“Something is broken in today’s organizations…The pain we feel is the pain of something old that is dying…while something new is waiting to be born.”
Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations
So much of organizational life is onerous and frustrating these days. For many of us, the day job is characterised by aggravation and a sense of soullessness: a “cold, mechanical approach” which trades agency and responsibility for box-checking accountability and loss of control.
That’s what Frederic Laloux argues in his 2014 book Reinventing Organizations, which explores alternative models for those institutions and businesses willing to dissolve hierarchies and pursue new management paradigms.
Laloux’s case studies include the Dutch healthcare organization Buurtzorg, which delivers community care in leaderless self-organizing teams of ten to twelve nurses, and FAVI, a French automotive supplier which has divided itself into self-managing “mini-factories” whose teams operate without executive management. These businesses and institutions, Laloux argues, resemble living systems more than the organisations of old. They are evolving beyond previous, rigid ways of bringing people together to achieve a goal: the army, the university, the corporation…even the organized crime syndicate.
Laloux presents a practical vision for a world where “no one is the boss of anyone else”, and our organizations begin to take on an organic character.
The approach is intended to work across many sectors, with examples including highly regulated industries such as the energy industry and food processing. I thought I’d spend some time thinking about what it would mean for information organisations – archives, libraries, and other entities which create, store, share, and manage information – to explore Laloux’s approach. What would it take for us to reinvent the Information Organization? Read more