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Reinventing Organizations

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness  by Frederic Laloux

Some of my favourite excerpts…

There is a dirty secret I have discovered in the fifteen years I have spent consulting and coaching organizational leaders: life at the top of the pyramids isn’t much more fulfilling. Behind the façade and the bravado, the lives of powerful corporate leaders are ones of quiet suffering too. Their frantic activity is often a poor cover up for a deep inner sense of emptiness. The power games, the politics, and the infighting end up taking their toll on everybody. At both the top and bottom, organizations are more often than not playfields for unfulfilling pursuits of our egos, inhospitable to the deeper yearnings of our souls.

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Piaget, the pioneer child psychologist, has given us a defining experiment of Conformist-Amber cognition. A two-colored ball is placed between a child and an adult, with the green side facing the child and the red side facing the adult. Prior to the Amber stage, a child cannot yet see the world from someone else’s perspective, and he will claim that both he and the adult see a green ball. At the age of around six or seven, a child raised in a nurturing environment will learn to see the world through someone else’s eyes and will correctly identify that the adult sees the red side of the ball.

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What has worked in the past will work in the future. When the context is changing, and the way we do things around here stops working, Amber Organizations find it hard to accept the need for change. The idea that there is one right way makes Amber Organizations ill at ease with competition. Historically, they have striven for dominance and monopoly, and Amber Organizations today still tend to view competition with suspicion.

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The answer comes in the form of management by objectives. Top management formulates an overall direction and cascades down objectives and milestones to reach the desired outcome. To a certain degree, the leadership doesn’t care how the objectives will be met, as long as they are met. This attitude has prompted the birth of a host of now familiar management processes to define objectives (predict) and follow up (control): strategic planning, mid-term planning, yearly budgeting cycles, key performance indicators, and balanced scorecards, to name a few. In the Achievement-Orange worldview, people are driven by material success. Unsurprisingly, Orange Organizations have invented a host of incentive processes to motivate employees to reach the targets that have been set, including performance appraisals, bonus schemes, quality awards, and stock options. To put it simply, where Amber relied only on sticks, Orange came up with carrots.

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Every paradigm has its leadership style that suits its worldview. Impulsive-Red calls for predatory leaders; Conformist-Amber for paternalistic authoritarianism. In keeping with the machine metaphor, Achievement-Orange leadership tends to look at management through an engineering perspective. Leadership at this stage is typically goal-oriented, focused on solving tangible problems, putting tasks over relationships

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We have reached a stage where we often pursue growth for growth’s sake, a condition that in medical terminology would simply be called cancer.

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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. For people operating from this perspective, relationships are valued above outcomes. For instance, where 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.

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In Orange Organizations, strategy and execution are king. In Green Organizations, the company culture is paramount. CEOs of Green Organizations claim that promoting the culture and shared values is their primary task. The focus on culture elevates human resources

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There is nothing inherently “better” about being at a higher level of development, just as an adolescent is not “better” than a toddler. However, the fact remains that an adolescent is able to do more, because he or she can think in more sophisticated ways than a toddler. Any level of development is okay; the question is whether that level of development is a good fit for the task at hand. Nick Petrie

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For these reasons, I cringe when I hear people say that someone is Green, or Orange, or Amber. At best, we can say (and I have made every effort to stick to this vocabulary) that in a specific moment a person “operates from” one type of paradigm.

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Don Beck, a student of developmental psychologist Clare Graves, uses an insightful analogy: If evolution were music, stages of development would be musical notes, vibrating at a certain frequencies. Human beings would be like strings, capable of playing many different notes. The range of notes they can play depends on the range of tensions they have learned to accommodate.

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Cognitively, 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. It might be lonely, too, as sometimes in the process we can lose close relationships with friends and family who can no longer relate to us. Growing into a new form of consciousness is always a highly personal, unique, and somewhat mysterious process. It cannot be forced onto somebody. No one can be made to evolve in consciousness, even with the best of intentions—a hard truth for coaches and consultants, who wish they could help organizational leaders adopt a more complex worldview by the power of conviction. What can be done is to create environments that are conducive to growing into later stages. When someone is surrounded by peers who already see the world from a more complex perspective, in a context safe enough to explore inner conflicts, chances are higher that the person will make the leap.

