Looking Beyond Teal – with Lisa Gill



Looking Beyond Teal – with Lisa Gill

Lisa Gill joins us to reflect on why more and more organizations realize that “the way we are working is not working” and what alternatives may look like in organizations that go beyond legacy bureaucracy and agile frameworks.

Podcast Notes

Lisa Gill is an organizational self-management coach and trainer with Tuff Leadership Training. She was included in the Thinkers50 Radar 2020 for her work with self-managing teams. Lisa is also the host of the Leadermorphosis podcast, for which she has interviewed thought leaders and practitioners from all over the world about the future of work, and the author of ‘Moose Heads on the Table: Stories About Self-Managing Organisations from Sweden’ (2020).

Tune in to this episode as we discuss why the way we are working is not working. We reflect on new ways of working, the post-agile era, interrogating the ‘what’, the power of peer-led movements and self-managing teams, some great new technologies that are emerging, and why we can’t just solve things by systems or processes.


Key highlights from the conversation

We discussed:

  • Emerging trends in the world of self-managing teams and decentralized organizations
  • What are some of the technologies that help teams self-organize
  • The need to identify your guiding principles when adopting new technologies
  • What comes beyond Teal in organizational development
  • The need to shift leadership and behaviors — not just systems


To find out more about Lisa’s work:


Other references and mentions:


Find out more about the show and the research at Boundaryless at https://boundaryless.io/resources/podcast/

Thanks for the ad-hoc music to Liosound / Walter Mobilio. Find his portfolio here: https://boundaryless.io/podcast-music

Recorded on 8 June 2022.


🌐 Boundaryless Conversations Podcast is about exploring the future of organizing at scale by leveraging on technology, network effects, and shaping narratives. We explore how platforms can help us play with a world in turmoil, change, and transformation: a world that is at the same time more interconnected and interdependent than ever but also more conflictual and rivalrous.


Simone Cicero:
Welcome back to the Boundaryless Conversations Podcast. Today I’m here with my usual co-host Stina Heikkila.

Stina Heikkila:
Hello, hello.

Simone Cicero:
And we have an old friend, Lisa Gill. Thank you so much for coming back on this, I would say space of conversation, because you were previously featured in one of our most watched webinars with Dave Snowden and Sergio Caredda, if I’m wrong. And we’re super happy to have you back on this conversation space. So, first of all, Lisa, you are doing amazing work, both with your partners, with the companies you work with, with the organizations you work with. But also, as an observer, I would say.

So, you are really, since many years now, you run your Leadermorphosis podcast, that has been the place where I have been listening about pioneering work in terms of organizational development perspectives and progressive organizations in general. So, it would be great, maybe, if as a starting point, you just take some minutes to guide us through what you’re seeing in terms of emerging trends and what’s coming in the world of organizing and teams and work basically. So, can you give us this quick update as a starting point?

Lisa Gill:
Yeah, sure. Thank you for having me. First of all, it’s funny, someone described me once as like a reporter on the future of work and I quite liked that as a tag. But I’ve spoken now to nearly 80 people for my podcast over the years and interacted with many more organizations. And I would say giving a bit of an overview of what I’m noticing at the moment, a good thing is that it’s no longer controversial or new, I think, to say that the way we’re working is not working. So, I think pretty much all organizations now recognize that things need to change, which is good, because that wasn’t always the case. But it’s interesting, because it’s — I’m seeing that it’s happening even in what I would call more kind of stuck or like legacy bureaucracy organizations.

For example, in the UK, I’ve been contacted and talking to a number of organizations in the public sector and health and social care sector that are really committed to exploring more decentralized ways of working, because they’re realizing that it’s not just a nice to have, it’s not a way to be competitive, it’s like a way to survive, that they are facing so much complexity and so many challenges in terms of resources, and all of these kinds of things that they are learning from examples like Buurtzorg in the Netherlands, that this is the way we need to go. So, it’s also interesting in the kind of social impact sector to see that there are a number of kind of paradigm shifts also away from a kind of parent-child kind of rescuer service model, also especially for NGOs, and those kinds of organizations, thinking much more in terms of like being a partner or kind of empowering the people that they’re serving, instead of trying to save them or rescue them.

