the level of
consciousness of its leader. The CEO must look at the world
through an Evolutionary-Teal lens for Teal practices to
- One role remains
the same: the CEO is often the public face of the company to
the outside world. Suppliers, big clients, and regulators
often want to deal with the “head” of the organization, and
the CEO often (but not necessarily) takes on that role. But
as for the rest, most of the other responsibilities
traditionally held by the CEO simply fall away—there are,
for example, no targets to set, no budgets to approve, no
executive team to run, no top-down strategies to devise, no
disputes to settle, no promotions to decide on.
- Avoiding rules
and policies is no easy feat.
- Trust is so
countercultural that it needs to be defended and reaffirmed
every time a problem arises.
- Based on our
belief in the worth, dignity, and honesty of each employee.
- Founders and CEOs
will not role-model the new paradigm faultlessly, all the
time. But paradoxically, the occasional mistake can
reinforce rather than undermine self-management.
- Fighting the
inner urge to control is probably the hardest challenge for
founders and CEOs in self-managing organizations. Over and
over again, they must remember to trust.
a subtle but very real way, teams’ psychological ownership
is undermined when they know the CEO can look over their
shoulder in real time to monitor their performance.
- The most subtle,
and perhaps most demanding, change for a founder or CEO in a
Teal Organization is to leave behind the sometimes addictive
sense that others need you to make things happen.
- Another beautiful
Teal paradox: vulnerability and strength are not in
opposition, but polarities that reinforce each other.
- Every decision
offers the opportunity to ask the question: What decision
will best serve the organization’s purpose? When a change of
role is discussed, it begs the question: How will this role
serve the organization’s purpose? A new client or supplier
can trigger the question: Will working with this client/this
supplier further the organization’s purpose?
- Context in turn
is the energy of meaning and purpose, of connection with a
- When the energy
field of Context is healthy and powerful, Relationships are
healthy and powerful too. And then, what in other
circumstances causes time and energy to be wasted in the
field of Activity simply disappears.
- With the right
Context and Relationships, there really is a much simpler
way to run organizations.
3.2 - Starting up a Teal Organization
- Having a CEO and
a board that “get it” are necessary, but not sufficient,
- Experience also
shows that it is easier to start out from Teal, rather than
transforming an existing structure with its history and
baggage from previous paradigms.
- If for a moment
you try to take yourself (your wishes, your dreams) out of
the equation and listen to the budding organization, what is
the purpose that it wants to serve? What shape does the
organization want to take? At what pace does the
organization want to grow? Is the organization best served
by you being a single founder or by several co-founders?
Which other co-founders are meant to join you?
- If you want the
organization to run on Evolutionary-Teal principles, the
degree to which its purpose resonates with them and their
readiness to embrace Teal ways of operating are two
additional critical factors to add to the list. Be ready to
spend significant time discussing these topics. The depth at
which you explore these questions will set a standard for
the type of conversations you will henceforward consider
normal in the organization.
- You will probably
make your life much easier if you articulate the assumptions
you hold about people and about work.
- The assumptions
can serve as touchstones for every new practice or process
you consider introducing; they will make it easier for
anybody in the organization, even the most junior colleague,
to speak up and say, “I wonder if what we are doing is in
line with our basic assumptions?”
- A conflict
evaluation and salary processes:
- The more you
self-disclose, the more authentic, the more vulnerable, the
more honest you are about your strengths and weaknesses, the
safer others will feel to do the same.
- Ground rules for
safe space…stems from a collective effort
- Integrate a
meeting practice that invites people into wholeness. It can
be as simple as starting with a minute of silence or a round
be wonderfully deep, sometimes moving conversations.
3.3 - Transforming an existing organization
- Does the CEO “get
it?” Does she see the world through Teal lenses? Is he
personally excited about the idea of running the
organization based on Teal principles?
- Do the members of
the board “get it” and support it?
- People at lower
levels in the hierarchy warm to self-management quickly.
Most of those who had previously been given very little
power and room for decision-making will relish the freedom
to shape their work in the way they see fit.
- Most people will
flourish in a liberated workplace. Age, sex, educational
background, political inclination, union membership, color
or ethnic background, and even IQ have little effect on
whether someone will come to love and succeed in this kind
and senior management…expect their resistance to be the
hardest nut to crack in your organization’s transition.
- There is, of
course, an irony in the CEO imposing self-management in a
last act of top-down decision-making.
- [CEO Zobrist from
Teal org FAVI] didn’t define and impose a reorganization
plan. He didn’t decide how managers and staff functions
would be reappointed. Neither did he decide who would stay
and who would leave. Within the constraints he set (there
would be no more management roles), he let people find the
best path forward for themselves and for the factory.
