One of the underlying principles in Laloux’ research is the “evolutionary purpose”: a purpose that the organisation naturally wants to pursue, instead of trying to predict the future. If we no longer start from te planning & control paradigm and if we see the organisation as a living organism, this also has implications for the roles of the people and the leaders in the organisation. Instead of predicting and planning their role shifts towards listening to and being sensitive to what the organisation naturally wants and subsequently helping the organisation to achieve that. This means being sensitive and responsive. An example of this is the Agile method. This perspective also has implications for strategy documents; in their existing form they are no longer necessary. Instead of documenting the proposed reaction to a predictable future, the organisation connects with other stakeholders to experiment in order to achieve new solutions for complex questions. Successful experiments can then be scaled up to other parts or even the whole organisation. This means an explicit and active effort to let go of existing perspectives and to explore the advantages of other (also external) perspectives. Laloux mentions some examples: Theory U (Otto Scharmer), Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space, Future Search en World Cafe.
As a professional I have been educated in the more traditional management theories and I have worked in organisations in which that perspective dominated. Although I have also studied and worked with the post-industrial or post-modern look at organisations and organising, Laloux’ way of describing his vision of an organisation as a living organism clashes with that other perspective. I strongly feel that the traditional way of organising no longer suffices, I also feel resistance towards the idea of “listening and being sensitive to what the organisation naturally wants”. Firstly, I don’t believe in an organisation as an entity with a free will (the post-modern thinkers call this reification: assigning human qualities to things and concepts). Secondly, I also have to get used to his use of language and words: the organisation as a mystical and spiritual higer power that reveals its secrets. Laloux may be right. The fact that I have trouble accepting that type of language also says a lot about the power and domincance of the traditional management theories. I do like the idea of discovering: by exploring new directions and allowing new perspectives, together with other stakeholders in and outside the organisation – new ways of working and new solutions for complex questions emerge.
Frederic Laloux, 2016, Reinventing Organisations, Lannoo Publishers