And then almost at the complete other end of the spectrum is the field of DAOs. And there’s a lot of excitement about DAOs and Web3. And I’m by no means an expert in this space, but I’ve been starting to learn about this and talking to my colleagues and some other people who are working in this space. And it’s interesting to see what’s kind of lacking or missing in the DAO space that can draw inspiration and learning from the kind of new ways of working movement. And then you’ve got sort of cooperatives as another kind of third sphere that have obviously been exploring ideas of kind of shared ownership for a long time. But also, they are now starting to learn more from people in the self-management movement, people in the DAO movement. So, it’s exciting to me to see that there is the beginnings of some cross pollination going on, and thinking about trying to kind of partner technology and the more human relational pieces, because it’s really not an either or.

So, I tend to explore the mindset, the culture, the relationships, the communication, part of new ways of working, if you want to call it that. I’m calling it new ways of working, they’re not really new, but it’s hard to find a term that catches all. But of course, I don’t for a second think that structures and processes aren’t important. Of course they are. So, I really think it’s like both and. And also finally, I would say having spoken to nearly 80 people for my podcast, there’s at least 80 different ways of doing more decentralized ways of organizing, of being more human together at work. So, there’s no one size fits all. And Haier is very different to a Buurtzorg or another organization. And so I’m really interested in not being dogmatic, but finding some of the key principles that help people to create their own unique version of whatever works for them, given that unique group of human beings.

Simone Cicero:
Right. I mean, I was thinking of two things why you were talking about that, because you said, we recognize that the old ways of working don’t work anymore, right? And I was thinking about from what perspective. And I see maybe two perspectives, right, that we can explore, maybe first one side and then another side.

So, the first side, I would say, is probably the perspective of markets. You mentioned something around this, for example, when you said constraint of resources and things that they, for example, these healthcare sector players have to respond to, right, in terms of budgets and things like that. So, I would say that, first of all, there is an element of this expression of the old ways of working don’t work anymore, that is related to the dynamics that we are seeing in the market. So, a more competitive landscape, new technologies. For example, we are seeing a lot of product-based organizational models increasingly. Like when you have a team that is much more capable of building digital products, for example. The question will be, what kind of implications you’re seeing in terms of organizational model and team dynamics, team distribution, team responsibilities, and so on?

And the other side that, maybe, we can explore a little bit later, it’s the side of engagement. So, we know from those recurring surveys, that from time to time get into our hands, that 80% of workers are disengaged here and there. The question will be, why are they disengaged? Are they disengaged because of their organization, or maybe, because in general, the context of work and society is dramatically changing, we are facing very challenging times, and so on. So, maybe the very idea of finding meaning at work, needs to be recast and into new shapes, new ways. Because just contributing into existing behemoths, maybe doesn’t really deliver anymore, the meaning that we are seeking for. So, these are two angles that I would like to explore. So, maybe we can start with a more mechanistic one, I would say, the more complicated versus complex. So, how are you seeing technologies changes in terms of business models and new competition impacting the way organizations reshape themselves to stay competitive, let’s say?

Lisa Gill:
I have to think about that, because it’s, I suppose it reveals my bias that I’m, someone said to me the other day, in fact that some people are exploring new ways of working to be more competitive, and some people are exploring new ways of working to kind of explore the frontiers of collaboration, so like two Cs. And I’m very much mostly spending my time in the collaboration one. So, the competitive one, to me, is often like a side effect, or a bonus of the one on the left. And I get that that’s a really — a pretty privileged position to be in.

Simone Cicero:
No, but I mean, you can look into this question from a more positive perspective. So, to say, what new technologies may be enabling new forms of cooperation? How are they reshaping more from the perspective of potential that they are enabling into teams? And so I’m really curious to see if you are seeing practices emerging that are being enabled, for example, by new technologies? So, new tools, for example, that we use, to visualize teamwork or to write agreements. And we see, for example, new tools that have emerged in the last few months, like from Murmur to MapDO. I know that about your friends. And so maybe you can reframe this first initial part of the question more into what is technology now enabling us to do in a way that is more efficient, that makes teams more capable? What are the implications from the perspective of decision- making styles or budget management elements and so on?

Lisa Gill:
Yeah. I think maybe I can talk to a couple of tools that I have kind of firsthand experience of in decentralized communities that I’m a part of. So, I’ve been a member of Enspiral for a number of years. And one of the tools that was developed out of Enspiral was a decision making tool called Loomio, which I know you’re familiar with. But it’s interesting, because in the last couple of weeks, even the whole Enspiral community has been kind of developing a proposal using Loomio to do quite a big pivot in terms of what Enspiral’s design is and membership make up looks like. And Loomio has facilitated that. And it’s very easy for me to forget that that’s not commonplace for many people in organizations.

