Five turquoise organisations executives can learn from

The turquoise organisation - based on worker autonomy, strong leaders and harmony - is now going mainstream as success stories demonstrate its efficacy

The turquoise organisation - based on worker autonomy, strong leaders and harmony - is now going mainstream as success stories demonstrate its efficacy

In 2014, Frederic Laloux defined turquoise, or teal, organisations as the latest breakthrough in the human collaborative hierarchy,  in his book “Reinventing Organizations”. 

Laloux says they are characterised by self-management, an emphasis on wholeness, and the emphasis on evolutionary purpose within the organisation. To learn more about turquoise organisational culture, read our article on the best practices to turn your company teal

Since the term has enjoyed renewed focus following the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the working environment, we wanted to lay out some big-name examples of turquoise organisations.

Sun Hydraulics

Sun Hydraulics was founded in 1970 and became a publicly owned company in 1997 with factories in Florida, where it is headquartered, as well as Kansas, England, Germany, and Korea. Sun Hydraulics uses multiple turquoise practices. For example, candidates for large roles are interviewed by the colleagues who will work most closely with them instead of solely by “superordinates” while minor role changes often take place organically by people volunteering themselves.

When an employee is hired, they undergo a manufacturing tour that lasts for two to four weeks for hourly employees and one to four months for salaried employees. Sun says it believes peer relationships are one of the most important aspects of working.

John Lewis Partnership

John Lewis Partnership was founded over a century ago when John Lewis opened a draper’s shop in London. The company is currently the United Kingdom’s largest employee-owned business, including retail brands John Lewis and Waitrose, which are both known for their quality and partnership supplier models.

Waitrose joined the John Lewis Partnership in 1937 and only sells food that has been responsibly sourced, including from the Waitrose Farm.

John Lewis Partnership describes itself as a “happier business” working with “happier people” to build a “happier world”. According to the company, its founder was committing to building a better form of business, which the omnichannel retailer strives to maintain, when he signed away his personal ownership rights.

Buurtzorg Nederland

Buurtzorg Nederland was founded in the city of Almelo in the Netherlands in 2006 by Jos de Blok and a team of nurses. It is known simply as Buurtzorg, which means “neighbourhood care” in Dutch. The company came out of de Blok’s dissatisfaction with traditional home care organisations in the Netherlands. The company uses independent nurse teams to deliver affordable care.

Through its management model, the company says it has “accomplished a 50 percent reduction in hours of care, improved quality of care and raised work satisfaction for employees”. In 2016, Buurtzorg employed 10,000 nurses across 850 teams, in towns and villages all over the Netherlands and in 23 other countries.

The Morningstar Company

The Morningstar Company is a food processing agribusiness focused on tomatoes. The company processes around 25% of tomato production in California, and supplies 40% of the US industrial tomato paste and diced tomato markets. 

It was founded in 1970 by Chris Rufer, and is headquartered in Woodland, California. The company has no supervisory management policy, with Rufer saying it runs on "Self-Management”. Compensation is based on peer evaluations with employees encouraged to innovate and define job responsibilities themselves - a key characteristic of turquoise organisations. Workers can even make equipment purchasing decisions after speaking with experts.

New Era Windows

US worker cooperative New Era Windows was established in 2012 by ex-employees of  Republic Windows and Doors. That company closed its windows factory in 2008 and fired all its workers, who clubbed together to buy the company out themselves, restart it and “fire” the original boss four years later. 

They founded the new company with the help of the United Electrical Workers Union, The Working World, and the Centre for Workplace Democracy. The workers managed to collect US$520,000 and made an offer of $1.2 million for the purchase.

Today, the company says it is “democratically” worker-operated.


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