Teal is the New Agile

Ron Quartel
Sep 20, 2019 · 6 min read

There is a buzz in the air. I remember this same feeling in the early days of Agile. That was back when there was only one book — the “white book” (Extreme Programming Explained) and small pockets of devotees devouring every word and looking for more. I feel a similar buzz again — about the Teal movement.

I see the Teal movement as standing on the shoulders of Agile. I would venture to say that Agile got us to green. Well yay, but now it’s time to ride this momentum to get to Teal (and from there to Turquoise).

What the heck am I talking about? Teal, Green, Turquoise? Yeah — that is part of the challenge in this next phase. What is it? We do we call it? Read on.

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Acknowledgments to Michael Sahota — https://agilitrix.com/2015/02/culture-change-reinventing-organizations/

Teal is a color. Why call a movement Teal?

Book Cover — Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
Book Cover — Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
Reinventing Organizations

The Teal/Next Phase/Future of Work/Human Movement/Self-Management/Reinventing Work movement is kind of in that pre-manifesto phase that Agile was before the 17 got together in a ski lodge in 2001. Just as there was in Agile, in this new movement, there are different approaches/authors/patterns all sprouting from the same hub. Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations seems to be the one that has gathered a lot of the early attention and why you may hear the Teal word used a lot. I found the ideas in the book inspiring (even though the book itself was a tough read). I have friends that are put off by the Teal label. If you too are in that boat, my advice is don’t let that hold you back from a movement that is coming with or without this title.

The movement has been building for years and is now gaining traction.
Some of the early harbingers:
· Harrison Owen — Interactive Organizations
· Frederic Laloux — Self Managing Organizations
· Dee Hock — The Chaordic Organization
· Margaret Wheatley — Order Without Control
· Ricardo Semler — Workplace Democracy
· Peter Drucker — Knowledge Work and self-management
· Sociocracy — Dynamic Governance

Some Newer Additions adding momentum to the movement:
· David Marquet — Leader / Leader empowerment
· Stanley A. McChrystal — Team of Teams and dealing with complexity
· Woody Zuill — Mob Programming
· Niels Pflaeging — Decentralized Control and Complex Adaptive Systems
· Daniel Pink — Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
· Open Allocation
· Lean startup
· Gore — Networked Organizations and scaling with Dunbar’s Number
· Michelle Holliday — Thrivability

Agile for Free

Poster for the movie Office Space. Work Sucks
Poster for the movie Office Space. Work Sucks

I describe myself as a recovering Agile Coach. Once I realized that agile doesn’t work in incompatible environments, I stopped banging my head against that wall. Incompatible environment examples include one or more of Taylorist, toxic, bureaucratic, heavy command and control, and “Office Space” environments. Which is why my focus has changed from agile to the larger issue of the very way we work. If we can transform the way we work, I believe you can get to agile so effortlessly that it will feel like it comes for free.

The World has Changed, but the way we Organize People and Work Hasn’t

Road sign of VUCA — Volatility, Uncertaintly, Complexity, Ambiguity
Road sign of VUCA — Volatility, Uncertaintly, Complexity, Ambiguity
VUCA = Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

Is Your a VUCA Ready Org or a Legacy Org?

This is because the rate of change in the world is increasing and the operating and governance models of most institutions are not set up to be able to react and adapt fast enough to avoid their own extinction. Adaptability, responsiveness, and innovation are what is required to survive in our VUCA world. The US military has even come around to discover that unless they can be adaptable, they will fail. Read Team of Teams and Turn the Ship Around for some examples from the military.

Healing the Planet — via the Workplace

Book Cover — The Age of Thrivability by Michelle Holiday
Book Cover — The Age of Thrivability by Michelle Holiday
The Age of Thrivability by Michelle Holiday

I see this new workplace movement as part of an even larger movement, that of healing our planet. Increasing civility, healing our societies, healing our physical and mental health, healing our environment. Our workplace becomes a macrocosm for life. By bringing purpose and human values into our work, we have tools to take with us out into our communities and society. Skills of effective communication, collaboration, self-organization, self-management, inclusion, servant leadership, safety, diversity, conflict management, liberating structures, listening, invitation, etc. is a toolkit for a wholesome way of being in the planet, and not just at work.

Fluid Scaling Technology (FAST)- A Teal Framework

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A shameless plug for my innovation/experiment for incorporating these ideas into a super lightweight framework. I was growing disheartened by what was going on in the Agile Scaling World. Nothing was sitting right. It felt too command and control. In June 2014, I was sitting in an Open Space Conference and had a eureka moment — wow — self-organization at scale! Why aren’t we using Open Space Technology (a liberating structure) as a way to scale agile? That seed of an idea grew into an experiment and a framework I call Fluid Scaling Technology (or FAST). While I had set out to create a different kind of agile scaling model, it in effect became more of a culture change model and teal framework. It inadvertently combines Team of Teams, Dynamic Reteaming, simple rules, team self-selection, micro iterations, autonomy and networks over static teams. I consider it my contribution to this new movement. So saying, I care more about the movement itself than the framework. If you like it — yay. If you don’t but are still part of the movement — yay!

My Life’s Purpose

I’m looking forward to finding my people and building this into a community and movement. I hope that you, the reader, join us. Let’s fix our workplaces and our planet.

Corporate Rebels — Eight Trends
Corporate Rebels — Eight Trends
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