So, when I’m working with other teams, for example, that are learning for the first time how to do participatory decentralized decision making, I take for granted sometimes that I and my colleagues are very practiced in, for example, asynchronous discussions that shape proposals, and then improve proposals. And then doing consent-based decisions based on that and people sharing and understanding what it means to block something, what it means to agree with something or disagree or abstain, or all of these different options that are quite nuanced. We’re used to practicing decisions in a very different way. So, that’s enabled us as a global community to make some very complex decisions in quite an efficient and involving way.

And another tool that’s come out of Enspiral is Co-Budget, which has been trying to do a similar thing with budgeting and making budgeting more collaborative and decentralized. And then, as you mentioned, there’s tools like Murmur that are in development at the moment, and I was talking to Aaron Dignan, just a few weeks ago about Murmur and their vision. It’s really exciting to me is really, they’re kind of prototyping with people who are testing the tool at the moment. Because they find and I found this too that it’s very hard for people to come up with agreements. I think most people agree, okay agreements, that makes sense, that’s helpful. But coming up with them is quite difficult, because it’s making the implicit, explicit. And so Murmur is developing and iterating all of these templates. So, if you’re an organization that wants to explore being more decentralized, you’ll be able to sign up to Murmur and pick up kind of a package of these are the 10 agreements that we recommend you start with. They’ve been prototyped, they’ve been iterated, these ones are really useful. They’re about decision making. They’re about, I don’t know, budget, and so on. So, that’s really exciting. And that’s just like a handful.

The other one you mentioned MapDO, again, is like a way of, once you kind of move away from this top-down hierarchy, how do you kind of get transparency and map all the different initiatives that start to pop up in the organization? And how do you know who is doing what and who is sort of the source of which initiative. And so MapDO is is one of many different tools out there that are designed to help people map initiatives and roles and any other things that you think are useful as a way of kind of capturing and visually, visually representing the organization that’s not one of those tree-shaped, boxy, kind of org charts that is now what, hundreds years old?

Yeah, you’re right. I think I take for granted sometimes that these tools, and these technologies are facilitating and making it so much more efficient for us to do quite complex things. And I think the best tools help us do that kind of human messy stuff, and help create the guardrails for us to do that human messy stuff. That’s why Loomio is so great, because it kind of gives you these different decision templates, it gives you the different options, you can visually see who’s agreed and disagreed and blocked and so on. And you can kind of follow the lifeline of a proposal, and then there’s a record of it. So, that trains you, over time, to become much more skilled at making decisions in a totally different way.

Simone Cicero:
I mean, I think it’s really interesting to look into how these emergent sets of tools are, on their own, creating a new kind of substrate, from which new forms of organizing are emerging in turn. So, we can look into this from the perspective of Marshall McLuhan’s infamous quote, we shape our tools and those tools shape us. Maybe it’s not even McLuhan. But also from the perspective of Conway’s Law. So, how if we change our IP we’ll communicate most likely we’re going to change what they built in the market and in society. So, it’s very, very interesting, I mean, to see how these new tools are emerging,

Stina Heikkila:
Yeah, I picked up that. I think it’s interesting what you mentioned, because we are talking almost like about building blocks, also decentralized autonomous organizations in a way, but from a different kind of toolbox. And I’m always curious about how much can you standardize. And I know that since you work, really on this both and; the technology on the one hand, and then a lot of the mindset, the leadership communication. The DAO sometimes seems to be all about standardizing. And you’d have to have a sort of computational model for every possible scenario. But the main thing is that you should be able to trust that this is fair, this has been agreed, and this is sort of automated into your organization.

So, listening to you, this seems also quite a lot more nuanced and mesh in a way. You pick the tool but then you need to also introduce it to people and kind of explain how it works and so on. So, have you come across this friction in your work between too much standardization and too much openness in how you shape things?

Lisa Gill:
Yeah, definitely. I feel like a mistake I make accidentally again and again is assuming that one organization I work with will take to a particular tool or approach in the same way that another organization does. So, I’ve introduced Loomio, as a tool in organizations, for example, and some organizations love it, and they immediately get it and adapt to it, and others don’t get it at all. And they find it really hard. And they say no, we don’t want to do this, we want to invent our own thing or… And they find it really hard to practice a different way of making decisions. So, I think it’s tricky. And I know in DAOs, for example, the sort of default for a lot of DAOs is to have quite a limited kind of voting model, as I understand it, where it’s like agree, disagree, abstain, and that’s it. And there’s not that much nuance for people to really be involved in shaping proposals or iterating them. So, I think there’s a lot to be learned there.

