Organizations are moving forward along an evolutionary spectrum, toward self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose.
Many people sense that the way organizations are run today has been stretched to its limits. Behind a facade of success, many top leaders are tired of the power games and infighting; despite their desperately overloaded schedules, they feel a vague sense of emptiness. All of us yearn for better ways to work together — for more soulful workplaces where our talents are nurtured and our deepest aspirations are honored.
Anthropological research suggests that this is a natural next step in a process that began more than 100,000 years ago. Could the current organizational disillusionment be a sign that civilization is outgrowing the current model and getting ready for the next?
Today, in small but increasing numbers, leaders are growing into the next stage of consciousness. They are mindful, taming the needs and impulses of their ego. They are suspicious of their own desires — to control their environment, to be successful, to look good, or even to accomplish good works. Rejecting fear, they listen to the wisdom of other, deeper parts of themselves. They develop an ethic of mutual trust and assumed abundance. They ground their decision making in an inner measure of integrity. They are ready for the next organizational paradigm. . It seems that a coherent new organizational model is emerging; Teal.
The new model comes with a number of important breakthroughs:
- Self-management.Teal organizations operate effectively, even at a large scale, with a system based on peer relationships. They set up structures and practices in which people have high autonomy in their domain, and are accountable for coordinating with others. Power and control are deeply embedded throughout the organizations, no longer tied to the specific positions of a few top leaders.
- Wholeness.Teal organizations invite people to reclaim their inner wholeness. They create an environment wherein people feel free to fully express themselves, bringing unprecedented levels of energy, passion, and creativity to work.
- Evolutionary purpose.Teal organizations base their strategies on what they sense the world is asking from them. Agile practices that sense and respond replace the machinery of plans, budgets, targets, and incentives. Paradoxically, by focusing less on the bottom line and shareholder value, they generate financial results that outpace those of competitors.
One common misconception about self-management is that everyone is equal and decisions are made by consensus, which requires endless meetings. The truth is very different. Self-management requires a whole set of interlocking structures and practices, so that decision rights and power flow to any individual who has the expertise, interest, or willingness to step in to oversee a situation. Fluid, natural hierarchies replace the fixed power hierarchies of the pyramid. This requires explicit training.
Teal organizations start from the premise, resonant with many wisdom traditions that a person’s deepest calling is to achieve wholeness. These organizations engender vibrant workspaces and practices where trust flourishes. People feel they can truly be themselves. Simple management practices foster a sense of personal connection.
Practices based on sensing and responding, combined with self-management, lead to high levels of innovation.
Becoming a Teal Organization
Every stage of organizational evolution is more mature and effective than the previous stage, because of the inherent attitude toward power. How can everyone most powerfully pursue a purpose that transcends us all?
Research suggests that there are two — and only two — necessary conditions for developing a Teal organization.
- Top leadership.The chief executive must have an integrated world view and psychological development consistent with the Teal paradigm. It is helpful if a few close colleagues share this perspective.
- Ownership.Owners of the organization must also understand and embrace Teal world views. Board members who don’t get it, experience shows, can temporarily give a Teal leader free rein.
In the past, with every change in consciousness, more powerful and life-enhancing forms of management have emerged. After the full emergence of the Teal paradigm, we will probably look back and find the organizational forms and practices of the late 20th and early 21st century alienating and unfulfilling. Already, it’s clear that we can create radically more productive, soulful, and purposeful businesses and nonprofits, schools, and hospitals. We are at an inflection point: a moment in history where it’s time to stop trying to fix the old model and instead make the leap to the next one. It will be better suited to the complexity and challenges of our times, and to the yearning in our hearts.
Adapted from an article in Business+Strategy by Frederic Laloux