Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux

reinventing organizatoins

Frederic Laloux wrote a book in 2014 after three years of academic research and of companies around the globe. As soon as I started at ARCA and realized what an organization built on Holacracy was trying to be, I wanted to read everything I could about it (more to follow on Holacracy in other posts).

In Reinventing Organizations, Laloux posits that as humans have evolved states of consciousness throughout history, they have developed organizational models to coincide.  This is all based on work by Ken Wilber and his stages and states of consciousness and Integral Theory.  There is more information about the book and its ideas on and you can check on this wiki for even more.

Laloux Model
My take on Laloux’s stages of organizational consciousness

The four final stages of the model are depicted to the left (as we currently observe — there could, of course, be more stages of consciousness for organizations yet to be developed, and Ken Wilber’s stages of consciousness  extend far beyond teal).

The video below explains how Agile is a green manifestation, with a sense of shared values and relationship-driven approach to organization (individuals and interactions over processes and tools).  Laloux spends a great deal of time in the book explaining the elements of teal organizations, practicing an evolutionary level of consciousness.  He we see true self-management, authenticity, and authority dynamics that are very rare in the traditional organizations.

One interesting additional layer that I got from the Agile Coaches Bootcamp earlier this year is that different parts of organizations can operate at different stages of consciousness. For example, product development teams may operate in green with agile principles and values, but other parts of the company may operate in amber.  Here a very formal approach to work (i.e. following regulations and record-keeping) may be a good things — we don’t want emerging practices from financial reporting, for example. In any case, as a coach/leader/change-agent, whatever, you have to work with these teams and individuals and meet them where they are.


The following outline I culled from the book. There are three key elements that Laloux describes in detail for evolutionary (teal) organizations — self-management, wholeness, and purpose.  I hope this useful to understand the critical points.

  • Self-Management
    • Trust
      • We relate to one another with an assumption of positive intent
      • Until we are proven wrong, trusting co-workers is our default means of engagement
      • Freedom and accountability are two sides of the same coin
    • Information and Decision-Making
      • All business information is open to all
      • Every one of us is able to handle difficult and sensitive news
      • We believe in the power of collective intelligence. Nobody is as smart as everybody. Therefore all decisions will be made with the advice process.
    • Responsibility and Accountability
      • WE each have full responsibility for the organization. If we sense that something needs to happen, we have a duty to address it. It’s not acceptable to limit our concern to the remit of our roles.
      • Everyone must be comfortable with holding others accountable to their commitments through feedback and respectful confrontation.
    • Wholeness
      • Equal Worth
        • We are all of fundamental equal worth
        • At the same time, our community will be richest if we let all members contribute in their distinctive way, appreciating the differences in roles, education, backgrounds, interests, skills, characters, points of view, and so on.
      • Safe and Caring Workplace
        • Any situation can be approached from fear and separation, or from love and connection. We choose love and connection. We choose love and connection.
        • We strive to create emotionally and spiritually safe environments, where each of us can behave authentically.
        • We honor the moods of . . . [love, care, recognition, gratitude, curiosity, fun, playfulness . . ..]
        • We are comfortable with vocabulary like care, love, service, purpose, soul, . . .in the workplace.
      • Overcoming Separation
        • We aim to have a workplace where we can honor all parts of us: the cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual; the rational and the intuitive; the feminine and the masculine.
        • We recognize that we are all deeply interconnected, part of a bigger whole that includes nature and all forms of life
      • Learning
        • Every problem is an invitation to learn and grow. We will always be learners. We have never arrived.
        • Failure is always a possibility if we strive boldly for our purpose. We discuss our failures openly and learn from them. Hiding or neglecting to learn from failure is unacceptable.
        • Feedback and respectful confrontation are gifts we share to help one another grow.
        • We focus on strengths more than weaknesses, and opportunities more than problems.
      • Relationships and Conflict
        • Its impossible to change other people. WE can only change ourselves.
        • We take ownership of our thoughts, beliefs, words and actions
        • We don’t spread rumors. WE don’t talk behind someone’s back.
        • WE resolve disagreements one-on-one and don’t drag other people into the problem.
        • We don’t blame problems on others. When we feel like blaming, we take it as an invitation to reflect on how we might be part of the problem (and the solution).
      • Purpose
        • Collective Purpose
          • We view the organization as having a soul and a purpose of its own.
          • We try to listen in to where the organization wants to go and beware of forcing a direction onto it.
        • Individual Purpose
          • We have a duty to ourselves and to the organization to inquire into our personal sense of calling to see if and how it resonates with the organizations purpose
          • We try to imbue our roles with our souls, not our egos
        • Planning the Future
          • Trying to predict and control the future is futile. We make forecasts only when a specific decision requires us to do so.
          • Everything will unfold with more grace if we stop trying to control and instead choose to simply sense and respond.
        • Profit
          • In the long run, there are no trade-offs between purpose and profits. If we focus on purpose, profits will follow.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. It provides and incredibly useful model for thinking about organizations and change.


Until the Next Iteration . . .


share your thoughts?