Finally, I understand why I have always been struggling so much with the large, traditional organizations I have been working at so far. I’m currently reading Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations – and the further on I read, the more clearly it becomes: I have a “teal” mindset, which clashes with all the work environments I previously found myself in.
In his book, Laloux distinguishes various states of human and organizational development, including the following:
- Red: a system based mostly on fear; whoever accumulates the most power, leads the group; mainly suited for hostile environments (e. g. criminal organizations)
- Amber: a system focusing on rigid hierarchies and a clear distinction between hierarchical levels; membership is usually assumed to be for life, and anyone who leaves is met with disbelief (e. g. Catholic church)
- Orange: the merit-based system found in most modern companies; the concept of rigid hierarchies still applies but is more permeable; status and moving up in the ranks is viewed as the ultimate goal (e. g. Coca-Cola and most other large companies)
- Green: a system valuing each human being equally and focusing on consensus and harmony; relationships are considered more important than outcomes; often hierarchical structures are maintained while letting lower-level employees make as many decisions as possible
- Teal: formal hierarchies are eliminated; people work in self-organized teams; decisions can be made by anyone as long as all affected parties are asked for advice or taken into consideration; the target is to let the organization evolve based on people’s and the business’s needs
More information on these developmental stages and specifically on Teal organizations can be found on the Reinventing Organizations wiki page.
The companies I have worked at so far were located mostly between Amber and Orange on this scale. It is not surprising that I often felt out of place in these organizations. The more I dive into the topic of Teal organizations and the concepts of mindfulness and self-organized teams, the clearer it becomes to me: I need to design such an organization myself. I want to create a workplace where people feel safe enough to bring their children or their pets with them, where you don’t sit in cubicles but design your workplace the way you like it, where you bring your entire self to the table instead of leaving it at home when you put on your (visible or invisible) uniform.
I never understood the concept of status or why people are so desperate for traditional career paths. I always thought that achieving something beneficial for the environment or society at large would be preferential over acquiring status symbols like a corner office or a company car. Finally, I realize there is nothing strange about this feeling. Instead, the problem seems to be the fact that I haven’t worked in the “right” kind of organization yet.
These “Teal” organizations seem incredibly difficult to find. I know of the examples given in the book mentioned above. But since the work was published five years ago, surely some new organizations must have adopted the system by now? I keep wondering if there is some kind of network available where like-minded organizations can exchange ideas and lessons learned. Everything I found so far seems to be inactive for at least a couple of years now. If I can’t identify such a platform anytime soon, I might start building one myself at some point.
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