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A Leap to Self-Management: How We Implemented a Teal Organization Within JetRockets

According to Frederic Laloux, the author of Reinventing Organizations, a Teal organization is one where the management is based on worker autonomy and peer relationships. 

This means that workers follow a self-management model, and team members are responsible for all the decisions and actions made by the team. There is little to no supervision from upper management, and teams have complete autonomy over how to approach their work responsibilities.

JetRockets went Teal in 2020. We are pleased to say that, although the transition was difficult, the results were worth it. Our company is stronger and more effective than it was before.

How does a Teal organization work?

Teal organizations run on three key features:
  • Self-management Teal organizations don’t need hierarchies. Employees and teams manage themselves to reach their goals.
  • Wholeness Workers are considered whole human beings, not drones. This takes their psychological well-being into account, which ultimately has a positive impact on productivity.
  • Evolution Change is the only constant life, and all members of a teal organization are encouraged to actively change for the better.

These features enable an organization to run efficiently, without authoritarian orders, by letting the true strengths of its members shine.

Laloux sees Teal organizations as the most advanced in a line of organizational strategies that he names by color:
  • Red Impulsive organizations, which use power alone to enforce authority.
  • Amber Conformist organizations, where right and wrong are internalized according to group beliefs and not open to debate.
  • Orange Achievement-oriented organizations, which see the world as predictable, and try to obtain success by calculating the precise best actions.
  • Green Pluralistic organizations, which operate on a drive to see and treat all people as equal.
  • Teal Intuitive organizations, which sees everyone as offering a unique potential, and tries to unleash that potential in everyone.

These ideas can be applied on any scale, from small teams up to whole societies. In fact, Laloux’s ideas were inspired by a similar categorization for human societies called Spiral Dynamics.

Advantages of Teal organizations

Teal organizations call on every member to produce their true, unique potential. As such, they produce different results from other colors, which expect people to act more or less the same at all time. This means that Teal organizations can have several advantages:
  • Higher creativity
  • Greater flexibility
  • A deeper sense of purpose

Higher creativity comes from the fact that members of a Teal organization are not fixed by rigid expectations. Instead, they are encouraged to contribute their unique potential, which is something that cannot be laid down ahead of time.

Greater flexibility comes from the decentralized management structure of Teal organizations. This allows teams to respond quickly and creatively to new problems, without waiting for orders from above.

A deeper sense of purpose puts the whole system together. Workers who believe that their work has purpose will be more motivated to succeed.

There are some downsides, of course. Not everyone is comfortable with adjusting to Teal right away. And for some fields, a certain amount of hierarchy may be necessary. But for the software industry in general, and JetRockets in particular, we felt that Teal was the best way to go.

Why we decided to implement teal at JetRockets

When I first read Laloux’s book, I immediately became excited about the possibility of creating a Teal organization. It seemed to me that everyone would share my excitement and would absolutely love to join and work for a company so trusting and open.

We decided to implement Teal at JetRockets to take advantage of all the benefits of Teal: higher creativity, greater flexibility, and a deeper sense of purpose.

In mid-2020, our commitment to transitioning to Teal became final, and we made an official announcement. The timing was questionable- we were fully remote, due to the pandemic- but we did not want to wait another day. 

How we transitioned to Teal

The idea took a little time to take off within JetRockets, as any change is scary. Not everyone was excited to take on additional responsibilities of decision making. Each team has several different roles, and we had to get every type of role on board with Teal.

At JetRockets, we organize self-managed teams around clients’ projects. A typical team consists of a Project/Product Manager, a Tech Lead, a QA Tester, and several developers.

The Project/Product manager works with the client, facilitates communication between the client and the team, coordinates team activities, and keeps track of timelines, milestones and budgets.

The Tech Lead oversees tech-related decisions, and also writes code and participates peer reviews with the other developers.

The QA Tester handles quality control. They are involved early on to make sure that QA measures are applied from the beginning.

In transitioning to Teal, each of these roles became responsible for their own self-management. This means that they took on a number of new responsibilities for themselves. The project team now makes decisions related to the project, as well as when members can schedule vacations, what tools and resources they need, and how to conduct performance reviews.

How Teal has improved our organization

So far, the transition has worked well. In general, our employees have become more committed to the success of their projects, they have gotten to know the client and their business better, and work ethic has increased due to shared accountability. 

We do sometimes run into conflicts, usually related to personality clashes. When this happens, the team explores resolution options on its own, and upper management only intervenes after all other options have been exhausted.

Teal has allowed us to better embrace our core values of Results, Transparency, Efficiency, Collaboration, and Continuous Improvement.

Continuous Improvement and Collaboration are what Teal is all about- evolving to find your highest potential, and sharing that with the team.

Efficiency has improved, thanks to teams having a more proactive outlook, and taking action based on their own initiative.

Transparency has improved, because members are more willing to share information in the way that works best for them.

And perhaps most importantly, switching to Teal has yielded tangible results for our clients. Teal lets us align our goals with yours on a one-to-one basis, so that we can create the best work for your needs.

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