Frederic Laloux is a former management consultant who tired of working with the “soul-less” corporate world. He is convinced that people want something else from a workplace besides a job.
They want to be part of an organization that matters and is doing something useful in the world. They want to be treated like full-fledged, competent adults, who do not need mommies and daddies supervising their work.
He studied Morning Star and other organizations that have moved toward staff self-management, and compared them to organizations that have not, or that use some elements of self-management.
This video about Frederic Laloux’s ideas provides a useful explanation of the evolution of his five management models as they move from the most authoritarian to the most self-managing, the latter being represented by the color “teal.”
What is particularly helpful about this explanation is the clarification that old and new management models can co-exist and serve organizations at different stages of development, with varied needs, and when challenges arise. Teal is the newest management culture to evolve and is potentially the most satisfying and productive approach for human society.
The traditional corporate management culture makes negative assumptions about their employees’ attitudes and behavior.
- Employees are lazy and must be watched closely.
- Employees do what it takes to make as much money as possible.
- Employees put their own interest ahead of what is best for the organization, so they cannot be trusted.
- Employees are not capable of understanding important matters that affect the economic performance of the company; therefore, we don’t involve employees in decision-making and don’t share company information with them.
- Employees do not want to be responsible for their actions or for decisions that affect the performance of the organization; therefore, we install parent-like bosses to tell them what to do and make these decisions for them.
The basic assumptions of self-managing organizations—such as those expressed by the city of Elmira, New York— stand in stark contrast to traditional assumptions.
- Employees are creative, thoughtful, trustworthy adults.
- Employees are accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions.
- Employees are fallible and make mistakes.
- Employees are unique.
- Employees want to use their talent and skills to make a positive contribution to the organization and to the world.
Self-management is “based on peer relationships” in organizations that are “seen as living systems,” where people can “reclaim wholeness” and “bring all of who they are to work.” The self-managing organization relies on trust rather than control, offers roles not jobs, recognizes and tames egos, and as a collective body, develops a life and direction of its own.
A common misperception is that self-managing companies rely on reaching consensus for decisions and don’t have leaders. No, they don’t rely on reaching consensus, which can get mired in endless discussion and dilutes responsibility. Rather, they rely on a peer advice process.
Morningstar’s Colleague Principles give a good idea of what peer advice might look like, even in the most challenging situations. Ultimately, a decision might require that the CEO get involved, but usually the self-management process resolves issues without the company’s official leaders.