About Teal

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” ― Albert Einstein

Introduction

VCoin is a peer-to-peer networked cryptocurrency, a virtual currency system without any trusted parties and without pre-assumed identities among the participants.

It is perhaps less widely appreciated that the group behaviour of the community is shaped by these two properties.

  • a peer-to-peer network is by definition constructed from peers - the egality of untrusted peering nodes is inimical to the imposition of a hierarchy

  • users are pseudonymous, modelled only as serialized cryptographic hashes prohibiting any reference to identity, a condition necessary for the functioning of the system.

At core, the VCoin “community” is an egalitarian group of intangible symbols; all equal but no-one actually knows anyone.

These are the ground conditions to which the community is obliged to accommodate itself. The requirement for egality means that the only viable activity model is self-organisation. The requirement for pseudonymity means that the only sustainable relationship model is self-interested co-operation.

This is a demanding combination with very few candidate organisational models from which to draw inspiration for effective ways of working under these constraints. In a context of having an interest in seeing VCoin’s success it would be beneficial to be able to draw community attention to resources that would assist with self-organising and with initiating co-operative activities.

This is one such attempt, it takes a look at the Teal organisational model. The focus is narrowed down to those ideas that look like they might be applicable and might have something useful to offer, either as an insightful description or a working practice.

What is a “Teal Organization”?

It is a modernistic organisational model developed by Frédéric Laloux, based on principles of modern systems thinking and laid out in his book Reinventing Organizations. The aim is to create better organizations that can grow and adapt to work in complex environments.

Drawing from Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory (a model of psychology development that describes human development as following a set course of stages of development) Laloux maps a colour scheme to the historical development of human organizations: Red > Amber > Orange > Green > Teal > Turquoise.

Teal organisations are represented as the best integration of what’s collectively been learned so far.

Laloux colour map

The <New> stage, characterized by the colour teal, emerging right now.
World view: the world is made of relationships.
Symbol: family.
Key breakthroughs: Self-management; Holistic; Evolutionary.
Teal organizations are driven by peer relationships, involve the whole person and are adaptive.
Examples: V

The Post Modern/Information stage, characterized by the colour green, emerged 50 years ago.
World view: the world is made of relationships.
Symbol: family.
Key breakthroughs: Value-driven culture; Empowerment; Stakeholder model.
Green organizations are culture-driven and have the softer side of management (not just hard budgets and targets)
Examples: Starbucks; Southwest Airlines; Ben and Jerry’s

The Scientific/Industrial stage, emerged 500 years ago, characterized by the colour orange.
World view: the world is complex clockwork; the better we understand it, the more profit we can reap.
Symbol: complex machinery.
Key breakthroughs: Innovation; Accountability; Meritocracy.
Orange organizations have R&D for Innovation, and MBO (Management by Objectives) as the management paradigm. The person who best understands the complexity makes it to the top. We use engineering metaphors in such organizations (“well-oiled machine”, “organization levers” etc).
Examples: Global Corporates, Wall Street

The Traditional/Agrarian stage, developed 5000 years ago, characterized by the colour amber.
World view: the world is governed by immutable laws.
Symbol: soldiers marching in formation.
Key breakthroughs: Formal hierarchy, replicable processes.
Amber organizations are rule driven. You are either in it or you are an outcaste. With these organizations, it is possible to scale up, using scale up.
Examples: Catholic Church, Army, Government Agencies, public school systems.

The Magic/Tribal stage, developed 10,000 years ago, characterized by the colour red.
World view: the world is a dangerous place; the way to safety is power.
Symbol: Wolves fighting.
Key breakthroughs: Command authority, Division of tasks.
Red organizations are based on the principle of Fear. When a boss becomes vulnerable, a new one emerges.
Examples: Street Gangs, Mafia, Mercenaries.

Laloux lists three “breakthroughs” of Teal organizations that his fieldwork has identified. Each breakthrough is associated with a set of specific practices that embody Teal Organisation principles:

Self-management
driven by peer relationships
Holistic
involving the whole person
Evolutionary
let the organization adapt and grow, not be driven

VCoin can tick those boxes. A holistic and evolutionary approach follows naturally from genuine self-management, i.e. when authority is devolved to the individual. In the absence of centrally-imposed roles, behaving as a whole person is the default and in the absence of centrally-imposed goals, the organisation is free to evolve itself.

