What is a Teal Organisation? | The next step in organisational evolution
You may keep stumbling on the phrase “teal organisation” or “teal company”, and wondering what people are talking about – or you may be at that very exciting part of a journey where you’ve discovered teal and want to learn more. Either way, I hope my deep dive into all things Teal will give you the clarification and information you need.
The concept of Teal organisations was pioneered by Belgian researcher and consultant Frédéric Laloux in his book “Reinventing Organisations.” If you haven’t read it yet, this is your place to start as it’s the birthplace of Teal.
In his book Laloux put forward that organisations evolve through a colour-coded spectrum: Red, Amber, Orange, Green, and finally, Teal. Each colour represents a stage of consciousness and complexity. Teal is depicted as the pinnacle of this evolutionary chain, characterised by self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose.
In the ever-changing landscape of business models and organisational structures, the term “Teal organisation” has risen to prominence as a revolutionary concept. A Teal organisation represents a holistic approach that combines aspects of strategy, culture, and governance into an integrated whole, challenging traditional business hierarchies and bureaucratic practices. It is by no means a ‘business-as-usual” approach.
Core Principles of Teal Organisations
As stated earlier, a Teal Organisation is characterised by three core principles; self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose. Each of these are live and present, and constantly evolving in Teal Organisations. Here’s what these principles mean in more detail;
In a Teal organisation, the traditional hierarchical pyramid is replaced by a flat or network structure based on trust, collaboration, and empowerment. Employees are treated as responsible adults capable of making decisions without the need for managerial oversight. This does away with bureaucratic bottlenecks and enables faster, more efficient problem-solving.
Teal organisations emphasise the importance of bringing one’s complete self to work. The workplace is seen not just as a space for professional interaction but as a community where individuals can express their full range of emotions and talents. By acknowledging the multifaceted nature of human beings, Teal organisations foster a culture of acceptance, creativity, and well-being.
Rather than being strictly profit-driven, Teal organisations are guided by an evolutionary purpose that transcends the bottom line. This sense of purpose is not dictated from the top but emerges organically from the collective intelligence of the organisation’s members. It serves as a north star, guiding decision-making and inspiring a level of commitment that is rare in traditional business settings.
Examples of Teal Organisations
Teal can feel like a utopian ideal – something completely beyond our reach from our known way of working. But there are hundreds of companies all over the world who are working in this way.
The beauty of Teal is that it’s been embraced by all types of organisations and industries. From those in healthcare, to those in retail and manufacturing. The concepts of Teal are not bound to a particular type of organisation.
Many of these companies have now been living in a Teal workplace for well over a decade now, which just goes to show that Teal isn’t just a new management trend, but a real and sustainable way of operating a business and working together.
The Benefits of Teal
I could create an entire article just on the benefits of Teal, but here’s a snapshot of five areas that I feel make the Teal way of working beneficial to both organisations and people.
1. Adaptability: In a rapidly changing business environment, the flexibility afforded by self-management is invaluable. Teal organisations can pivot quickly in response to challenges and opportunities. There were many cases of this during covid-19, where Teal companies were more adaptable to the pandemic than traditional organisations.
2. Employee Satisfaction: The intrinsic motivation that comes from working in a purpose-driven, community-oriented environment significantly boosts employee satisfaction and retention. No longer are people being coerced by managers demands. Instead people feel their own sense of motivation and drive that isn’t influenced by carrots or sticks.
3. Innovation: A culture that values wholeness and diversity of thought is fertile ground for innovation. Without the constraints of a hierarchical structure, creative ideas can flow freely. Innovation thrives as problem-solving becomes second nature to self-managing teams.
4. Wellbeing: With high psychological safety, an emphasis on being accepted as yourself, and being able to contribute all of your skills and talents to a goal – personal wellbeing is a byproduct of Teal organisations. Many of the stresses people have at work are from the constraints and frustrations imposed onto them from a strict hierarchy.