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If we “go Teal,” then instead of setting goals for our life, dictating what direction it should take, we learn to let go and listen to the life that wants to be lived through us.

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Many people transitioning to this stage take up practices like meditation, centering, martial arts, yoga, or simply walking in nature to find a quiet place that allows the inner voice of the soul to speak its truth and guidance. Individuals who live from this perspective and connect to a deeper sense of purpose can become quite fearless in pursuit of their calling. With their ego under control, they don’t fear failure as much as not trying. Clare Graves’ favorite phrase to describe someone operating from Teal was “a person who has ambition, but is not ambitious.”

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As people in Teal are busy exploring the calling in their lives, they are likely to affiliate only with organizations that have a clear and noble purpose of their own. We can expect that purpose, more than profitability, growth, or market share, will be the guiding principle for organizational decision-making.

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The founders of Teal Organizations use a different metaphor for the workplaces they aspire to create. With surprising frequency, they talk about their organization as a living organism or living system.

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First, some background: Since the 19th century, every neighborhood in the Netherlands had a neighborhood nurse who would make home visits to care for the sick and the elderly. Neighborhood nurses are an essential piece of the Dutch health care system, working hand-in-hand with family doctors and the hospital system.

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Buurtzorg, a Dutch neighborhood nursing organization,

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Buurtzorg teams have no boss. All team members—typically 10 to 12 people—are nurses. They deal with all the usual management tasks that arise in every team context: they set direction and priorities, analyze problems, make plans, evaluate people’s performance, and make the occasional tough decisions. Instead of placing these tasks on one single person—the boss—team members distribute these management tasks among themselves. The teams are effectively self-governing and self-organizing.

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Anybody who has worked on a team with no boss knows that it can easily turn into a nightmare. Yet that only rarely happens at Buurtzorg. How come? Productive self-management rarely happens spontaneously. Buurtzorg has become very effective at giving teams the specific support (training, coaching, and tools) required for self-management to work in practice. To begin with, all newly formed teams and all new recruits to existing teams take a training course called “Solution-Driven Methods of Interaction,”

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learning a coherent set of skills and techniques for healthy and efficient group decision-making. Within the training, team members deepen their knowledge in some of the most basic (and ironically often most neglected) building blocks of human collaboration: learning different types of listening and different styles of communication, how to run meetings, how to coach one another, and other practical skills.

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In Buurtzorg’s teams, there is no boss-subordinate hierarchy, but the idea is not to make all nurses on a team “equal.” Whatever the topic, some nurses will naturally have a larger contribution to make or more say, based on their expertise, interest, or willingness to step in. One nurse might be a particularly good listener and coach to her colleagues. Another might be a living encyclopedia of arcane medical conditions. Another might have a knack for handling conflict within the team or within the feuding family of a patient. Another might be a great planner and organizer. In any field, some nurses will naturally have more to offer than others. Some nurses build up reputations and influence even well beyond their team and are consulted by nurses from across the country on certain topics of expertise. Because there is no hierarchy of bosses over subordinates, space becomes available for other natural and spontaneous hierarchies to spring up—

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Coaches shouldn’t have too much time on their hands, or they risk getting too involved with teams, and that would hurt teams’ autonomy. Now they take care of only the most important questions. We gave some of the first teams from Buurtzorg quite intensive support and attention, and today we still see that they are more dependent and less autonomous than other teams.33

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The span of support (what in traditional organizations would be called “span of control”) of Buurtzorg’s regional coaches is broad; on average, a coach supports 40 to 50 teams.

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The coach’s role therefore is not to prevent foreseeable problems, but to support teams in solving them (and later help them reflect on how they’ve grown in the process). The coach’s role is to let teams make their own choices, even if she believes she knows a better solution. The coach supports the team mostly by asking insightful questions and mirroring what she sees. She helps teams frame issues and solutions in light of Buurtzorg’s purpose and its holistic approach to care. The starting point is always to look for enthusiasm, strengths, and existing capabilities within the team. The coach projects trust that the team has all it takes to solve the problems it faces. The span of support (what in traditional organizations would be called “span of control”) of Buurtzorg’s regional coaches is broad; on average, a coach supports 40 to 50 teams.

