Going "Teal" is a big decision. Some company leaders opt to transition their company to a Teal model after watching an inspiring Ted Talk or reading an informative book, while others start up new organizations with the goal of making an impact while doing something unique. Whatever your reasoning for considering this change, there's a lot to consider and a lot of options.
If you're struggling to make a decision or don't know where to start, we have your back! While everyone's journey will be different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, these steps should provide you clear direction on how to create or transition to a Teal model.
Unfortunately, many companies start the journey to purpose-driven self-management only to struggle, give up, or fall apart because of it. In most cases, this is because there was a lack of alignment on WHY the company was doing these changes. Look into the things you've read or heard about "Teal" and take plenty of time to really dig deep into what appeals to you. Is it the concept of putting people before profit? Is the idea of having a bigger, potentially world-changing purpose? Maybe your main interest is that self-managed companies tend to be more profitable with lower overhead. None of these goals are wrong and whatever you decide is ultimately what's best, but it has to be something you believe in. Only after you know, concretely and objectively, why you want to go Teal, should you worry about any of the additional steps.
Step 2: Be Real About What You're Willing To Give Up
Commonly, business leaders will say they want to revolutionize how they work but are unwilling to do what is necessary to achieve those goals. As a business leader or owner, it can be hard to give up power, and it's understandable! Giving up your authority means risks to the culture you've worked so hard to protect, and risks to the business you've spent so much time and energy getting off the ground. However, going Teal requires changing how you interact with others in your company. You can't build upon trust if you don't trust that others will make the right decisions. You can't require transparency if you aren't willing to be transparent. You can't expect others to hold one another accountable if you won't also hold people accountable. Rather than commit to something you're not willing to do, be honest with yourself and your team. Don't risk trying to make too many changes you're uncomfortable with that you may change your mind about. It's better to make small improvements that you will be comfortable with for the long-haul.
Step 3: Educate Yourself
Far too often, business leaders declare the move toward Teal based on limited information, such as another business doing it and being successful or a book that points out all the benefits. Any big change has a lot of risks and potential downsides. Before saying, "Let's do it!", find resources that resonate with you and your current situation. Talk to other companies to see what mistakes they made and how they fixed them. Browse forums where people talk about their own journeys and ask them questions. Thoroughly look at a few different options for how you want to self-manage so you feel like you're making the right choice, rather than the only choice. If you want other people to get on board, you'll need to be able to clearly educate them on what this is and answer their questions. In order to do that, you'll need to understand it yourself first.
Optionally, if you know you want to go Teal but you also know you don't have the knowledge and experience to properly educate your employees, seeking outside help is always viable (such as a consultant specializing in Teal methodologies).
Step 4: Decide On A Model (Or Make Your Own)
Holacracy, Sociocracy, Morning Star, Semco ... There are many methods of self-management out there. Some are prepackaged for any company to adopt (like Holacracy or Sociocracy), while others were made for and by one organization (such as Morning Star, Semco, and Valve) and the model has since been adopted by other companies as well. While any company can successfully use any of these options, it all depends on what you're willing to do and what will fit best with your organization's culture. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and you should choose what's best for you.
So, what's best for you? That's the hard part. You may pick one option and several years later realize it's not working for you. That's fine. It's better to start making progress and have to adjust later on than not making any progress because you're stuck trying to find the perfect method. However, you can at least go into it with a pretty good idea of what you want and what will probably work the best.
Sit down with people of all perspectives and opinions from around your organization and talk about how things would work in an ideal world. Would everyone benefit from a plethora of detailed rules or a simple process with only a few steps? Do you want some hierarchy or do you want a completely flat organization? How many processes need approval versus everyone being able to make whatever call they think is best? If in doubt, take the time to get a pitch from a consultant specializing in each field and see which resonates most with you after hearing from an expert.
Step 5: Create An Implementation Plan
Trust us when we say you don't want to announce this transition with the idea that you'll "figure it out eventually". Have a clear, detailed plan on your rollout strategy. Will the transition be all at once in a heavily disruptive, but ultimately short transition window? Will it be done in bits and pieces over a long period of time so that the day-to-day work is less affected? Will the changes be forced and mandatory or an optional benefit people can opt into? Figure all of this out so that you can appropriately plan for the implementation, but also so that you can answer any and all questions that come up.
Step 6: Communicate Clearly And Often
Trying to get an entire organization to rally behind you will only work if people understand what's happening and why. Communication is absolutely essential in transitioning your company to Teal. Unsure of what to say and when? First, follow the same steps outlined in this article. Tell your company why this change is happening, tell them what the limits and boundaries are, and educate them on what this is and how it will work. You can't over-communicate something as big and impactful as this. Give every update you have as often as possible, and, more importantly, be honest. Your employees will know if you are lying or hiding something, and a single hidden truth will undo months or years of trust and respect. If something isn't working well, tell them. They will either understand why it needs to change or will help fix it themselves.
Step 7: Build Alignment
Whatever your reason was for wanting to go Teal, commit to it and anchor every single decision off of that. As you continue further planning out how you'll handle your rollout, make sure each step is focused on the reasons you've already communicated to the rest of your organization. For example, if your main desire is autonomy for your employees, then every process needs to provide them autonomy and every decision needs to be made in a way that won't diminish that autonomy. The consistency will make transitions easier, as your team will better understand why decisions are being made, but it will help keep you and others grounded on the reason this was all started to begin with.
Step 8: Be Vigilant
Going Teal requires constant dedication, and as the head of the business and the ultimate decision-maker (even if your goal is to no longer be the ultimate decision-maker), it all falls on your shoulders. You need to set the example and make sure all the new rules are being followed. Keep your ear to the ground and listen to feedback from every level of the organization. Hold people accountable to the new rules and expectations. Call things out when they are going against the new vision (in a productive and understanding way, not in a shaming way). You don't want to be stressed and panicked waiting for things to go wrong. Just know that you will need to step up and take care of things immediately when you do become aware of issues.
Step 9: Be Kind And Forgiving
Unless you roll things out perfectly, there will be some mistakes, hard feelings, and difficult times. Although you can take steps to avoid as much negativity as possible, we're flawed humans and these things are inevitable. If you punish yourself or others when mistakes are made, it will undermine the work you are doing to create a more human-centric organization. Look at mistakes as a way to learn and grow. Look at emotional struggles as a way to be vulnerable and create bonds with your fellow workers. Look at the difficult times as stories to tell new employees about how everyone in your organization came together to make it through. Kindness and forgiveness are not only the right things to do, but it will create lasting relationships founded on loyalty, trust, and respect. Those things attribute more to a successful Teal transition than any amount of planning.