Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations

A seminal work on new forms of organization, based on decentralization and integral approaches to management. Reinventing Organizations begins with a lengthy section on the historical development of organizations centered around Ken Wilber’s AQAL map. If you are already familiar with it, skip the section and refresh your memory with this graphic instead. For those not, it might be best to start with Wilber himself – otherwise, the many references to “Orange” and “Green” organizations and the like will most likely make no sense.

Laloux then leads you through the cornerstones of “teal” organizations. These elements include self-management, emergent structures, and striving for wholeness, allowing a company to express its “evolutionary purpose” – teal-speak for the meaningful work an organization offers. What follows are several examples of these in practice: One, for example, is the Center for Courage & Renewal, which has dropped formal appraisal processes and instead offers a discussion around “lauds – learnings – looking forward”.

Other companies from Laloux’s study share other commonalities: For example, motivation and incentives become pointless in such organizations and none of them use personal incentive systems. Most of the companies studied have done away with “growth” targets, as these too are senseless when pursuing evolutionary purpose – a company has no competition in its own drive to manifest itself. Finally, and most interestingly for schools, employee attitude is rated more highly than knowledge and skills; these companies are on the lookout for bad hires — employees who complain, blame, and buck responsibility.

Read this if you want a very thought-provoking read with several real-life examples to show how the theory works in practice. The book also points out that teal is not for everyone – in such organizations, a heavy emphasis is placed on establishing a common culture for operations, collaboration, and feedback. The mission precedes but also enhances the margin, as echoed in the words of Viktor Frankl quoted in the book: “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as an unintended side-effect.”