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In the last decades, we have witnessed, especially in large organizations, a proliferation of staff functions: human resources (HR), strategic planning, legal affairs, finance, internal communications, risk management, internal audit, investor relations, training, public affairs, environmental control, engineering services, quality control, knowledge management. There is a natural tendency for people in such staff functions, often with the best of intentions, to prove their worth by finding ways to “add value”? devising rules and procedures, building up expertise, finding new problems to solve. Ultimately, they concentrate power and decision-making away from the frontline. People there feel disempowered: they have to follow rules that often make sense only in principle but cannot accommodate the complexity of the concrete situations they face on the ground. Teal Organizations, in contrast, 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. As a result, there are very, very few people working in staff functions in Teal Organizations. And those that do typically have no decision-making authority.

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At Buurtzorg, for example, the 7,000 nurses are supported by only 30 people working from a humble building in a residential part of Almelo, a town in the northern Netherlands—it has no human resources department. People decide upon themselves. The staff functions have nearly all disappeared. The former HR, planning, scheduling, engineering, production-IT and purchasing departments have all been shut down. Their tasks have been taken over by the operators in the teams, who do their own hiring, purchasing, planning, and scheduling.

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Incidentally, at FAVI, sales orders are always discussed in terms of employment, not in monetary terms; so there is no “we got a $1 million order,” but rather “we got an order for 10 people’s work.”

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In many ways, such meetings would make a lot of sense: the regional coaches have great insight into what’s happening in the field; collectively, they could spot issues and opportunities and determine which actions to take and initiatives to launch. But that would exactly be the problem, in Buurtzorg’s perspective—people from up high believing they know what is needed down below. Jos de Blok and the regional coaches have recognized that meeting frequently would most likely spur them to get busy in all sorts of ways. Therefore, they decided to come together just four times a year, with an open agenda to discuss any topics that emerge.

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It’s almost deterministic: with a pyramidal shape, people at the top of organizations will complain about meeting overload, while people below feel disempowered.

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FAVI chose a more organic and elegant solution. At regular intervals, a group composed of one designated person from each team comes together for a few minutes; they quickly discuss which teams are over or understaffed; back in their teams, they ask for volunteers to switch teams for a shift or two. The person from the Audi team, for example, might ask who in the team is willing to spend the day with the Volvo team. Things happen organically on a voluntary basis; nobody is being allocated to a team by a higher authority.

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Teams: form follows function.

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value to the ecosystem. Information technology tools such as internal social networks and knowledge repositories can play a critical role in steering clear of unnecessary structures, especially when companies grow larger and people are spread throughout different locations. At FAVI, where the 500 employees all work in the same factory, a colleague is never far away. Much of the knowledge exchange and coordination happens informally on the shop floor or over lunch. At Buurtzorg, there are 7,000 nurses scattered over the country, and most of them have never met. The company’s internal social network helps nurses locate a colleague with a specific expertise; they can then pick up the phone and ask a question. Nurses can also post questions directly on the platform in a continuous Facebook-like stream.

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When a person tries to take advantage of the system, such as by not pulling his weight and slacking off, his team members will be quick to let him know their feelings. At FAVI, workers are well aware, from their weekly meetings with the sales account manager, what sharp competition they are up against from China. Nurses at Buurtzorg know their patients intimately and care deeply for their well-being. Teams at FAVI and at Buurtzorg don’t need management or control systems to spur them on.

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Ultimately, it comes down to this—fear is a great inhibitor. When 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 happen.

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The company came up with the “80-20 rule“: every person working at AES, from cleaning staff to engineer, was expected to spend on average 80 percent of their time on their primary role and make themselves available for the other 20 percent in one or more of the many task forces that existed around the company.

