Teal at The Castle – Part II
In part I of “Teal at The Castle”, we talked about the theoretical framework based on the book Reinventing organizations . The post ended with a question on how the theory is manifested through practice which is why we need to go back to the sunny morning the beginning of May in Stockholm where I visited a lecture at The Castle. In short, The Castle is a co-working space. However, the core team behind the concept do experiment quite a lot with what it means to be an office, how an organization can work, what it means to be a leader and how to create a fulfilling and meaningful environment.
In the beginning…
– Doing it differently was very much the starting point for The Castle. We who started this place were a bunch of naïve students that got high from the idea of breaking apart from the old system which in our case meant business studies at university.
One way of breaking apart was to, at the recruitment days at the university, build an eight-meter-high tower out of scaffolding which we called “the entrepreneurship tower”. At the bottom of the tower was a trash can with the sign “throw your resume, don’t apply for a job”. Looking back, this was a bit juvenile but it came from a need to criticize the current way of doing things. Later, we found an office remade from an old church where the people running it needed help to make it profitable and we decided to help them. Obviously, it was super hard but after some years we started to explore the concept of co-working space. We asked ourselves “what do you need to run an organisation?” Where “a desk, a chair, wifi and coffee!” was the initial answer but the question remained, “what do you REALLY need?” and as we explored the world and grew as individuals the question morphed into “what do you need in life and why wouldn’t we have all of those things at a place where we spend a lot of our time?”
So, what we found out is that basic human needs include:
- Stretching boundaries
A lot of those things are usually not included in building organisations or space for organisations. So how do we build our workspace to cater for such needs?
(The interview will be available as an edited podcast, stay tuned)
Wow, so moving back to the TEAL concept. How is evolutionary purpose manifested at The Castle?
– A purpose is usually a vague term, you can see it at corporate homepages where it includes several non-important clichés. A model for how we perceive purpose at The Castle can be modelled in a Maslovian pyramid which means that each new stage of the pyramid builds upon the previous one.
- Components – The base of the pyramid consists of components such as wifi, coffee, money, members. These are all the minimal actions for an organisation which thus represent basic needs.
- Processes – The components in the base layer build up processes which include network maintenance, kitchen logistics, money administration, member acquisition and termination etc.
- Culture – The components and processes in turn become culture. This is where we as organizers lose control. Members and their relations are key in shaping the culture so everything that happens within this space shape the culture. At The Castle, regular fika, alumni gatherings, parties, community day are all activities that are part of our culture. Working with culture thus involves working with everything in the process and component parts as well. Additionally, we don’t have one culture here. Instead, there is a constant flux of cultures which all develop or burn out over time.
- Culture effects – In practice it can be described as values but we want to emphasize that the values are effects of all the parts below. The cultural effects result in belonging, stress, creativity, exclusion, greed. It can be everything. Again, the control that we as organizers had over the components is further diminished in this step. What we can do, as organizers, is to talk about the effects, sense them, set effects as goals but we cannot control them.
- Purpose – Finally, purpose is the result of everything that we do. That is to say all the previous steps. We, as organizers, have very little control but we act as listeners and facilitators and what we are looking for it to align all the steps of the pyramid. If anything we want to make sure that we listen and make sure that all the parts are aligned towards the same direction. That is how the purpose becomes evolutionary, it has its will of its own given the previous parts of the pyramid which are constantly changing.
– To be a leader however means that you need to sense your purpose, to reflect the values you wish to see, to listen and work with the culture, to design the processes and to act on the components. It becomes really complex as you need to work with everything in parallel.
How is wholeness manifested at The Castle?
– However important wholeness is, I will not be going into detail. The basic idea is that we should be able to view The Castle, ourselves, society etc. in its entirety. To have that as an ambition has huge implications for your business. It is a great challenge to be your whole self. Ask yourself, do you feel that who you are at work is all that you are? For us it means constant questioning of whether we have included all the perspectives we can in a set context. We use complex communication exercises to develop the ability to be whole.
How is self-management manifested at The Castle?
– Self-management is probably the trendiest in the context of Teal and organisational development. From my perspective, self-management is a result of wholeness and evolutionary purpose. If you truly can strive for wholeness and listen to your evolutionary purpose, then self-management becomes the obvious alternative. Nevertheless, at the foundational level, self-management is about setting a frame to help your participants to understand what they act freely within.
The frameworks that we have at the castle are basically a set of principles, activities and documents which are under constant development. An example of a framework would be: decision making processes. It helps answer the question “If you don’t have any bosses, how are decisions made?”. We follow a process called “the advice process” which works like this: If members want to initiate something, they do not need to go to a boss and ask for permission which would be the way to do it in an hierarchical organization. Nor would the member need to create a consensus within a specific group to get it done. Instead members have full authority to take decisions, even if it involves spending company money, as there is full trust in a member’s ability to see if it is a good idea or not and to get it done. However, a member is expected to ask for advice from the people that are or might be affected by the initiative and/or the people who are skilled within the domain of the initiative. The advice should not be seen as absolute, that is to say: the advice is not a seeking for approval but of an advice of how to go about realizing the initiative in such a way that the stakeholders are taken into consideration.
Moving into participatory culture
– The core team of The Castle consists of only seven people but since we are part of a larger community of over 270 people there are opportunities to practice different structures. It is important to note that when an individual is co-creating the structure which they are a part of it in turn creates meaning. Which is why all members of the community are invited to engage in creating the structures that they want to see. An examples of how participatory culture manifests at The Castle are the bottles of Champagne that are available at this floor. All the bottles have custom labels which explain how you as a community member can host your own after work at The Castle. There is a budget and any member can pick up a bottle and create an event without asking for permission. Other activities spring up in the same fashion, there is a runner’s club, mid-day meditation sessions and evening dance hall lectures etc. all initiated and hosted by the community members. The Castle has only provided the frameworks for activity initiation.
How do you measure and improve on the organization?
– We have weekly meetings every Tuesday where the qualitative feedback which has been received by the members is reviewed and discussed between the members of the core team. There are no quantitative metrics.
How do organizations built using other paradigms transcend into a TEAL shape?
– Experimentation is key which is facilitated by communication in different ways. Further, participatory methods such as world café methodology or open space technology. Those methods are very scalable and can be applied to groups of 5 up to groups of 2000. Finally, development of an organization is fully dependent on the development of individuals. Consequently, facilitating individual development needs to be done in parallel to the organizational development.
Could you go a little deeper into how the advice process works?
– It consists of two parts, one is a positive and constructive part which we have talked about while the other one is a negative constructive part which basically boils down to conflict. When no one is there to tell you what is ok and what is not through a hierarchical structure, the only way to deal with tensions, as we choose to call them, is through conflict. However, we have a conflict resolution document which frames how a conflict can be resolved through communication. However, it is a work in progress just as everything else.
The steps for solving a conflict are:
- TEAL process – Participants solve it through the use of conflict resolution document (the frame)
- Green process – Other stakeholders mediate in order to find a compromise through consensus
- Orange process – The Castles core members step in and solves the conflict as other structures are failing.
- Amber process – If all the steps above fail, call the cops.
– It is important to note that other structures can be helpful in times when individuals or groups do not manage to solve a conflict which results in it escalating.
 Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing organizations: a guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness. (First edition.)