This video presents a rather good explanation of the background to Teal. There are a few brief and ignorable references to Agile software development methodology.

The Teal model describes a number of characteristic properties, most of which are self-evidently applicable to the VCoin community. The list also offers some useful indications as to where the VCoin community might benefit from specific support, or even just thinking things through and articulating the relevant pros and cons.

Teal self management practices

  • self-organizing teams
  • almost no staff functions
  • coordination and meetings ad hoc when needs arise
  • radically simplified project management
  • minimum plans & budgets
  • fluid and granular roles
  • decision making fully decentralized (advice process)
  • transparent real time information sharing incl,. financials
  • identified practices with questionable relevance to VCoin:
    • coaches w/o P&L responsibility when needed
    • anybody can spend any amount of money provided advice process is respected
    • formal multi-step conflict resolution process
    • focus on Team performance, peer-based process for individual appraisals
    • self-set salaries with peer calibration, no bonus, profit sharing

Teal holistic practices

  • clear values translated into explicit ground rules, ongoing values discussion
  • absence of job titles and descriptions to allow selfhood to shape roles
  • honest discussion about individual time commitments
  • specific meeting practices keep ego at check
  • distributed initiatives taking
  • personal freedom for training, focus on culture-building
  • personal inquiry into one‘s learning journey and calling
  • identified practices with questionable relevance to VCoin:
    • self-decorated warm spaces without status markers
    • quiet room, meditation practices, team supervision, peer coaching
    • storytelling practices to support self-disclosure and community building
    • regular time devoted to address conflicts
    • caring support to turn dismissal into a learning opportunity
    • recruitment interviews by future colleagues, focus on fit with organization

Teal evolutionary purpose practices

  • organization seen as a living entity with its own evolutionary purpose
  • strategy emerges organically from collective intelligence of self-managing employees
  • decision making by listening to organization‘s purpose (everyone, large group, meditations…)
  • concept of competition irrelevant (embraced to pursue purpose)
  • growth and market share only important in as much they help achieve purpose
  • profit as lagging indicator: will come naturally when doing the right thing
  • inside out marketing: offer is defined by purpose
  • “sense and respond” planning/budgeting/controlling
  • no or radically simplified budgets, no tracking of variance; no targets
  • “change management” no longer relevant as organization constantly adapts from within
  • suppliers chosen by fit with purpose
  • total transparency invites outsiders to make suggestions to better bring about purpose
  • conscious sensing of what mood would serve best

The evolutionary purpose practices are a remarkably close description of the characteristics of an Open Source altcoin project.

The above lists are itemised and assessed in further detail in Teal model details in order to facilitate discussion.

In essence, all altcoin communities are de facto Teal Organisations created as a natural consequence of the being a peer-to-peer networked cryptocurrency.

To use peer-to-peer networked cryptocurrency is also to be an inherent part of a social consensus of interest that is obliged by the fundamental properties of the technology to follow a Turquoise organisational model in which there is no central authority or control.

Despite the “New Waviness”, the broad-brush description of a Teal Organisation never quite loses sight of its utilitarian purpose: doing things better, more effectively, with a more complex set of values, as appropriate to an ever more complex context.

Teal organisations are effective

There is no a priori reason why the currency component should be the sole focus of the VCoin project. Potentially there is much to be gained from exploring the advantages of membership of an advanced organisational model.

One approach is to view the currency simply as a means to an end, merely one component of a more ambitious effort taking full advantage of the benefit of being a naturally-occurring Teal organisation.

Yes, there should be benefit …

Laloux’ thinking (and the Integral theory from which it draws) preserves the existing hierarchy, the self-management is ultimately centrally-directed.

The strategy does seem to have its problems, most of the problems arrive in the form of adjusting the model for a better fit with the current status quo of strongly-held central control, as Steve Denning points out in a Forbes article on Zappos’ adoption of Holacracy, the latter being one such attempt at adjustment.

Denning’s main observation is that the implementation of the model preserves and even strengthens the original inefficient strict hierarchy.

The VCoin project benefits from the ideological rigour imposed by the underlying cryptocurrency. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.