And I really think it depends on the organization, because I was in Portugal recently spending some time with one of the cofounders of a tech company called Madeira. And they have kind of gone the complete opposite way from standardization where they have spent a lot of time involving people in a process that creates a completely bespoke outcome for their organization. And they are very aware that that takes a long time. For example, how they designed their process for compensation and people to self-manage their salaries. It took them a long time, and they had small focus groups come up with different proposals, and then they integrated those, and then they piloted something. But the benefit of that is that everyone has shaped it. And when new people join the organization and kind of question it and say, “Could we do this in a different way? Or what about if we do this instead?” You can sort of look back at the history of how it was shaped and all of the people that shaped it.

And I feel like that is more compelling in a way than, nope, this is the standardized way because this small group of people decided that that was the best way to do it. I think it really depends on what principle you prioritize more than anything. So, that organization, their main guiding principle was connection, they really wanted to create an organization where people were really connected, and it was shaped and personalized for all of the people who worked in the organization. Other organizations are much more shaped by the market, or they’re much more driven by, I don’t know, optimization, or whatever. So, I think whatever principle you decide to prioritize is going to shape your approach. So, I think it’s helpful to get clear on what principles do you want to prioritize?

Stina Heikkila:
Yeah, that’s interesting to see like that, for some companies might be the most important thing. And everyone agrees on that is to optimize and not sort of waste time because you’ll have a clearer idea of what you need to execute already. So, there’s always that balance to sort of distract from what you need to achieve, and how you go about that.

Simone Cicero:
So, very interesting points that we were discussing. I was thinking to, maybe, try to shift into the second element. I spoke about engagement, for example in relationships to this idea that the way we work doesn’t work anymore. And I was thinking to, essentially, we have been focusing for a couple of decades since the start of the agile revolution and the teal movement, and so on, we’ve been focusing a lot on the how, so how people work together. But I feel that we have been focusing maybe less towards what, what our organizations produce. For example, you said organizations want to create ways for their employees to be able to express themselves. And you also said that maybe some companies optimize for the market, while others optimize for different elements. But I think this is true, to some extent at the end of the day, if companies are on the market, they’re obviously optimizing for markets, because there’s not much more that they can do if they want to exist.

So, basically working inside these, I mean, we can say that capitalistic market optimized organizations come with certain built-in elements, let’s say, that the moment we question the what, we have to start making trade offs, basically. So, what do I mean with that? Let me be more clear, a lot of people are talking about kind of being on the verge of a transition beyond the teal, beyond agile. For example, I was on a podcast a few weeks ago, with our common friend, Bonita Roy, and she spoke about this idea of becoming postformal actors. So, the idea that the natural evolution of teal and agile may lead us or should lead us maybe question not just the how, but also the what we do. And with what I mean, maybe questioning the very frames of what a corporate is, and pushing us to move away from just working in different ways into maybe creating different institutional forms that can help us to do essentially two things.

One is overcome the systemic lock-ins that we are otherwise subjected to. As you know, the markets and make us essentially precarious. But also, to some extent, exercise itself and critique to an otherwise very positivist technological progress element. So, to some extent, suppress some restraint or some critique of efficiency, and doing work better, or much more about doing work more with more meaning and more salient for us as we face, for example, the breakdown of ecological systems or political crisis. And everything we are basically seeing in the last couple of years since the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and supply chain breakdown, and so on.

So, that was a long reflection, but to hand it over to you, what do you see coming up — I’m especially interested in terms of, if you see this kind of critique of the what we do, and of the organizational forms we use, also coming from inside existing organizations? And the three of us, we share our experience in building very informal, very new types of organization. You have been working with Enspiral, I have been working with Stina with Ouishare and also Boundaryless is a rather horizontal and different type of organization. But how do you see this coming up? Are you spotting also this transition to what Bonita calls postformal work, postformal actors?

