Lean is Dead. Long Life to Teal Organisations

For a while, all we heard was “Lean” everywhere. It happened first in manufacturing, then came everything else… but there’s only so many times you can use a word before it becomes trash.

Lean is a methodology which involves the customer at an early stage. And instead of coming back with a finished product after a few months, the client experiences it as it gets developed, eliminating waste and giving them the chance to define new requirements so the cycle can start again. That’s it.

And while this is perfectly valid and absolutely logic, I do not even begin to understand why there’s so much content on Lean, versus Teal Organisations. Had this something to do with the eternal customer-centric vs staff-centric focus?

Teal is a term made popular in 2014, within the book “Reinventing Organisations” by Frederic Laloux. Based on “Spiral Dynamics”, another book from 1996, the author presents how human consciousness evolved by stages through history. These stages are given a colour, each colour representing a stage of development in the culture fit which influenced societal organisations.

Laloux uses Red for the very beginning, the basic tribes with one clear leader who reigns by terror. Much like a pack of wolfs or the Italian Mobsters of the 50’s. Extremely efficient but limited in the number of members a group can hold before the leader loses control. Amber describes a group a bit more hierarchical, so they can rule more people, middle management is born here. Strict laws and ranks are created, innovation is not encouraged. Examples of this are the Catholic Church, an army or the Roman Senate. Anyone reports to someone who reports to someone who responds to the leader.

And this way, the author touches orange and green, until he describes what he considers the new state of human consciousness. Colour code: Teal.

The Teal paradigm emphasizes the identity and purpose of the organization as a separate entity, and not merely a vehicle to achieve C-Level objectives. Teal organizations refer to themselves as living organisms or living systems.

They focus on its members’ abilities to self-organise and self-manage to achieve the purpose of the organisation. The hierarchical “plan and control” mindset, which rules marketing plans as well as operations, is replaced with a sensitive set of sensors: It’s employees.

The Teal organisational structure is fluid, changing and adapting, as circumstances demand to achieve the organisation’s purpose. Based on their own skills, employees don’t fit one fixed job description, but hold different roles within different parts of the organisation.

Of course to achieve that new level of consciousness, a new kind of employee is born, or as we should say, the employee paradigm is broken.

Revolutionary? Sure. Impossible? Maybe. Efficient? Still to be seen. And yet, many like me, believe it’s possible. What’s true is that the model we actually have is dated, painful and obsolete. Would it hurt so much trying something else?

Thanks for reading,

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