Reinventing organizations, reinventing ourselves…

October 31st, 2017

My last missive, “Congratulations… and condolences”, left me wondering if I’d ever have the energy to do anything of any major importance again. Like picking up the paper or doing the dishes. Seriously, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was heading for early retirement out of sheer exhaustion.

I LOVE my work, so retirement was always something that other people do, but not me. Yet nine months into this year I found myself so consumed with the business of prepping, selling, moving and unpacking that I have had little time for much else other than my favorite NFP, Common Roots, where I’ve kept my fingers very much on the pulse of organizational change, growth and opportunity. This post isn’t about that worthy cause but please do check them out at when you have a chance.

This piece is prompted by what I read in last week’s NYT’s; an Op Ed by David Brooks entitled “When Life Asks for Everything”. Brooks writes about two models of human development – The Four Kinds of Happiness (FKoH) and Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. He concludes that the FKoH trump Maslow in one fundamental way – “meaning and purpose and mission” (the highest point of the FKoH) far surpass Maslow’s highest point, self-actualization (experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self). Brooks refers to Maslow’s self-actualization as “self-absorption”.

Sorry David. I think that how we’re evolving (hopefully) is more a combination of the two models, not one over the other. My new favorite OD (organizational development) text, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, offers a very similar hypothesis. What I particularly like about this text, by Frederic Laloux, is that he researches and documents a dozen organizations that have put this theory into practice, and quite successfully I might add.

One good example of how both models come together to move us forward evolutionarily can be found when we look at the difference between what Laloux calls Green organizations (think Ben & Jerry’s and Southwest Airlines) and Teal organizations (such as the more fully evolved Patagonia and Sounds True). Green organizations have raised the issue of treating employees more respectfully, even looking at ways to help employees and their teams have more autonomy over their work. At least in theory… according to their websites’ mission statement. Teal organizations go one step further in supporting the core value of ‘empowerment’ by changing how job roles are both defined and managed. Not only are these Teal organizations doing away with job descriptions and titles, they are providing the mechanisms and systems that allow individuals and their teams to fully manage themselves – truly self-managing teams. No mid-level managers. No hierarchical bosses. Green sets the stage, Teal takes it a giant leap forward. Here’s how Laloux lays it out.

“Wisdom traditions from around the world speak to this from a deeper level: at heart, we are all profoundly interconnected and part of a whole, but it’s a truth we have forgotten. We are born into separation and raised to feel divided from our deeper nature, as well as from the people and life around us. Our deepest calling in life, these traditions tell us, is to reclaim wholeness, within ourselves and in our connection with the outside world.

This spiritual insight inspires Teal Organizations’ second breakthrough: to create a space that supports us in our journey to wholeness. Extraordinary things begin to happen when we dare to bring all of who we are to work. Every time we leave a part of us behind, we cut ourselves off from part of our potential, of our creativity and energy. No wonder many workplaces feel somehow lifeless. In wholeness we are life-full. We discover in awe how much more life there is in us than we ever imagined. In our relationships with colleagues, much of what made the workplace unpleasant and inefficient vanishes; work becomes a vehicle where we help each other reveal our inner greatness and manifest our calling.

Self-management goes a long way toward helping us show up more fully. With no scarce promotions to fight for, no bosses to please, and no adversaries to elbow aside, much of the political poison is drained out of organizations. There is a phrase I heard many times in the self-managing organizations I researched: here I feel I can fully be myself. Without a boss looking over our shoulder, without employees to keep in line and peers that could turn into competitors, we can finally let our guard down and simply focus on the work we want to do.

I’m left embracing the notion that it is up to each of us to determine how committed we are to living our right livelihood (or at least my interpretation of this Buddhist step along the eight-fold path) that ultimately makes the difference. Traditional Western models of office hierarchy and politics often dictate the closing of our minds and hearts to what is most important to us. Bringing collective consciousness to our lives requires us to open our minds and hearts and reinvent ourselves on an almost daily basis.

I am dedicated to reinventing myself so that I may more fully support individuals, teams and organizations that are committed to this practice of wholeness in the workplace. Not as white-wash, to pretty-up the mission/vision statements, but in the veritable commitment to and implementation of putting Teal systems in place so we can trust one another to get the job done. Collaboratively. Respectfully. With openness. With joy.

Hope to hear from you and your thoughts around reinvention.

Take good care,