Lisa Gill:
One thing that stood out for me in what you said was like post-teal, post-agile, and really kind of interrogating the what. I’m seeing that a lot of organizations, it’s sort of like the backlash, I think, of the popularity or the rising popularity of some of these methodologies is that they become kind of meaningless. And I was tweeting yesterday about some organizations I’m talking to, I really think could benefit from having like a bonfire of these things for when they get stuck on is this teal or not teal, is this self-managed or not self-managed. And they end up in these kind of pro self-management and anti self-management groups in this us versus them thing. And then suddenly, they’re spending all of that time focusing on the self-management instead of the work. And in that case, I think it becomes unhelpful and then it’s, I think, good to go beyond that and refocus on why are we doing this? And what is it serving in terms of the people that we’re serving or the products that we’re creating? So, that’s interesting, kind of a backlash in a way of that.

And I think organizations are also, as you said, thinking about what is it that we’re doing. I know, for example, in the UK, a friend and colleague of mine, Helen Sanderson, and a number of people that she’s worked with in trying to pilot self-managing teams, in like midwifing, or in home care. And in areas like that, even when they can prove and get regulated, and sort of tick all of the boxes and say, look, the self-managing teams, tick all of the boxes that you need to tick to say, this is safe, and this is effective, and so on. And still, they’re really struggling against the system and the institutions, because it’s sort of, it’s still a bit like, “the computer says no”, the system is built this way. And this doesn’t fit within the system, even if they can prove that it works. So, I do think there is a need to think outside of the system. And I don’t know what that looks like. But I know that different people are working on that. And it’s one of the promising potentials, I guess, of DAOs and Web3 also.

But I’m also thinking about this organization I mentioned just a moment ago, Madeira, and in their own sort of small and similar way to something like Haier, which spins out these kind of micro enterprises. You know, they started as a tech company, but they designed their office environment to support collaboration and more personalized, decentralized ways of working. So, instead of having like one large office, as they grew they’re about 800 people now. They have this building, they don’t own the building, but they have like 15 different offices, small ones. And each office has its own kitchen and its own independent space. It has like a sort of more relaxed space and then it has a working space and a kitchen. So, they have 15 different kitchens. And they prioritize that because as I said before, they want to prioritize this principle of connection.

But because they learned from doing that the value of creating an environment that supports those kinds of ways of working, they then spun out a company called Lemon Works, that works with other companies to design their office spaces to contribute to more collaboration and connection and things like that. And that’s a way that they’ve now started almost like a Trojan horse into other organizations of getting them thinking about new ways of working. Because most organizations when they redesign their office environment don’t involve employees in what that would look like, even though they’re the ones who are going to be using it.

And then another thing is that their cleaners in the building, they didn’t like the kind of hierarchical dynamic that was going on. And the way that the cleaners were being treated by their employers. So, they then decide, well, let’s create a cleaning company, like a self-managing cleaning company. What’s interesting and what inspires me is to see organizations that are looking outside of themselves and into the wider ecosystem and thinking more in terms of, I guess, a regenerative mindset, and thinking about not just things inside the organization, but also relationships with suppliers. And as you said, relationship to the environment. And I think there are some really good examples of peer-led movements. I’m part of a course at the moment run by a UK organization called Huddle Craft. And they pioneered this initiative called Money Movers where they’re getting together groups of women, to kind of empower them in terms of their personal finances and move their finances into more kind of climate centric, ethical spaces.

And so far, they’ve helped to facilitate moving 1.2 million pounds, and they have a big ambition to do it with x billion by 2030. And so they’re creating these little decentralized communities of women and training them up to be more empowered in how they talk about finances. So, that’s like a kind of social activist example. But I think thinking wider in terms of all of the touch points, and all of the things that are interdependent with whatever it is that we’re doing, and how we’re living is really interesting to see.

Stina Heikkila:
I think this allows me to come back to some questions that I had for you around accountability and incentives and those kinds of things. Because it sounds like often in those terms, when we talk about the old way is not working now, we’ve repeated that is becoming a meme. But we somehow think that there’s a lot of potential hidden, right, in self-organized teams, and we want to unleash that potential. It’s somehow you get this view that the industrial model way of organizing has trapped people in a way in, locked them into system. And I think that to a large extent, of course, that’s what we are seeing.

But I’m also interested in the other side that if people are freed of some of these structures that are holding them back, there will of course be differences in terms of contribution, and willingness to contribute and taking responsibility, being accountable. Some people might have that sort of more naturally, but for certain teams, that’s the key question to be solved, right? And I guess, in the DAO space that is trying to be solved through having a very transparent and open ledger so that you cannot — you know can claim and not, and so on.

