What is Teal?

What is Teal?

Something new is about to happen in organizational development and it will challenge our ways of thinking and working with these issues. From different directions, our traditional and sometimes rigid hierarchies begin to be questioned and challenged. In many ways, these companies have contributed to a lot of good and created welfare and growth for individuals, companies, and communities. BUT, more and more, voices are being heard that it's not working anymore, people are getting burned out, organizations are anorexic, unsanitary numbers are rising, and companies aren't delivering the same growth and results as before.

Most companies have gone through some kind of major change over the past 10 years; reorganization, takeovers, cuts, centralization, decentralization, mergers, etc. All to find new ways forward in a tricky jungle, but perhaps not always with such successful results.

Frederic Laloux, a former consultant from McKinsey and coach to many business leaders, has, based on his own experience, for several years investigated what needs to happen for companies to be well developed and sustainable in the long term. Out of his research came the book Reinventing Organizations.

So, what is Teal?

In the book, he describes how human development has also contributed to us taking different steps in the development of organizations and companies. From the traditional companies, the next step has been taken by quite a few companies where you work from a common host round and where employeeship is stronger in focus. He takes the step further to identify another type of organization of companies, which may not be as common, but which is based on where we have come in our human development. He calls these organizations Teal organizations.

Teal organizations are characterized by the fact that the purpose and mission of the company are not only for the work of the management, but all work is based on this. Employees are part of self-organizing and self-governing teams, where job descriptions are absent. As an employee, you hold one role, and you can also have several roles. The organizational structure is not fixed but flows, changes and adapts based on the different requirements and conditions that exist to achieve the organization's purpose.

In the book, Laloux describes different levels of development in peop

The levels of development are fundamental to understanding Laloux's reasoning.


The red level can be likened to a wolf pack. There is always a strong leader, male or female, who can always be challenged by any other person aspiring to the extreme top.

Criminal gangs are often organized on a red level.

The red level has several advantages compared to even previous levels, now through clear roles you can distribute the work in a completely different way than before. Even if the leader does not stay on for so long, there is at least one leader who also makes decisions.


At this level, individuals have very clear roles and responsibilities and they do not run the same risk of being challenged by someone else as at the red level. The Army and Church are good examples of organizations run in accordance with Amber.

The difference is that there is higher stability and it also makes the work easier to plan, which facilitates long-term thinking in the business.

Businesses run from this level value stability, processes and formal roles.


The orange level can be symbolized by a machine, here productivity and results are valued. You deserve position, rank or benefits based on what you have achieved in terms of results.

The orange level is the absolutely dominant level of organization today, you can almost choose any company that is goal-oriented, and that strives for growth and profitability and you will see that they operate from an orange level.


We leave the machine thinking and develop further, here at the green level that is about the "family". Instead of being extremely results-focused, the driving force is a strong common set of values. The ambition to make consensus decisions and the sense of inclusion are strong factors. Here you are not prepared to compromise on your values unlike how it can be at the orange level, where you can imagine doing it if it can give a better result.

Employee engagement is a strong motivating factor and a sense of belonging and harmony in the organization is important to us here.


Now we have arrived at the level that Laloux describes in detail, Teal (dark turquoise). The metaphor of an organization is ONE single living organism. Leadership is spread out in the organization and self-government has replaced the hierarchies. The focus is on a common purpose as a starting point for creating results together, still without compromising their values.

Trust and personal responsibility with a mandate are extremely important for these organizations. Decision-making has been passed on as far as it goes to individuals and groups who can best make the decisions. Discussions are held in the groups that will drive the work forward together and there are also advisory processes that will support decision-making. For all this to work, competence is needed from all colleagues in terms of the ability to give and take feedback, communicate constructively and handle conflicts.

Working in a Teal organization, I am seen as a whole person. It's about me not having to play a role, keep up a façade to be accepted at work. Here I am seen and confirmed as the person I am.

What differentiates Teal and Purpose-driven Organizations?

In both types of organizations, there is a clear purpose formulated that serves as a guiding star for the organization. Through the purpose, a strategy can then be designed that guides us in our decision-making.

The difference as we see it is that in Teal organizations, we have taken organizational and leadership issues further than is perhaps done in a purpose-driven organization. The Teal organisation has clear autonomy and the managers are no longer there. A leadership exists but it is taken by all staff depending on the issues involved. Self-leadership is clearly articulated and actively worked on in Teal.

In a purpose-driven organization, the managers can remain, it is not an end in itself to become self-organizing in this organizational form. The development can go in this direction in the long run when we work with the individual purpose of each one in the organization. It can create a tremendous power and commitment in each one that can contribute to the development being able to move towards Teal and self-organization.

About the Author

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Heléne Ählberg har mångårig erfarenhet av att stödja företag och organisationer i utveckling av organisation, strategi, verksamhet, ledningsgrupper, ledarskap och medarbetarskap. Erfaren förändringsledare samt coach och rådgivare för enskilda individer och företagare.

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