How to design, manage, and run a teal organization

Note: If you are not familiar with the distinction of teal organizations, then I recommend reading Reinventing Organizations as a pre-req for this essay. 

I was recently charged to design a teal organization on the enterprise level. Aside from the core pillars of teal organizations (evolutionary purpose, wholeness, and self-management), in my research, I found there to be dearth of best practices. Teal organizations are like a Peyton Manning offense: built on principles, run on audibles.

In an effort to help others navigating the same path, here is structure and tools I used to design, manage, and run the organization. The key design principle I used here is “design for aesthetics, not experiments”. Meaning, design for the way it should be. This sounds great, but can create discomfort. It requires a clear point of view and a proclivity to repeatedly crack your own ego to let go of things you know. The amalgam of tools and techniques follow the aesthetic we established.

  • V2MOM – the living, breathing purpose. We reflect and renew monthly.
  • Staging Serendipity – set meeting. Time allocated for whatever is most alive for the organization and its purpose. This is a once a week meeting.
  • AHM (ad hoc meetings) – a real option for group or individual work sessions. Meetings are called as needed.
  • Triple A (Awareness, Alignment, Actions) – set meeting to move through priorities and tasks. This is a fast paced meeting, Pomodoro style. We use Kanban boards on Asana to centralize attention. This occurs mid-week.
  • 15Five – end of week cap to recalibrate alignment and engagement. We do this a bit differently since teal organizations don’t use typical OKRs. We tailor the questions as if answering on behalf of our mission/purpose (“The Empty Chair”). This little piece of lateral thinking is a game changer.

Based on this structure, everyone self-manages and we use Voxer to communicate any urgent, important needs. This enterprise works in a flow of in-person and remote nature. I don’t see why this structure wouldn’t scale up or down. The organizations under this enterprise run a mix of amber, orange, and green paradigms. I’ll dig more into this dynamic in other essays down the road when they are in flow.

Undergoing this process made me challenge a lot of my own beliefs, my previous perspectives on management, and catalyzed a “start from scratch” journey that at first, was uncomfortable, but then, exhilarating.

If you’re going down the same road paved in teal, then I hope you find similar exhilaration in your process.