- Through the power
of self-organizing, everyone gets involved, everyone’s voice
counts, and yet very tangible outcomes are produced.
- From an
Evolutionary-Teal perspective, it’s not about what you think
the organization should be or should do (this is how we are
used to thinking about it in the machine paradigm, because a
machine must be instructed what to do). Instead, it’s all
about you and your colleagues getting a sense of the unique
purpose your organization wants to manifest in the world.
It’s about looking at your company as a living organism with
a soul and a purpose of its own.
- Deep inside,
everyone longs for work that is purposeful and meaningful,
so most people are likely to join in with their heart and
- What is it that
others will consciously or unconsciously pick up from your
presence? What fears, what desires, what needs drive you?
- The more trusting,
loving, caring, but also the more clear-minded and
determined you come across, the easier the transition
will come about.
3.4 - Results
- The pioneer
organizations in this research reveal that with a different
context, work can come to feel as fluid, joyful, and
effortless as life in the water for penguins.
- For Teal, the
interesting question is: To what extent do the
organization’s accomplishments manifest its purpose?
- Puzzled client
who saw a helicopter land on its premises called
Jean-François Zobrist, FAVI’s CEO, to tell him that there
were still items in stock, and the helicopter really wasn’t
needed. Zobrist answered that the helicopter might look like
an extravagant expense, but it was a statement members of
the team made for themselves, about the commitment and the
pride they place in their work. That was worth every penny
- These companies
seem to fire on all cylinders at the same time. They provide
a space in which employees thrive; they pay salaries above
market rates; they grow year in and year out, and achieve
remarkable profit margins; in downturns, they prove
resilient even though they choose not to fire workers; and,
perhaps most importantly, they are vehicles that help a
noble purpose manifest itself in the world.
- Breakthroughs of
Teal Organizations: 1) Power is multiplied when everybody
gets to be powerful, rather than just a few at the top
(self-management); 2) Power is used with more wisdom, as
people bring in more of themselves to work (wholeness); and
3) Somehow things just fall into place when people align
their power and wisdom with the life force of the
organization (evolutionary purpose).
+ Through purpose:
distribution of power:
learning…broadened to include not only skills but the whole
realm of inner development and personal growth.
+ Through better use
+ Less energy wasted
in propping up the ego:
+ Less energy wasted
+ Less energy wasted
3.5 - Teal Organizations and Teal Society
- Through more
decision-making: In traditional organizations, there is a
bottleneck at the top to make decisions. In self-managing
structures, thousands of decisions are made everywhere, all
- The ideal of a
closed-loop economy with zero waste, zero toxicity, and 100
- And we are likely
to witness the emergence of growth in other domains of
activity, such as in the “high touch” services tending to
our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
- What about the
judiciary and the prison system, currently still very much
stuck in Amber, when not in Red? What would a Teal justice
system look like, where failure does not call for
punishment, but for reparation and an invitation to grow?
[Politics and law as a system of domination (demands,
threats, coercion, and punishment) would disappear, so needs
for respect and restorative justice can finally get met.
- With the
Evolutionary-Teal stage, fear of scarcity gives way to trust
- For the first
time in history, we can contemplate a future where all
people, not just a happy few, are free to follow their
calling, to live a life of creative self-expression.
- In Teal, people
are satisfied neither with religious dogma (Amber) nor with
the exclusively materialistic outlook of modernity (Orange).
They seek unity and transcendence through personal
experience and practices.
- With Teal,
serving the purpose becomes more important than serving the
organization, opening up new possibilities for collaboration
across organizational boundaries.
- Purpose clearly
comes before consideration of power and governance.
- [from _A Simpler
Way_ by Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers:] This
simpler way summons forth what is best about us. It asks us
to understand human nature differently, more optimistically.
It identifies us as creative. It acknowledges that we seek
after meaning. It asks us to be less serious, yet more
purposeful, about our work and our lives. It does not
separate play from the nature of being...If we can be in the
world in the fullness of our humanity, what are we capable
of? If we are free to play, to experiment and discover, if
we are free to fail, what might we create? What could we
accomplish if we stopped trying to structure the world into
existence? What could we accomplish if we worked with life’s
natural tendency to organize? Who could we be if we found a
- Bring to life
truly soulful organizations.
- And yet it isn’t
meant to be read in a prescriptive way, as a list of
structures and practices that must be rigidly implemented. I
no longer believe that we need to design and shape
organizations in the way we design machines and
buildings—objectively, from the outside.
- If we can be in
the world in the fullness of our humanity, what are we
3 - Structures of Teal Organizations
- There is a
hierarchy of purpose, complexity, and scope.
- Yet it is no
hierarchy of people or power.
- The size and type
of activity the organization engages in will naturally call
for one type of structure, just like surrounding terrain
determines the shape of a lake.