What I learnt: Reinventing Organisations

There is a theory of organisational development. This is not a theory about how a particular organisation develops, but rather a theory of how organisations have evolved through history. Starting with the family, through to the tribe, the city, the state, the church, through to the organisations we see today.

Each stage of evolution is marked by my certain characteristics and has an epitomising metaphor. In the book, each type of organisation is assigned a colour.

Amber (army): Roles and ranks within a hierarchy
Orange (machine): Competition, innovation and performance
Green (family): Values-driven and inclusive
Teal (a living system): Evolutionary purpose, self-management, bring the whole self

In the book about this, Reinventing Organisationsthe author, Frederick Laloux, posits that the current dominant modes of organising ourselves, Orange and Green, have limitations that are impacting our planet, restricting good work being done, and harming the individuals who work there.

A new type of organisation is required, and there are signs it is emerging. From business to hospitals and schools, the author has studied about 12 different organisations that seem to be something quite different to what has come previously and may point to a new paradigm.

There are three main characteristics of these organisations:


1) They have self-managment
The management layers of the organisations have been removed. Teams are self-organising, taking care of many of 'admin' type tasks with only a small amount of these being centralised.

Teams work out how they want to work, and because they have bought into the purpose of the organisation (and help define it), they can sense and respond to make necessary changes.

2) They have an evolutionary purpose.
There is a detachment between those that work in the organisation and the organisation itself. The organisation is seen as a living thing in its own right, one that has a purpose and energy of its own that wants to be expressed in the universe. The role of those who are part of the organisation is to be more like stewards than owners or controllers. They need to constantly ask themselves what is trying to emerge here, and how can they be in service of that?

3) They bring their own self to work.
These organisations see all the aspects that make up a person, and they encourage and want people to bring all of this to work with them. This means that the being together, and the wellbeing of everyone, is at the forefront of all they do. 

I am excited and encourage by this way of thinking. I can see that a new way of being in the world is emerging. Some call this a new consciousness. There are a number of different ways people are partnering with this to help it come into being. Some are doing coaching and facilitation work. Some are doing mindfulness and movement work. Some are creating permaculture farms. Some are writing books.

I see my contribution to this as being to help bring new organisations into being. To work within organisations and with individuals to help them sense what is emerging, and then partner with them to move the organisation closer to a 'Teal' organisation.

I have had attempts at doing this, and have seen some of this in action. My task is to get better at leading with my heart, and putting myself in situations where I can help this to happen.

The full handshake

It is said that you can tell a lot about a person from the way they shake hands. I have to say I agree with this, but not in what is the typically criteria assessment.

I don't judge a person based purely on how firm or insipid their handshake is. For me it is more about how open their hand is - are they able and willing to make full and wholehearted contact with their hand into the hand of another.

One of my managers triggered this chain of thinking within me. Whenever he shook my hand it was as if he formed a dome with his fingers, meaning that only the minimal amount of skin contact was permitted. This summed up my relationship with him as well - there were times when we got close to uncovering something deeper in our relationship, only for him to back down and keep things at a certain distance.

The warmest handshakes I have received usually come from warm and wholehearted people - the type of handshake where I feel my hand being lost and hugged by another hand. Not overpowered, but the feeling of open embrace with nothing to hide.

Correct: I am reading way too much into handshakes. Don't get me started on hugs.