But I’m curious to know, from your work, because I’m sure that this is really at the core of what you do. How do you create those kinds of mechanisms in a team, for instance? So, let’s say you have decentralized power, they have responsibilities now, but how do you work with organizations to make sure that the incentives and the accountability is there? Because otherwise, even if you can have a lot of social impact, potentially, that needs to be realized, right, in reality?

Lisa Gill:
Yeah, it’s such a good question because I think when I first started working with these ideas, some years ago, I was quite naive and I assumed that hierarchy was the problem. You know, as soon as we remove top-down hierarchies, everything falls into place and it’s like utopia. Of course, in reality, it’s not true. But I think it’s a misconception held by a lot of people that I talk to that if we, for example, install holacracy, then that takes care of accountability, for example. But in my experience, that’s not the case at all. Because I think we’re so trained in being kind of compliant and passive, that it takes some time, and some intention for people to really shift their behavior. And structures and processes help a lot, but they don’t seem to be enough, which is interesting to me.

And Amy Edmondson, talks about this, for example, in her book Teaming, she says that if you focus only on psychological safety and not accountability, or very low on accountability. Then what you end up with is this sort of comfort zone, where people don’t know how to hold each other accountable, they don’t know how to give each other feedback. And you kind of slide into this sort of laissez faire, blurry, fuzzy space. And I think almost all organizations that I speak to that start exploring self-organization end up here. It’s also like to use the Frederic Laloux terminology, I think it’s the green trap, that it’s very easy for people to think they’re in teal, for example, but actually, they’re stuck in this space of everyone needs to be equal, I daren’t say this, or do that, because that would be me being like a boss, and we don’t have bosses anymore. So, I’ll just keep quiet.

And so you end up with this real leadership vacuum and accountability vacuum. I think tools like Murmur, for example, could help with that in terms of agreements. But I also think, and I’m not saying this is the truth, but in my experience, it’s very helpful to have some kind of training or learning spaces for people to practice another way of being together. So, I’m often leading courses or workshops, or kind of coaching people to do that, because oftentimes, we’re not aware of the kind of habitual embodied ways of behaving that we have. So, if I’ve never been a manager in a traditional company, then I’ve never really had to be accountable. I’ve always had someone sort of chasing me or being ultimately responsible. So, if I suddenly introduced self-managing structures and processes, that person is not suddenly magically going to be really responsible and accountable. It’s going to take some time for them to figure that out. And the same goes for people who have formerly been managers or who have any kind of power, like to stop micromanaging people or being the one that is always responsible or only responsible takes practice and takes awareness.

So, I think it’s really useful to have spaces where you can reflect together, where you can practice together another way of being together and get feedback and coaching on that. What’s interesting to me about the DAO space, because how do you do that if you know your colleagues or people who you maybe have never met, you don’t know their real name, you don’t know what they look like, even, this sort of trustless organization. You know, that’s really fascinating to me, and like a really interesting question. Because in the organizations I’m working in, I see that there’s a lot of value in creating the spaces for people to shift, and that’s not a quick fix. And it’s not solved only by structures and processes.

Simone Cicero:
I mean, I think we are in the core — hot, white hot core of the conversation here, because I really resonate when you say, hierarchy is not a problem,.I really resonate with you when you said that we have to overcome that green trap, right, that you mentioned, of just applying this kind of very lazy postmodern thinking of ensuring that we have all the diversity and ensuring that we do the things according to the — that we put our flag of the month in our Facebook profile. You know, that’s the point. We really go beyond that. And you talked about teal as going beyond that, right? And I’m curious to understand, then, how is teal really different from green? And I mean, those that are not into the book from Frederic Laloux or in general spiral dynamics and developmental theories maybe a bit lost at the moment.

But the point is, how do we go beyond the postmodern, let’s say, thinking in terms of organizing, if we don’t really reckon with the trade offs, right? One easy way to try to integrate these trade offs may be that of acknowledging that the market exists, right? And for example, when I think about Haier, and I think about Haier is driving profit and loss at the team level, this is a very strong way to, let’s say, push these trade offs into teams and say you can be as collaborative as you want, can choose whatever ways of taking decisions you want to use, but then you have to be profitable. Right? And this is a — it’s a way to talk — to acknowledge these trade offs, and basically create these checks and balances between adopting the latest management trend and existing in the market.

