Organizations are in constant change. A core task of the modern manager is to carry out changes together with employees and to actively involve them in the process. Especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers and constantly changing market conditions, it is important to make a company fit for the future. this has Frederic Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations examines the organizational development of the last 100,000 (!) Years in detail and provides information on where modern organizations should move.
In his book, Laloux gives an insight into his research on organizational development. In addition, the author even moves back up to 100,000 years. He assigned a color to each of the epochs and characterized them precisely. This is how we start our journey through time of over 100,000 years of organizational development. I will only go into the individual phases of development very briefly in the text, as I do not want to reveal too much of the actual content of the book.
Development stages of organizations
It all started 100,000 years ago. We put ourselves in people’s shoes at this time. The world was ruled by powerful tribes and chiefs. Laloux calls such tribes impulsive organizations and gives them the color red. This scenario can be compared with the structures of the Mafia or street gangs. Command authority and constant exercise of power were the order of the day. A tribal chief or alpha wolf in a wolf pack had to assert himself daily and fight his opponents as well as give clear instructions.
Let’s travel a few more years and go back only 1000 years. The world is dominated by the church and the military. Laloux defines these as conformist organizations and assigns them the color amber. Formalized roles in the shape of a pyramid and stability were the highest scores. This epoch was shaped by group norms and rules of the community.
A few centuries later we reach the industrial revolution and the time of the first real companies. We are seeing the first profitable organizations as we know them today. Innovation and reliability were the order of the day. You had to be better than the competition. The employees were now given initial freedom in how they could complete tasks.
But what’s next? Where are modern companies headed? What characteristics will modern organizations have to have? According to Laloux, this will affect the color “green or teal”: so-called pluralistic organizations, comparable to a family. Values, inclusion of all stakeholders and orientation towards a culture describe this new form.
Conclusion and colors
If you look closely at Laloux’s “Reinventing Organizations” diagram, you can see how quickly organizations change. It used to be several centuries, but now there are only a few years left to the next stage of evolution. Let’s summarize the development again based on the colors.
- Red: give me what I want
- Amber: rules and norms of the group
- Orange: Success and Innovation (Knowledge)
- Green: togetherness and harmony (values)
- Teal: purpose of organization, service to the world, identification
And what’s next?
Laloux even goes a step further and suggests the next color petrol. He calls such organizations “evolutionary”. According to color theory, the color petrol has a calming and powerful effect at the same time. However, Laloux has not yet disclosed any further information.
Is green or petrol the same as Holacracy, sociocracy or democracy?
So does one of these last two colors stand for the concept of Robertson and Co.? I already detailed about Holacracy, democracy or sociocracy Written in another article and in summary I have to say that basically any of the models can be the color petrol in Laloux’s model. This can be seen in the strong focus on the purpose of organizations. But the similarities with biology based on the case studies of molecules and atoms also sound like exactly this evolutionary form of company to me. So have we already reached the next level? This should become a topic of the roundtable on agility, because we cannot currently be sure whether these model companies can really shape evolutionary or whether the change actually depends on other factors.
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Laloux, F. (2015). Reinventing Organizations . Munich: Vahlen Verlag.