This is a relevant book for everyone that is part of an organization
and can be an inspiration for those who want to make our
workplaces healthier with a greater focus on the people who
The authors combine their research with stories and cases
from a range of organizations. They share examples and anecdotes
from real life, from organizations, and from people that
are already using aspects of Teal, but also from companies like
Buurtzorg that have come further. They also provide a look back
at some examples from the past that help us to understand that
this is not something completely new, it is about simplicity and
applying practices that make sense.
Their work leads to a practical model called the “DP model,”
which has 12 different areas that need to be taken into consideration
and that are closely related as part of a systemic organism.
These areas are people, culture, organizing, leadership, decision-
making, transparency & communication, salary model and
profit sharing, digital tools & technology, competence & learning,
workplace & working hours, social responsibility & sustainability,
My view and my experience from the journey that I have
undertaken at Buurtzorg is that people should be treated as
humans, as the individuals that they are. A question that needs
to be considered at any time is: “Is this ethical?” This question
is not only about how you act; it is also about the way that you
perceive people. The values you have and your worldview will
determine the way you act. This is what makes a difference and
it is a holistic perspective, the wholeness that Frederic Laloux
mentions. It is about creating an environment where people can
grow as human beings, moving from the view of seeing people
as resources to seeing them as human beings.
The authors’ description of culture as behaviors, a way of being
and acting, is also aligned with what we at Buurtzorg emphasize.
For us, culture is about how we behave and how we talk to each
other. Can I listen to others or am I only sending messages that
could be misunderstood? This connects to different aspects of
communication. Communication based on a dialogue is completely
different to telling people about your plans, your strategy,
your vision, or your mission. Having a transparent dialogue
makes these things less important and contributes to another
type of conversation.
For example, if the frontline is important, then you should
treat the frontline as important. It is about practicing what you
preach and about being conscious, aware of what you are like,
what you do, and the impact of what you say. This applies to
everyone in an organization, regardless of what your working
tasks are. Words are very important, and we need to pay attention
to what kind of language we use.
A lot of words that are developed within the field of management
are very intimidating to many people. Often they do not
know the exact meaning of these words and this can have an
impact, because people may feel impressed. It also creates a
feeling of inferiority and insecurity because they feel they have
to do something, but they don’t know exactly what. This creates a
feeling that people using complicated language know much more
than those who don’t know the meaning of the words. I know
that using the wrong words makes people feel small, but if you
use the same language and if you listen to people, you will create
a connection to them. For example, if you work in an organization
with nurses, you should use the language of the nurses.
Otherwise they will feel disconnected: What is he talking about
now? It is important to be able to feel the impact of words.
Sensitivity, reflection, and rethinking are an attitude and a
behavior and also part of the culture. If people feel free to say
what they feel, what they want, that will lead to ideas and innovation
Another important thing is knowledge sharing, especially tacit
knowledge, what people know but which is not documented.
During the last 50 years, our world has moved towards becoming
increasingly evidence based. The dark side of this is that the daily
practice of frontline work, which is so valuable, is not given as
much space. I really believe that we need to find ways in which
this knowledge and these experiences can be spread and further
developed. This is a horizontal way of sharing where platforms
and social networks play an important role.
In social networks, these everyday experiences and learning
can be exchanged if people feel free to share. On a platform or
social network with a lot of regulations, it will not work. The way
to make it work is to keep it open, without restrictions, so people
feel that they should respond and come up with ideas. To create
this kind of open atmosphere, it is important that the leaders do
not give negative responses to things. If I, for example, do not
agree, I usually let it go and hope for a discussion. I know that
if I say “We cannot say this,” people are likely to remain silent.
At the same time, it is necessary to be very clear about what
is expected, and what the guidelines are: on the one hand, a
lot of space; on the other hand, clarity. We at Buurtzorg have
three importance guidelines, namely quality, collaboration, and
finance. What is needed for organizations to succeed is a healthy
model and a healthy way of doing things based on logic. It should
be organic and very clear, because if it is not, it could create a lot
of uncertainties and a lot of insecurity. This is illustrated very
clearly in this book by several examples that show possible outcomes
depending on how safe people perceive themselves to be.
People feel safe when they know what we do as a company,
when they know the purpose and the result of the purpose. To
get to this point, openness, communication, and transparency
need to be in place. Everything is open at Buurtzorg. Everyone
can find what they want. It is also about simplification, because
when it is possible to understand things, it is also natural to take
ownership, responsibility, and accountability.
Alicia and Rolf are bringing an important aspect into the
spotlight, an aspect that is very often misunderstood, and that
is the view of leadership. The new ways of organizing need to
reinvent more or less new forms of leadership. I am convinced
that leadership and ownership belong together, and leadership
should always create an environment that makes it possible for
people to take ownership. When I support organizations, I see
that when leadership and ownership are not balanced the organizations
have a tendency to fall back into old patterns.
Leadership should focus on the human approach and ownership
should not be taken away. When managers say “I give my
employees freedom, but they don’t take it,” they are still caught
in the old paradigm. Saying that they give ownership is putting
themselves in a position above people, because if they have something
to give, then they have more than others. Leaders need to
be the individuals they want to be seen as; this has an impact
on people. People will behave according to their perception, to
what they see and feel.
One of the aspects of the DP model is about healthy finances
and profitability, which are important for the survival of any
organization. Sometimes I am asked: “What happens if a team is
not profitable?” But this is not something that “just happens”; it is
always a process. Usually the team is doing well, but sometimes
it does not work. Then we need to talk about it and try to find
the reasons behind it. What can we do in both the short and the
long term? Do we think it is a risk or not? It is important to be
open and clear and have a normal conversation about it, without
pressure. Just raise questions like: What do we do in half a year?
Will it continue in the same way? Questions are the forerunners
to improvements. Usually the issue will be resolved by itself and
the team will find ways to improve the profitability. If it is not
possible to solve the situation, it is still important to be clear
about it. We need to draw conclusions together, end it, and find
solutions for everybody involved. This is part of normal life.
Things start, they grow, and sometimes they won’t work; and
then you end them.
Finding solutions for everyone involved is part of the social
responsibility. There should always be connections to other social
subjects. Every company can think about what contribution they
can make to certain societal issues. For example, if a company
makes bread, the approach could be “How can we develop bread
that is healthy for people?” Then bread becomes a kind of creative
process. It’s not only about the slices, but also about making
bread that people like, which makes it healthier.
In my opinion, it is possible to give meaning to everything;
it is just a matter of choosing an approach. For example, when
talking about finance, the conversation could include “We try
to sell as many products as possible” or “With our products we
try to solve as many problems as possible for those who have
I see this book as a contribution to the Teal movement and to
the transformation of organizations in general. The hard and
meticulous work that Alicia and Rolf have done with their research,
as well as the creation of the DP model, is presented in
this book in a way that reaches “the many people.”
Jos de Blok