Reinventing organizations: emphasis on culture and completeness

In his book ‘Reinventing organizations’, management writer Laloux explains his vision on organizations based on research in a number of progressive organizations. Positive relations and culture are important elements in his approach (read more about the background of happiness at work and positive relations as one of its building blocks).

Laloux speaks about “Wholeness”. This means organizing the willingness to listen and pay attention to one another. He also mentions examples of organisations where people bring their kids (in a daycare centre linked to the organisation) or their dogs to work. The effect of this is that the classical professional dynamic is being reinvented (click here for an article about office dogs).

Wholeness as a principle has consequences for how organisations hire new employees, how they agree to intereact with one another, how they organise time and space to reflect, how people tell each other stories and how they organise meetings. An intriguing example is an organisation where they agreed to ring a bell each time someone is violating the groundrules of safe and healthy interaction. Wholeness also changes the way organisations deal with working hours. This builds on the assumption that work is an important part, but not the only part of employees’  lives. Performance interviews are being organised from the perspective of learning and deeply felt commitment and attention based on challenging questions and not based on judgements and fear.

To implement Completeness, there are a number of possible interventions: 1) creating a safe environment, 2) storytelling, 3) creating space for reflection, 4) a new approach to working hours and 5) a new approach to performance and performance reviews.

ad 1. Creating a safe environment that invites and enables employees to being themselves. Laloux mentions the creation of groundrules and principles of engagement and he suggests to make rules for how to deal with violations of those groundrules and principles. An example is to have meetings take place in such a way that personal egos cannot get in the way of the purpose of the meeting (also see the Integrative Decision Making method from Holacracy). Assigning a specific observer role in meetings can help. This role will monitor the application of the agreed upon ground rules and principles of respectful engagement and signals violations of those rules and principles. Another example is to build in check-in moments in every meeting to allow participants to get rid of mental distractions so they can fully focus on the meeting.

ad 2. Inviting people to tell sotries. In comparison to the usual team building efforts like bowling, storytelling enables people to connect on a more profound level.

ad 3. Creating space for reflection, both in terms of time as well as in terms of physical space. Some organisations work with repetitive moments of collective reflection. Other ways of organising reflection are: coaching sessions or practicing new behaviour through role play facilitated by actors and trainers.

ad 4. A new approach to working hours deals with making agreements in such a way that the work and the results will be delivered, but at the same time to ensure that there is sufficient time and space for other factors and aspects in employees’  lives. In a situation of self steering there needs to be a certain degree of flexibility, but at the same time, people are expected to come up with solutions in order to deliver on the commitments that they have committed themselves to do.

ad 5. A new approach to performance reviews means discussing performance based on connectedness, curiosity and appreciation, looking for what goes well, possibilities for growth and based on challenging questions.

From the perspective of completeness, Appreciative Inquiry is a very valuable method: “Find a bright spot and clone it” – based on the authors of Switch (Dan and Chip Heath). This approach is based on finding solutions for complex issues by looking for what works, despite the challenges and setbacks and how that can be scaled up. This generates more energy than an approach that is focused on problems and challenges.


Frederic Laloux, 2016, Reinventing organizations, Lannoo Publishers

Goedhart, Van der Steen, 2016, Proceskunde – en pleidooi voor werken met aandacht, Kessels en Smit The Learning Company