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Internal audits were performed in the same way, by volunteer task forces: each plant would be audited by colleagues from other plants. Task forces were put in place for topics as diverse as compensation, community service, environmental work, and corporate values. AES found out that using voluntary task forces instead of fixed staff functions has multiple benefits. Employees find avenues to express talents and gifts that their primary role might not call for. They develop a true sense of ownership and responsibility when they see they have real power to shape their company. Dennis Bakke insists on another point: these task forces are formidable learning institutions.

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Almost all organizations in this research use, in one form or another, a practice that AES called the “advice process.” It is very simple: 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. The person is under no obligation to integrate every piece of advice; the point is not to achieve a watered-down compromise that accommodates everybody’s wishes. But advice must be sought and taken into serious consideration.

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With many questions and no clear answers, Zobrist found himself on the soapbox and shared his dilemma with all employees in that shift (including the temp workers whose fate was being discussed). People in the audience shouted questions and proposals. One worker said, “This month, why don’t we all work only three weeks and get three weeks’ pay, and we keep the temp workers? If we need to, we will do the same thing next month as well.” Heads nodded, and the proposal was put to a vote. To Zobrist’s surprise, there was unanimous agreement. Workers just agreed to a temporary 25 percent salary cut. In less than an hour, the problem was solved and machine noise reverberated around the factory again.

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Organizations routinely talk about their values and mission; Teal Organizations talk about something even more fundamental—their basic assumptions about human nature. This has to do, I believe, with the fact that self-managing practices are still countercultural today.

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When AES acquired a new power plant, Bakke would often introduce AES’s management practices to the new group of colleagues by asking them what assumptions owners and managers of a typical factory hold about their workers. Here is how Bakke summarizes the assumptions workers generally feel bosses have about them: Workers are lazy. If they are not watched, they will not work diligently. Workers work primarily for money. They will do what it takes to make as much money as possible.

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AES people: 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.

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Which set of assumptions is true? People can debate this topic endlessly. McGregor had a key insight that has since been validated time and again: both are true. If you view people with mistrust (Theory X) and subject them to all sorts of controls, rules, and punishments, they will try to game the system, and you will feel your thinking is validated. Meet people with practices based on trust, and they will return your trust with responsible behavior. Again, you will feel your assumptions were validated. Expressed in terms of developmental psychology, if you create a strong Amber-Orange structure and culture, people will end up responding in Amber-Orange ways; create a strong enough Teal context and people are likely to behave accordingly.

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In traditional companies, when one person doesn’t deliver, colleagues grumble and complain but leave it to the person’s boss to do something about it. In self-managing organizations, people have to step up and confront colleagues who fail to uphold their commitments. Morning Star and other self-managing organizations readily admit that this essential piece can be tricky to put in place and to maintain.

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The conflict resolution process (called “Direct Communication and Gaining Agreement”), applies to any type of disagreement. It can be a difference of opinion about a technical decision in a given situation. It can be interpersonal conflict. It can be a breach of values. Or it can be related to performance issues, when one colleague finds that another is doing a lousy job or not pulling his weight. Whatever the topic, the process starts with one person asking another to gain agreement: In a first phase, they sit together and try to sort it out privately. The initiator has to make a clear request (not a judgment, not a demand), and the other person has to respond clearly to the request (with a “yes,” a “no,” or a counterproposal). If they can’t find a solution agreeable to both of them, they nominate a colleague they both trust to act as a mediator. The colleague supports the parties in finding agreement but cannot impose a resolution. If mediation fails, a panel of topic-relevant colleagues is convened. The panel’s role, again, is to listen and help shape agreement. It cannot force a decision, but usually carries enough moral weight for matters to come to a conclusion. In an ultimate step, Chris Rufer, the founder and president, might be called into the panel, to add to the panel’s moral weight. Since the disagreement is private, all parties are expected to respect confidentiality during and after the processes. This confidentiality applies of course to the two persons at the heart of the conflict as well. They must resolve their disagreement between themselves and are discouraged from spreading the conflict by enlisting support and building rival factions.