But at some point, I think, one interesting point that reconnects with what I was raising before, the idea of postformal, anecdotes, and overcoming capital markets, and capitalism, in general, boils down to other types of trade offs that could be related to, for example, embeddedness into place. Or it could be related to starting to produce instead of basically operating in organizations that produce for ourselves as we contribute to these organizations. So, you can think of, for example, user owned cooperatives or something like that, instead of producing value inside companies that are situated in these specialized markets that we all use the outcomes of.

So, are you seeing signals essentially, that let you think that this movement can be the movement that gives birth to a new kind of age of players that will be able to be more severe and more capable of producing the fundamentals of the economy, and to re embed the organizations into place, and to some extent, accept the trade offs in terms of convenience or in terms of participation in these very disconnected digital economies? And the narrative of digital nomads is really untenable sometimes. So, what do you see? Do you see this emerging from this movement, something that is more grounded, more integrated into place, more conscious of the fact that if you make a system more efficient, it will just stand out and with consuming more of the world basically?

Lisa Gill:
Your question is making me think back to the very first self-managing company I ever visited, I think back in 2015, maybe called Matt Black Systems, which is an aerospace engineering company based in the UK. They transformed at this point, it’s maybe nearly 20 years ago. So, they’ve been practicing it for a while and they experimented with a number of things before they kind of ended up in self-management, which for them was kind of taking lean to like an extreme, where everyone in the organization is like a lean unit of one. And all of the project managers do absolutely everything facilitated by their kind of bespoke IT system.

But an interesting phenomenon there that was fascinating to me then as it is now was that it sort of optimized itself at around about 12 people. As far as I know, that’s still the case. And they’ve brought out a book recently about their kind of journey. And the owner was telling me that one of his hopes was that more people would be inspired by this way of working, and then go and set up their own companies in a similar vein. But that hadn’t really happened. I think one person has started to do that. And I noticed that in quite a few organizations, if you think about Buurtzorg or Haier, those organizations also have a visionary leader, Zhang Ruimin is this very thoughtful, philosophical person, and Jos de Blok is very principled and clear about how they’re working. And both of them are quite humble in the sense that they say it’s not us, the organization exists without us.

But I think it’s, to circle back to your point about teal, and does that really transcend the kind of green like equality trap. I’m not a spiral dynamics expert. I’m not dogmatic about it either. But I think a helpful lens can be to think of it as a spiral. And green is on the sort of collective side of the spiral, and teal then spirals round, again, to the individual aspect. In other words, I think a lot of these organizations that are moving beyond these concepts, if you like, are the ones that are really wrestling with the topic of power, and recognizing that no structure or process or system is going to solve that problem. You know, being self-managed doesn’t automatically make you a more diverse, equitable, inclusive organization, sorry to say. It doesn’t make you automatically a more accountable organization.

And as you said, in terms of trade offs, Haier has decided as an organization that they prioritize profit and loss, for example, in a micro enterprise. And if you aren’t able to be profitable at a certain point then you feel the direct impact of those consequences. And your micro enterprise dies effectively. You have to find another wave of making a living, which is, one could argue, kind of brutal. I know, it’s not that brutal. I very much simplified it. But to me, it’s also interesting to think about how exclusive these organizations can be because I think self-management is not for everyone. And I also think that that’s okay. Maybe this is not the way that all organizations will organize or need to organize. But some will, and some people will thrive in those environments.

There’s an interesting study by Michael Wiley that came out recently, and it’s not conclusive, but it points to some interesting findings about the types of people that thrived when an organization transformed to self-management compared to the control groups that didn’t do any self-management. And the people that thrive were people who were more competent, that were more confident, that were already kind of interested in the idea of self management. So, to your question about are these organizations sort of shifting things? Are they going to create more organizations like them? I think the answer is yes, but I think it’s much slower, and a much smaller minority than maybe many of us would hope. I feel like for every organization, with however many thousands of people in it, it still seems to take quite a unique cluster of personality, traits and principles and values for people to spin off their own versions of such a company, because it takes a lot of well, I think, and commitment and courage to do this, because you’re swimming against a massive tide. The rest of the capitalist system is sort of pushing back against you all the time.

So, this is also why I think it’s so valuable and important for us to reinvent the education system, because I think then we’ll increase the likelihood that people will be able to go into these organizations and thrive and then start their own versions of these organizations that they can’t find any that look like this. So, yeah, many things that I felt I could say on this point.

Simone Cicero:
It’s very funny because this very week I was suggested to read the famous or maybe infamous book called The Sovereign individual. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that?

