Frederic Laloux: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Laloux After I read Frederic Laloux‘s brilliant book, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, I was curious to know more about him and learned of his passionate commitment to helping leaders in almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to explore fundamentally new ways of organizing resources (especially people) to achieve and then sustain excellence. One of the keys to that is creating a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

Reinventing Organizations draws on two strands:

o Frederick’s deep understanding of the inner workings of organizations, which he developed among other during the years he worked as an organization and strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company

o His longstanding fascination with the topic of human development and his own joyful journey of personal and spiritual growth.

He has worked intimately with people at all levels of organizations. He has witnessed how the organizations that make up the fabric of our modern lives (large corporations and small businesses, hospitals and schools, nonprofits and government agencies) are for the most part places of quiet and pervasive suffering, places inhospitable to the deeper yearnings of our souls. The intuition that more is possible—that we must be capable of creating truly soulful organizations that invite all of our human potential into the workplace—has led him to engage into groundbreaking research: how a currently emerging, new form of consciousness is bringing forth a radically more soulful, purposeful, and productive organizational model.

Reinventing Organizations was published by Kendall Parker (February 2014). It is based on extensive research and has been variously described as “groundbreaking,” “brilliant,” “spectacular,” “impressive,” and “world-changing” by some of the most respected scholars in the field of human development.

Frederic lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he is blessed to share his life with his wife, Hélène, and their two children.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of him. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing Reinventing Organizations? Please explain.

Laloux: A few. For instance, I was very aware of organizations that are values-driven, and that use this to empower people, to push decision-making as low as possible down the pyramid. This is what I was expecting to find in the organizations I was going to research. I didn’t expect for a minute to find very large organizations that didn’t just empower people, but operated entirely on self-managing principles, without layers of hierarchy!

I was still operating under the assumption that you can’t run a large organization without power hierarchy. Now, of course, I know better! I’ve come to see that hierarchy can only deal with limited complexity. And that organizations that want to cope with the increasing complexity of our world will naturally shift to more powerful mechanisms than those based on power hierarchy, of some people holding power over other people.

Another insight had to do with strategy. The current paradigm concerning strategy still made total sense to me before I did the research. In this paradigm the role of leadership is set a vision, define a strategy, and then execute that strategy. Vision, strategy, execution. How else could you do it, right?

And then I came across the leaders of some organizations that I researched who said: No, that’s bullshit (well, they didn’t quite say it that way). Vision, strategy, execution makes sense if you consider the organization to be a lifeless, inanimate entity.

If the organization is like a boat, then yes, the boat needs a captain that charts a course, and then sailors that get busy setting the sails in the right way to go in the right direction. But we don’t consider the organization to be a boat, an inanimate thing we need to direct.

We consider the organization to be like a living entity, we consider that it has its own sense of direction, its own energy, its own thing it wants to manifest in the world. So our role is not to arbitrarily set a direction. Instead, our role is to listen to the organization, listen deeply to where it wants to go. And then we dance with it to help it get there.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Laloux: There were a few unexpected insights, like the ones I just shared. But for the rest, the book in its final structure is very similar to what I had first sketched out on a piece of paper. Overall, the process of researching and writing this book has been surprisingly straightforward. In many ways, I felt like many things were falling in place naturally, like some forces were helping me to write the book.

Morris: In your opinion, from which organization’s reinvention can the most valuable lessons be learned in terms of do’s and don’ts? Please explain.

Laloux: As you know, I have come across three major breakthroughs in how these organizations operate. Now not all organizations have stumbled upon all three of them. Buurtzorg, the Dutch nursing organization, that grew from 0 to 8,000 people in 7 years, is in my opinion the one organization that comes closest to having implemented all three breakthroughs. So they might be a particularly good source of inspiration.

But then again, it all depends on what kind of organization you are. Buurtzorg operates in an industry with a very short process. Giving a patient a shot or changing a bandage is a much shorter process than, say, designing and manufacturing hydraulics valves. So if you want to implement some of these ideas in a factory, you might find inspiration with Sun Hydraulics in Florida, FAVI in France or Morning Star in California.

An organization like Morning Star has fine-tuned the breakthrough of self-management to a wonderful degree, but hasn’t worked much on the other two. So what I’ve tried to do is to draw a picture that would be as complete as possible, using pieces of the puzzle from all the organizations I researched.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1,  please click here.

Frederic cordially invites you check out the resources at these websites:

Reinventing Organization‘s website link

Amazon link

Integral Life conversation with Ken Wilber link

LinkedIn link

YouTube link

Tony Schwartz review in New York Times link

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