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Present proposal: The proposer states his proposal and the issue this proposal is attempting to resolve. Clarifying questions: Anybody can ask clarifying questions to seek information or understanding. This point is not yet the moment for reactions, and the facilitator will interrupt any question that is cloaking a reaction to the proposal. Reaction round: Each person is given space to react to the proposal. Discussions and responses are not allowed at this stage. Amend and clarify: The proposer can clarify the intent of his proposal further or amend it based on the prior discussion. Objection round: The facilitator asks, “Do you see any reasons why adopting this proposal would cause harm or move us backwards?” Objections are stated and captured without discussion; the proposal is adopted if none surface. Integration: If an objection is raised, the facilitator leads an open discussion to craft an amended proposal that would avoid the objection while still addressing the proposer’s concern. If several objections are raised, they get addressed in this way one at a time, until all are removed.

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from holocracy

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In essence, Holacracy’s governance process is a variation of the advice process. In this case, it’s not one person that integrates people’s advice into a decision, but the team that does it as a whole.

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Chris Rufer, the founder and president of Morning Star, talks about the structure of self-managing organizations: Clouds form and then go away because atmospheric conditions, temperatures, and humidity cause molecules of water to either condense or vaporize. Organizations should be the same; structures need to appear and disappear based on the forces that are acting in the organization. When people are free to act, they’re able to sense those forces and act in ways that fit best with reality.

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The tasks of management—setting direction and objectives, planning, directing, controlling, and evaluating—haven’t disappeared. They are simply no longer concentrated in dedicated management roles. Because they are spread widely, not narrowly, it can be argued that there is more management and leadership happening at any time in Teal Organizations despite, or rather precisely because of, the absence of fulltime managers.

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Here we stumble upon a beautiful paradox: people can hold different levels of power, and yet everyone can be powerful.

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processes allowing for self-organization do not resolve the question of power inequality; they transcend it. Attempting to resolve the problem of power inequality would call for everyone to be given the same power (a notion consistent with the Green-Pluralistic worldview

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From an Evolutionary-Teal perspective, the right question is not: how can everyone have equal power? It is rather: how can everyone be powerful? Power is not viewed as a zero-sum game, where the power I have is necessarily power taken away from you. Instead, if we acknowledge that we are all interconnected, the more powerful you are, the more powerful I can become. The more powerfully you advance the organization’s purpose, the more opportunities will open up for me to make contributions of my own.

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Morning Star is a collection of naturally dynamic hierarchies. There isn’t one formal hierarchy; there are many informal ones. On any issue some colleagues will have a bigger say than others will, depending on their expertise and willingness to help. These are hierarchies of influence, not position, and they’re built from the bottom up. At Morning Star one accumulates authority by demonstrating expertise, helping peers, and adding value. Stop doing those things, and your influence wanes—as will your pay.

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Empowerment is baked into the very fabric of the organization, into its structure, processes, and practices. Individuals need not fight for power. They simply have it. For people experiencing self-management for the first time, the ride can be bittersweet at first. With freedom comes responsibility: you can no longer throw problems, harsh decisions, or difficult calls up the hierarchy and let your bosses take care of it. You can’t take refuge in blame, apathy, or resentfulness. Everybody needs to grow up and take full responsibility for their thoughts and actions—a steep learning curve for some people.

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Brian Robertson, the founder of Holacracy, put it well in a blog post: We see attempts for leaders to develop to be more conscious, aware, awake, servant leaders that are empowering. … And yet, the irony: … If you need someone else to carefully wield their power and hold their space for you, then you are a victim. This is the irony of empowerment, and yet there is very little else we can do within our conventional operating system other than try our best to be conscious, empowering leaders.

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I’ve always appreciated the Karpman Drama Triangle model of Persecutor, Rescuer, Victim. We see it play out in organizations all the time, where people end up in this Drama Triangle pattern.

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There’s a great story … from Bernard Marie Chiquet, one of our licensees and Holacracy coaches, who talks about his own background with the Savior pattern. How easy it was for him in business to fall into that Savior/Rescuer pattern of trying to rescue others, and how Holacracy helps him shift to be a Coach, and say, “I’m done with rescuing,” because in this environment, there are no victims that need to be rescued anyway.

