In the summer of 2014, the HCD Philippine team retreated to Batangas for a team building program where we tried, among other things, to define who we are as an organization and how we want to be viewed by the world at large. The session led to a mash-up of ideas from different people, forming the phrase : “One Awesome Future, Now.”
A follow-up session took place last December 2014. In preparation for the event, HCD chief Beth mAcdonald asked that everyone read a 350+-page book by Frederic Laloux, “Reinventing Organizations”. Not an easy book to digest in one reading, nevertheless a rich, intriguing and mind-opening one. The author posits that many of today’s corporate ills – i.e. bureaucracy, politics, infighting, burnout, work-life imbalance – have been brought about by the growing complexity of organizational life and the acceleration of changing needs that current organizational structures and practices are unable to cope with.
Laloux asserts that if leaders could only change the way they view the world (it won’t be easy), it is possible to create a more soulful, more meaningful way to work together. If leaders are committed enough to make it happen, and trusted enough by employees to gain buy-in, they can shape an organization where everyone has decision-making power, where people can bring all of who they are to work, and feel reassured that their personal purpose dovetails with that of the organization’s.
In his research, Laloux stumbled upon a dozen organizations that operate on these breakthrough principles. He calls them “Teal” organizations – from the color, teal. In these places, the Teal principles are modeled by the top leaders, and embraced and lived by the employees .
Laloux references Ken Wilber’s Integral Spiral Dynamics, which color-codes the different stages of organizational development: Infrared (prehistoric societies), Magenta (families/tribes), Red (authoritarian – the stage when organizations began), Amber (conformist), Green (egalitarian) and Orange (achievement/profit-oriented). Most global corporations today belong in the Orange stage. The Teal stage is evolutionary and only just emerging.
Laloux was pleased to note the diversity of the Teal organizations he found: they are from different geographical areas and span different industries; some have been around for 30 to 40 years, some employ hundreds of people, others several thousand; a few have offices around the world. The good news is that they thrive and succeed even as they operate on Teal principles of self-management, a culture high on trust and low on fear, where people feel safe enough to speak their minds, where purpose guides action, where roles are fluid and decision-making is made holistically. Among these organizations are businesses, nonprofits, schools and hospitals. Here are a few examples:
Buurtzorg: A neighborhood nursing organization founded in 2006. Netherlands.
Purpose: Achieve patient autonomy
Outcomes: Grew from 10 to 7,000 nurses in 7 years, generated surplus funds of about 7% of revenue, outstanding levels of care, patients heal faster, their families are happy
Favi: A family-owned French brass foundry. France, 1957. New CEO, 1983.
Purpose: Provide meaningful work for people in Northeast of France where good work is rare, give and receive love from clients
Outcomes: Only gearbox forks producer in France, competitors have moved to China, 50% market share, workers love the work that they do, outstanding product quality and timely deliveries
Patagonia: Maker of outdoor apparel. USA, since 1957.
Purpose: Be a positive influence on the environment
Outcomes:$540M company employing 1,350, fantastic growth records in spite of decisions not driven by forecasts and financials
In all these organizations, the leader created the environment that has enabled Teal practices, structures and cultures to prosper. An organization’s board of directors plays a decisive role in ensuring that the Teal way endures. They too must shift their worldview and fully embrace and support Teal practices and structures. No Teal organization would survive without the top leadership’s commitment.
At HCD, many Teal principles are already in practice. The physical structure itself is conducive to Teal ways of being. You can be whichever self you feel like being. The office is the Chief’s home: open, airy and welcoming – even to strays. Everywhere are books and curios and works of art – even in the toilet. There’s a baby grand, a guitar, a drum, gongs, sports equipment. And there’s the vegetable garden-cum-sanctuary. All these influence the dynamics of the team in profound ways.
The place invites movement, communication, collaboration, play. And even rest. The kitchen is always abuzz with preparations for meals (often nutritious, always delicious and mindfully created). As in Teal organizations, at HCD there is no organizational chart, no job descriptions. Titles are only for business cards. Roles are fluid and ever-evolving – created and abandoned as quickly as the need of the moment dictates. It’s not perfect, though. Nothing is. Anyway, perfection is the end of evolution.
The book has brought the realization that HCD has been experimenting in Teal ways since the company began seven years ago. And now it seems that everyone’s senses are alive to divining what the organization wants to become. Perhaps “One Awesome Future Now” is what’s brewing. To clients and friends, HCD highly recommends reading Frederic Laloux’s “Reinventing Organizations.” Laloux is a coach, adviser and facilitator to corporations and was once organization and strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company. To those who prefer to watch and listen, please go to: http://youtu.be/QA9J-aKkOAI.