5: Personal-development: Both hard and essential skills flourish in an environment where there is a learning culture. Individuals who experience self-management increase their ability for empathetic leadership, collaboration and self-motivation. Teal organisations are a space that creates constant learning opportunities far beyond the traditional management manual.
Challenges and considerations of Teal
Transitioning to a Teal organisation is not without its hurdles. It requires a radical shift in mindset at every level, and not all employees or stakeholders will be immediately on board. Furthermore, it necessitates transparent communication channels and robust conflict-resolution mechanisms to function effectively. However, the rewards—both tangible and intangible—often justify the effort involved in making the transition.
Here I’ve listed some of the most common challenges and struggles.
1.Ego: Teal requires leaders to step back and make space for teams to step in. This can be hard for those who are overly attached to their titles, and therefore feel that a part of their identity is being taken away from them.
2.Maturity: Individuals maturity in their own mindset may impede the adoption of Teal. Some people act like children both at work and at home. They are few and far between, but it’s important to realise that some simply won’t want to work in this way.
3. Abdication: Stepping back too much and providing teams with no support is how Teal is often interpreted. This can see leaders ‘abdicate’ and put all decisions on teams with little to no support or guidance. Leaders still exist within Teal, it’s just a different type of leadership that is required.
5. Structureless: While there are little to no formal hierarchies in Teal organisations it does still require structures and practices to keep everyone aligned and safe. There are still control mechanisms to protect people and company, but they are not the rigid policies and procedures we have come to know of in our traditional business setting.
4. Installing: Teal is not something you implement or install. Teal is very much a mindset and evolution and requires businesses to consider why they wish to adapt to this way of working.
How I Discovered Teal
There are few books that I can say have changed my life – but hand on my heart I can safely say that Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux changed everything. It changed how I thought, it changed how I work, and it brought into my life people and friendships I will cherish forever.
I read Reinventing Organisations in 2017, three years after its publication in 2014. It reframed so much of my thinking on work, and it felt like I had just encountered a revelation. I often describe reading the book like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment – suddenly the veil had been lifted and I saw the reality of what work was, but what it also can be.
Since emerging myself into all things Teal and self-management, I also regularly attend Teal Around the World Conference. A true celebration of all things Teal, and an opportunity to hear from the companies pioneering this way of working within their own teams and organisations.
How I Use Teal as a Coach
Being an ambassador for Teal organisations, I have dedicated much of my own personal development to training and learning about this way of working, so I can safely say that Teal is now very much a part of my toolkit, but also my philosophy.
Even if a client isn’t going ‘full’ Teal, the practices and approaches that Teal provides helps to create more democratic and participatory approaches to shaping work and the culture we create.
A small example of this is using Meeting Check-ins for every session that I facilitate. While this might be seen as a ‘Teal’ practice, it helps to kick-off any session in a safe, fun way, that ensures psychological safety is established from the outset. This is something all teams can benefit from.
Where to Start?
If you’ve been inspired by Teal you might be wondering where you start. So let’s hone in on a place you can begin.
Firstly, you have to honour the wise words of Frederic Laloux when he said, “Teal is not a fantasy. But it doesn’t just happen. You have to start with an intention to do something different. And stick with it.”
It may feel counterintuitive when you just want to take action. But knowing your intention for starting this journey is vital. So before you take action, first of all use the below coaching questions to ask yourself and your team why you want to go on this journey in the first place;
What makes you want to adopt Teal?
What calls to you the most about this way of working?
What do you feel Teal will help solve for you?
How far are we ready to go right now?
If you would like to dip your toe into Teal and play with some ideas before you formally begin a transformation, I host and facilitate a Teal Retreat for companies who want to start their exploration. It’s an ideal way to fully immerse your team in Teal, and gain a stronger feeling of how Teal works in practice. Contact me today to find out more.
The Teal organisation is more than just a business model; it’s a philosophical approach to work and life. Rooted in the principles of self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose, it offers a transformative vision of what organisations can aspire to be. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, the Teal model serves as an inspiring blueprint for a more humane, responsive, and fulfilling way of conducting business.