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Or to be dominated. Precisely in the difficulty of fully being ourselves, Teal Organizations see an opportunity. They create practices for people to support each other in their inner work while doing the outer work of the organization. Every time our fears get triggered is an opportunity to learn and grow into more wholeness, reclaiming aspects of ourselves that we have neglected or pushed into the shadows.

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The premise is maintained that conflict is inevitable, but that hostile behaviors are not:

important to be able to do two things: a) Separate from our own need to be “right” in order to hear and respect others’ realities and perspectives: and, b) Differentiate between thoughts (what’s going on inside your head) and behaviors (what you do or say).

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“Intervisie,” the process used at Buurtzorg, follows a strict format and ground rules to prevent the group from administering the all-too-common medicine of advice, admonitions, or reassurance. During most of the process, team members can ask only open-ended questions; they become fellow travelers into the mystery of the issue the person

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to recover the power of storytelling, as author Parker Palmer tells us: The more you know about another person’s journey, the less possible it is to distrust or dislike that person. Want to know how to build relational trust? Learn more about each other. Learn it through simple questions that can be tucked into the doing of work, creating workplaces that not only employ people but honor the soul in the process. This is how to weave a fabric of communal relationships that has resilience in times of crisis, resourcefulness in times of need. It’s a fabric that must be woven before the need or the crisis arrives, when it’s too late for community to emerge in the stress of the moment. So let’s make sure, in our language and in our practice, that we’re building collegial communities around persons as well as tasks, around souls as well as roles.

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Ozvision, a 40-person Japanese Internet company that has experimented a good deal with innovative management approaches, has two interesting practices involving storytelling. Every morning, people get together in their teams for a quick meeting called “good or new,” a sort of check-in for the day. Within each team, a doll is passed around, like a talking stick, and whoever has the doll can share either something new (news from something they are working on, noteworthy news they might have read in the paper when commuting, or news from their private lives) or something good, simply some moving story they want their colleagues to know about, work-related or not. It’s

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Whenever the person feels that ground rules are not being respected, or that the meeting is serving egos more than purpose, she can make the cymbals sing. The rule is that no one can speak until the last sound of the cymbal has died out—which takes a surprisingly long time. During the silence, participants are to reflect on the question: “Am I in service to the topic we are discussing and to the organization

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This is also one of the hard things about Holacracy. My experience is: people love Holacracy when it prevents somebody else’s stuff, their ego, their frustrations, their fear, from jumping in and dominating the organization, from derailing the natural process of working together towards a purpose. Everyone loves Holacracy when it stops that process for someone else and hates it when it does it to them (Robertson laughs), and this is certainly my experience of living in it. … It holds up a mirror to me and shines a light on my own attachments, to my own stuff.

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At Sounds True, all colleagues have the opportunity to learn a simple three-step process for difficult conversation: Step 1: Here is how I feel. Step 2: Here is what I need. Step 3: What do you need?

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To make matters even simpler, several companies researched for this book have decided on a budget at the individual or team level to be used for outside training, no advice process needed. At Buurtzorg, for instance, a principle emerged that teams could spend three percent of revenue on training without needing to consult. They freely decide on their own training needs and look for the best provider—a medical supplier, a hospital department, or sometimes simply a pharmacist or another Buurtzorg team

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In self-managing organizations, the first category disappears; there are no training

programs to help people climb the career ladder. Instead, Teal 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 and culture.

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It doesn’t need to be complicated. The Center for Courage & Renewal, with its 10-person staff, only recently introduced yearly performance discussions. It 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 exploration: Lauds: What has gone really well this year that we might celebrate? Learning: What has been learned in the process? What 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 might be? Looking forward: What are you most excited about in this next year? What concerns you most?

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What changes, if any, would you suggest in your functions? What ongoing professional development will help you to grow in your current job and for your future? How can I be of most help to you and your work? Setting goals: When you think about your work in the year ahead, what specific goals will guide you?

