Post by Peter Østergaard
Delegate, more TEAL and less orange
2021 February 5th
How do you ensure in a knowledge organization that there is autonomy and focus on the individual employee? Especially when you’re also focusing on scaling and fulfilling your ambition to be a growth company, support values such as presence and recognition, and ensure the greatest possible co-determination and influence among the individual employees?
In Delegate, we have settled on a solution where we form larger self-driving teams, i.e. more TEAL and a less orange organization.1 The optimal size of Teams in Delegate is between 12 and 15 people when complete.
At Delegate, we have until recently worked in smaller teams of 5–6 people. This has given rise to the challenge that in line with the growth of Delegates the organization has not been able to keep up. There were simply too few Teamleads and we could not scale at the pace we wanted. At the same time, the organization had begun to grow hierarchical—not because this was intended, but because it was slowly evolving.
At the heart of Delegate’s culture there is a belief and trust in autonomy. We believe that our culture and values can go a long way in guiding how we behave and are. We want to find the right balance between alignment and autonomy, as the figure below illustrates.
The term Teal and orange organization originates from Frederic Laloux who in the book Reinventing Organizations describes different organizational structures. Orange is a classic hierarchical and bureaucratic organization while a teal organization is an organization with great co-determination and self-management, such as holacracy.
“Optimal balance between alignment and autonomy.” Source: Erik Korsvik Østergaard, “Teal dots in an orange world.”
2020 was in many ways governed by the pandemic, where we had to find ways to work segmented throughout most of the year, and as a result the autonomy became self-reinforcing. With the combination of our culture and the distributed work situation, the idea of larger and
more self-governing teams arose. We had also been inspired by a group of employees who had come to Delegate as a team and already worked as a large self-governing team. They showed led the way…
The theory of “circles” or teams in a “Teal” organization is that you gather around a mission, a purpose, or a task. Our purpose, and thus also the task for our teams, is to ensure that we fulfill our employee and customer promise and that we thereby support the growth of Delegate. This is the individual team’s primary focus.
Therefore, we have instituted the following guidelines for individual teams:
- The exact distribution of tasks and structure in the team is completely voluntary. It is up to the team itself to solve how the team works best, as long as the overall goals and purpose are intact.
- We have a TeamLead, which is responsible for the team, so here is an orange element present. The person makes sure that the team delivers the results to Delegate.
- We have defined a Lead Role that the team can choose to implement. Maybe this role is cut, maybe not. Our change takes place from a more hierarchical structure with a lead and team of 4 –5 employees. We are very aware of “presence,” which is one of our values, and we want to continue to ensure it. That is why we currently have chosen to maintain a Lead.
In Delegate, we do not work with a model where teams can be dissolved and formed continuously. According to our model, the team is fixed. While ut is possible to change teams, that is not the original intention. Members of our teams are put together so that the members of the team best complement each other in terms of experience, competencies, and technological focus. Delegate is an IT consulting house. As such, we are very focused on the competencies we have in relation to solving projects with our customers.
What the final setup for Delegate will be, we do not yet know. But the journey has begun, and we must ensure that it takes us to where there is balance and live up to our overall goal of being a good workplace founded on healthy values and where the individual employee can see his or her own development — and that customers think Delegate is a good partner.