Lisa Gill:

Simone Cicero:
It’s a kind of flagship book from the libertarian movement that has been proposed by Peter Thiel and Ravikant and many others coming from this libertarian space. And when you talk about overcoming this idea of power over into power with, but you kind of inking into the more individual elements, right? You said teal may be about re-integrating some individual aspects, right, beyond collective elements. So, I was picturing it in my mind as power over you. So, powering over yourself, let’s say, right? So, this kind of more self-centered conception of power and recognize the power you have as an individual, right?

Lisa Gill:
It’s kind of both. Someone said recently, in a talk that I really liked, it’s finding an empowered relationship to power. Because most of us, like you said, most of us are either in a power over relationship to power, that I have power, and I’m going to use it to get, to sort of exert my will on people, whether consciously or unconsciously, or power under, where it’s like, oh, I don’t really like this, but I’m going to wait for someone else to fix it, or that’s not my accountability. So, teal, in an ideal world is, as I understand it, is supposed to integrate everything that comes before it, which means that I can hold the needs of the organization, the needs of others, whether that’s one person or more people and my own needs.

This was a way that Mickey Cashton put it that I liked. And it’s not possible always to meet all three of those, of course, but it’s being able to hold them anyway, which is quite a complex thing to do. And I know there’s a big debate about vertical development and adult development and whether that’s elitist or helpful. But that seems to be kind of an important development is this having an empowered relationship to power rather than rejecting power or being unaware of it.

Simone Cicero:
Yeah. I mean, I didn’t want to imply that you were advising for a libertarian turn. But to some extent, I think we should understand that there is a sort of signal coming from this perspective. And, for example, if I think about the work of Saifedean Ammous with his books, The Bitcoin Standard and The Fiat Standard more recently. We can see, for example, in the blockchain that indeed it was prophetically envisioned, and in this sovereign individual book, and in other words, as part of the information society. So, the emergence of these kinds of systems of value accounting that are much more diverse and plural, versus the just letting central banks decide what to value. It’s a kind of push for us to think of how would that complex organizational landscape really look like? Because the one we have so far definitely is not complex, friendly. It’s much more, I would say, mechanistic and complicated.

So, maybe as we envision these synthesis, we will have to consider both perspectives and may be reintegrate the individual and the collective at certain embed level, in terms of communities and place. That’s probably my impression, our impression after so many podcasts and implementing conversations, and that’s a very, still very open question, right?

So, maybe as a recap, final recap, we should say that as we look into the future of organizing, we may have to also look into other approaches to society and value. For example, from the perspective of the Austrian School and libertarianism, as well, in complementing a more postmodern kind of traditional thinking that we have been much more used to, in terms of the tradition of progressive organizations and self-management, more in general. So, I mean, I think we end up with this conversation with more questions than answers. But, yeah, I feel it’s great to see how things are also converging, right. And we are seeing the need to synthetize more, to integrate more, and to look into really transcending what we have at the moment.

Also, I think this awareness of the need to reintegrate and transcend what we have. it’s very alive in this conversation, and I’m sure that you will be there spotting the innovations as they happen with your great observatory with your podcast and your work. So, maybe we can close, Lisa, with just a few pointers to both your work or some interesting things that maybe people should be looking into coming up on your side.

Lisa Gill:
Yeah, thank you. I guess the first place for people to go to if they’re interested is the podcast website, which is leadermorphosis.co. And the podcast is also on the usual podcast platforms. But we’re also now working to have more and more transcripts that have been tagged by different keywords and so on. So, it’s ideally going to become a bit of a knowledge library. And I’ve also written a book, which is for anyone listening who is more interested in the mindset, skill set, relational piece of working together in new ways, my book Moose Heads on the Table, stories from self-managing organizations in Sweden is some principles and some stories, some examples of organizations that my colleague Karen transformed going back as far as the 90s. And just some learnings from that. So, I know that some people find that quite interesting as like a — just another perspective, really.

And then finally, I’m also trying to write more short form things, blogs, and things like that on social media. And probably the easiest way to find some of those things out loud is to go to my website, which is reimaginaire.com. And there you’ll also find links to tough leadership training, who I’m collaborating with, and other resources.

Stina Heikkila:
And of course, listeners will find all this on our notes as well.

Simone Cicero:
Yes. Thank you so much, both of you again. And to our listeners, we’ll catch up soon.