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At a recent company retreat, the team presented its concept to all of its colleagues. Now time will tell if this concept catches on, if other teams feel called to create boarding houses. Here is what makes Buurtzorg’s approach to this potential extension of its purpose fascinating: there is no one at Buurtzorg, not even Jos de Blok, the founder, who makes the call in the name of the company to say, “Yes, this fits Buurtzorg’s purpose, so we will create dozens of boarding houses and here is the budget we will allocate,” or “No, this is not within the scope of Buurtzorg. Let’s not pursue this.” The idea of boarding houses will run its own course. If it is meant to be, if it has enough life force, it will attract nurses to make it happen and carry Buurtzorg into a new dimension of care. Otherwise, it will remain a small-scale experiment.

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The company “reads the signs” for internal issues as well. … One exercise that Tami finds useful for tapping into inspiration is a visualization exercise. She describes the process: “You visualize yourself going into the center of the Earth to tap into fresh waters and bring them to the surface. It’s weird; totally new ideas just emerge. The visualization calms down the chatty mind and creates the space for vision to come forward.”

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Meditative practices and guided visualization tap into non-ordinary states of consciousness to bring to light insights that might not be available to the conscious mind in an ordinary waking state. For many employees, even of Teal Organizations, tapping into non-ordinary states of consciousness can feel like stretching the boundaries, and I’ve encountered few such practices during the research for this book. And yet, as people operating from Evolutionary-Teal in general become quite comfortable with and interested in transrational ways of knowing, I believe it’s a reasonable assumption that such techniques might one day find their way into organizational settings

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manage our companies today. It would look something like this: we’d have our big committee meeting, where we all plan how to best steer the bicycle. We’d fearfully look at the road up ahead, trying to predict exactly where the bicycle is going to be when. … We’d make our plans, we’d have our project managers, we’d have our Gantt charts, we’d put in place our controls to make sure this all goes according to plan. Then we get on the bicycle, we close our eyes, we hold the handle bar rigidly at the angle we calculated up front and we try to steer according to plan. And if the bicycle falls over somewhere along the way … well, first: who is to blame? Let’s find them, fire them, get them out of here. And then: we know what to do differently next time. We obviously missed something. We need more upfront prediction. We need more controls to make sure things go according to plan. … Our underlying management paradigm today is based on trying to predict and control.

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The traditional practice in organizations, says FAVI, is to look five years ahead and make plans for the next year. FAVI believes we should think like farmers: look 20 years ahead, and plan only for the next day. One must look far out to decide which fruit trees to plant or which crops to grow. But it makes no sense to plan at the beginning of the year the precise date for harvest. As hard as we try, we cannot control the weather, the crops, the soil; they all have a life of their own beyond our control. A farmer who would stick rigidly to plan, instead of sensing and adjusting to reality, would quickly grow hungry.

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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.

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In self-managing organizations, people can choose to set themselves targets when they find it useful—rather like a hobby runner who spurs herself on by extending her goals. At FAVI, operators set themselves target times to machine their pieces, and they monitor their performance against that target. Colleagues at Morning Star set themselves targets for their part of the process, to stimulate continuous improvement.

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Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers put it well: [In] an emergent world … we can no longer stand at the end of something we visualize in detail and plan backwards from that future. Instead we must stand at the beginning, clear in our intent, with a willingness to be involved in discovery. The world asks that we focus less on how we can coerce something to make it conform to our designs and focus more on how we can engage with one another, how we can enter into the experience and then notice what comes forth. It asks that we participate more than plan.

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Relationships and conflict It’s impossible to change other people. We can only change ourselves. We take ownership for our thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions. We don’t spread rumors. We don’t talk behind someone’s back. We resolve disagreements one-on-one and don’t drag other people into the problem. We don’t blame problems on others. When we feel like blaming, we take it as an invitation to reflect on how we might be part of the problem (and the solution).

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Teal operating principles run deeply against the grain of accepted management thinking, and so a critical role of the founder/CEO is to hold the space for Teal structures and practices. Whenever a problem comes up, someone, somewhere, will call for tried-and-proven solutions: let’s add a rule, a control system; let’s put the issue under some centralized function; let’s add a layer of supervision; let’s make processes more prescriptive; let’s make such decisions at a higher level in the future. The calls can come from different corners—one time it’s a board member who will call for more control, another time a colleague, a supplier, or a client. Over and over again, the CEO must ensure that trust prevails and that traditional management practices don’t creep in through the back door.

