In my mind, Chapter 2.7 is one of the most important chapters in Laloux’s book. Here he addresses how organizational culture makes or breaks organizations. He defines organizational culture as “the assumptions, norms, and concerns shared by the people of an organization”; and also as: “. . . how things get done, without people having to think about it”; and he states that culture should not be dismissed as “soft” stuff, as is done in the Achievement/ Orange machine paradigm. It is pointed out that within the Pluralistic/Green paradigm, culture is the ultimate asset, the alpha and omega of corporate success (i.e. in the Green organization as a family paradigm, everything is personal and relational). Laloux asks, “Which side of the argument has got it right, then? Is it best to rely on the tangible elements of structure [Orange] or the intangible substance of culture [Green]?” The answer has profound implications for leaders, and yet this question is often discussed without much grounding. How can we ground this question? – Ken Wilber’s “Four Quadrant Model” can provide a solid basis for this distinction through a few simple yet powerful distinctions.
Wilber, the founder of Integral Theory, uncovered a profound truth about the nature of reality: any phenomenon has four facets and can be approached from four sides. To understand it well, we should both look at it objectively from the outside (the tangible, measurable, exterior dimension) and we should sense the phenomenon from the inside (the tangible interior dimension of thoughts, feelings, and sensations). We must also look at the event in isolation (the individual dimension) and look at the event in its broader context (the collective dimension). Only when we look at all four aspects will we get what Wilber calls an integral grasp of reality. Wilber’s insight, applied to organizations, means that we should look at 1) people’s mindsets and beliefs; 2) people’s behavior; 3) the organizational culture; 4) the organizational structures, processes, and practices.
The four-quadrant model shows how deeply mindsets, culture, behavior, and systems are intertwined. A change in any one dimension will ripple through the other three. Yet very often we don’t grasp the full picture. Amber and Orange only see the “hard” measurable outer dimensions (the right hand quadrants), and neglect the “soft” inner dimensions (the left hand quadrants). Green’s breakthrough is to bring attention to the inner dimensions of minsets and culture, but often the pendulum swings too far the other way. Green Organizations tend to focus so much on culture that they neglect to rethink structure, processes, and practices.
Self-managing structures [found in Teal organizations] transcend the issue of culture versus systems. Inner and outer dimensions, culture and systems work hand in hand, not in opposite directions (Laloux 226-229).
It is in Chapter 2.7 that Laloux applies Wilber’s “Four Quadrant Model” to organizations in a specific fashion. For this Discussion exercise, read pages 226-234 very carefully. Laloux asks: “How does an organizational culture emerge, and what makes one culture more powerful than another?” And, how can a group of people shape an organizational culture? While many aspects of the needed culture will be unique to the organization, some characteristic elements of the Evolutionary/Teal stage of development are likely to emerge. In this chapter, he provides a list of common cultural traits that he has found in Teal organizations (within organizations that knew NOTHING of each other); the list appears on pages 230-232. He shows in the chapter that there are three ways to help put new cultural elements in place in a given organization: “through practices that support corresponding behavior, through role-modeling by colleagues with moral authority, and by creating a space where people can explore how their belief system supports or undermines the new culture.”
Laloux closes Chapter 2.7 as follows:
Philosophically, Teal’s breakthrough is to give all four quadrants their due – culture, systems, mindsets, and behavior. Previous paradigms focused on the “hard” dimensions [right-hand quadrants] at the expense of the “soft” [left-hand quadrants] or vice-versa. It’s a safe bet to assume that the future belongs to organizations where “hard” and “soft” work hand in hand, and reinforce each other in service of the organization’s purpose (234).
For this Discussion exercise, please do the following:
1) Using Laloux’s list (pages 230-232), identify what you feel are TWO of the most important common cultural traits found Evolutionary/Teal organizations. Why are these traits needed in today’s organization?
2) In regard to the organization that you are currently associated with/employed by, and examining the three ways in which a person can help put new cultural elements in place within a given organization (see the italicized section above), how can you and your colleagues implement at least one of these common cultural traits in your organization. What are one or two obstacles/challenges to implementation? Or could it go smoothly? Discuss.
Writing at least 275-400 words (required minimum length)