An inspiring energy bomb bursting with new insights
Teal Partners is a team of 28 software professionals. The company builds complex, maintenance-friendly IT solutions that have the potential to fundamentally change an organisation. ‘Our choice to go down the self-management route has played a key part in our rapid growth,’ says founder Koen Denies. ‘That’s why we want to take this even further, with the help of Hifluence.’
The name Teal Partner refers to the title of the book ‘Reinventing Organizations’ by Frederic Laloux, about decentralisation and self-managing teams. In this book, the author introduces the concept of the Teal organisation that resolutely opts for employee autonomy. The unbossing principle isn’t exactly new to Koen Denies.
From day one, we chose to adopt self-management. Teal Partners is not my company, or that of my co-founder Jelle, but it’s the company of everyone who works here. We have full pay transparency and employees hire their own colleagues. We divide the work among the teams, from HR to sales. To us, self-management is an inherent part of who we are.
Together with Hifluence, the company thought about its future. Koen Denies: ‘Where do we want to be in three years’ time? What are our challenges? What customers do we want to work with? Armed with the answers to these questions, we know what we, Teal Partners, are all about. Only then can people make decisions independently with confidence.’
‘Many companies have their mission displayed on the wall as a slogan,’ says Nick Van Langendonck of Hifluence. ‘Happy people, happy organisation, let’s say. Suppose I’m the company’s accountant: what good is this kind of slogan to me? The meaning has to be crystal-clear for people to be able to act on it. In a small group, this happens organically, but it’s a different story in a fast-growing team.’
Under the guidance of Hifluence, the 28-strong team brainstormed these future-oriented questions. Nick Van Langendonck: ‘In traditional companies, CEOs sequester themselves for two days in a castle and come up with all kinds of crazy ideas. At Teal Partners, they tap into the collective intelligence. Quite a challenge, with that many people. But it works, because everyone at Teal Partners lives and breathes the belief that they all help shape the company.’
The brainstorming session resulted in what is known in technical terms as a concrete value proposition. Koen Denies: ‘It’s our elevator pitch. If anyone asks what we actually do at Teal Partners, we can explain it to them in two sentences:
By working as a result-oriented partnership, we help them achieve fundamental goals.
No one-size-fits-all approach
‘The hifluence inspiration session about the trends and pitfalls of self-management taught us that we don’t have to do everything ourselves,’ says koen denies. ‘it’s okay to call in outside expertise to do the things people feel less confident taking on. Say, business development or marketing.’
‘Finding the right approach to self-management is a process of trial and error,’ says nick van langendonck. ‘self-management is no one-size-fits-all approach. Something that works brilliantly at one company may be useless in another. Teal partners is happy to try things out, but can just as easily make the tough decisions when something doesn’t work.’
Same versus of equal value
‘The handing out of bonuses, that was a thorny issue,’ says koen denies. ‘people didn’t want to make decisions about what extras their colleagues would get. And giving everyone the same isn’t a solution either, because some people stick their necks out. We want to recognise that. So, i’ll be the one making those decisions from now on.’
‘you don’t need to involve everyone in every decision. That’s a common misconception about self-management,’ says nick van langendonck. ‘you have to determine who decides what when. Another misconception is that everyone is the same. People aren’t the same, they are of equal value. Do you choose to have a good work-life balance? Fine. Do you want to put in extra hours? That’s fine too, and in that case, you get something extra for doing so.’
‘We pride ourselves on our consultation culture, but it’s not easy making decisions in a group of 28,’ says koen denies. ‘hifluence introduced the principle of consent decision-making. When a suggestion is made, it will be implemented unless anyone puts forward valid counter-arguments. Adopting this technique has allowed us to make decisions more easily.’
Also new is the tactics meeting on mondays, where agendas and needs are discussed within the project context, and the advisory committee, a platform where colleagues discuss projects with each other. ‘that way, we can keep track of what we are all working on, give each other feedback in a safe space, and run through our story before we present it to the customer,’ says koen denies.
‘The programme is an energy bomb,’ says Denies. ‘We were given so many new insights that reinforced our belief. It made us feel that we are not alone in this. Everything was done online, to comply with coronavirus rules. That worked brilliantly, it was just as if we were doing it live. That’s a real reflection of Hifluence’s flexibility.’
Interested in our unbossing experience?
Marbles is fully committed to self-management. To achieve the company’s growth ambition, unbossing is crucial. Hifluence immersed the team in an intensive five-day programme: the Unbossing Experience.