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If you choose the latter, there are three practices you should consider from day one: The advice process: From the start, make sure that all members of the organization can make any decision, as long as they consult with the people affected and the people who have expertise on the matter. If a new hire comes to you to approve a decision, refuse to give him the assent he is looking for. Make it clear that nobody, not even the founder, “approves” a decision in a self-managing organization. That said, if you are meaningfully affected by the decision or if you have expertise on the matter, you can of course share your advice. A conflict resolution mechanism: When there is disagreement between two colleagues, they are likely to send it up to you if you are the founder or CEO. Resist the temptation to settle the matter for them. Instead, it’s time to formulate a conflict resolution mechanism that will help them work their way through the conflict. (You might be involved later on if they can’t sort the issue out one-on-one and if they choose you as a mediator or panel member.)

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What is the ideal experience for new hires in their first hours, days, and weeks at work? What foundational training should everybody that works in the organization experience? Self-management, deep listening, dealing constructively with conflict, creating a safe environment, some frontline skills … ?

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People who cannot adjust to the responsibility that comes with the freedom of self-management often choose to leave for a traditional, hierarchical employer.

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People will follow you as a leader only when word gets around that you are somehow different, that you truly care, and that they can trust you even when you are about to do the craziest thing: to relinquish your own power.

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Without further ado, people are asked to group into pairs and interview each other with the following questions: Remember a time where you felt you could really be yourself at work, where you didn’t need to act or look the part in any way. Tell me about it. How did you feel at the time? At that time, did you sense a difference in your relationships with your colleagues (and possibly with your clients, your wife or husband, your children)? What was the atmosphere like? Did being fully yourself change anything about your work? Did you feel more productive, more innovative, more …? Tell me about it. Can you think back and try to remember what conditions were in place that helped you to be fully yourself at work?

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When people are finished interviewing each other in pairs, they are asked to share the punch line of their story briefly again, this time with the group of eight people sitting around their table. When they are done, a microphone gets handed around the room and volunteers can raise their hand to share their story with the whole room. In just two hours, every colleague has heard many personal accounts of what wholeness can mean in the workplace—first from themselves and their interview partner, then from the six other people at the table of eight, and finally from a few stories within the group at large. Coming into the room in the morning, many colleagues were wondering what this topic of wholeness was about. Through collective storytelling, the topic has now become

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What promise do they feel ready to commit to in front of their entire group of colleagues?

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The ideology of leadership and management that underpins large-scale human organizations today is as limiting to organizational success as the ideology of feudalism was limiting to economic success in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Gary Hamel

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This was confirmed to me in my discussion with founders and CEOs of the pioneer companies researched for this book: they didn’t experiment with new management methods in the hopes of reaping more success. The driving force to invent a new organizational model stemmed from an inner imperative to make a difference, to work in an environment they liked, to act in accordance with their worldview.

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The traditional way of running organizations simply doesn’t make sense to them; it infringes on their values and their own deeply held assumptions about the purpose of work and how people can relate to each other. Making money for themselves or the organization was never the key motivator.

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Increasingly, people accept the once controversial notion that the future calls for a society with no economic growth. A planet with limited resources cannot host unlimited growth (Kenneth Boulding, the economist, mystic, and peace activist, once quipped, “Anybody who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist”).

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Zero economic growth does not mean no growth. The tragedy of our times is that we’ve mistaken prosperity with growth. Teal societies might have zero or even negative GDP growth but be much richer emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. In all these domains, we can pursue growth and never worry about hitting a wall.

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Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff: “Systems often hold longer than we think, but they end up by collapsing much faster than we imagine.”

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Personal development at this stage blends with a spiritual quest—often through a disciplined daily practice of meditation, yoga, altered breathing techniques, or other methods that help to access non-ordinary states of consciousness—to experience, beyond separateness, beyond time and space, the oneness with all of manifestation.

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Sometimes, through meditative practices, or sheer luck, they have a peak experience beyond even the big self; they merge and become one with the absolute, with nature, with God.

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