Flick HardinghamFlick HardinghamNovember 6, 2017


The growing shortage of GPs and cuts in funding following the removal of the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee in 2014 provoked a big increase in workload at General Practices across the country.

The problem was compounded at Jubilee Street Practice in East London due to an above average healthcare demand from an increasingly deprived population. It seemed impossible to effectively run under a traditional, hierarchical structure, so the partners set out to explore alternative working models.

They recognised the need to release management resources by creating autonomous problem solving and decision making across all areas of the organisation and enable better patient services by a healthy and fulfilled workforce.

Inspired by the emergence of Teal corporate structures explored in Frederick Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations and Robertson’s Holacracy, the Partners invited organisational change consultant Nadia Laabs and I to help the practice reinvent ways of working in line with their mission and empower all staff.

What is teal?

A number of forward-thinking, global companies across a range of sectors (including Netherlands healthcare provider Buurtzorg, French brass foundry Favi, US tomato processing company Morning Star, and Californian outdoor apparel manufacturer Patagonia) operate outside of traditional, top-down management practices.

Driven by purpose, personal fulfilment, and growth, they are primed to drive innovation and navigate an increasingly complex economic environment. Teal organisations operate around three broad principles:

  • Evolutionary Purpose

Starting with why, the focus is on making meaning and creating a positive impact. Buurtzorg’s purpose is not to make sure all their elderly patients get immunised on time, but to help them live a complete and independent life. For Patagonia, it’s about far more than clothing. They are on a mission to: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

  • Self-Management

Transparent governance empowers all to be accountable, distributing power through self-managed teams at every level of the organisation, not just a few top executives. Even large enterprises can operate effectively in this way by maximising peer relationships and collective leadership.

  • Wholeness

A consistent set of practices inviting employees to ditch the professional mask and bring all of who they are to work. The work environment promotes self-expression, idea sharing, energy and creative thinking.

Turning teal

Late last year, a staff survey at Jubilee Street revealed that employee fulfilment, joy, and processes had seen a significant boost since the previous year. However, there was still room for improvement for both patients and staff, with stress, workload, morale, attitude, and transparency particular areas of concern.

The partners signed a declaration agreeing to test the principles of Wholeness, Self-Management and Evolutionary Purpose as the governance and operating system. Holacracy and Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations concepts would serve as a guide, but ways of working would be tailored to suit the practice’s unique vision. We were then brought in to help develop, pilot, and figure out exactly what this new way of working meant for Jubilee Street Practice.

United front

A common mission is vital to foster cross-functional collaboration and empowerment, and it should act as a guiding star for decision making. The entire practice worked together to name the new way of working ‘Circles’, embodying the inclusive nature of our change programme.

We then drafted a vision statement (our enduring blue-sky goal), a more comprehensive purpose statement (defining our reason for being), and a detailed Constitution outlining our objectives, structure, and ground rules.

The Jubilee Street Practice Vision Statement is:

“A healthy and well-cared for population by a healthy and fulfilled workforce.”

Prototype and test

To kick off we launched five, completely self-managed, pilot Circles to test new ways of idea generation and decision making. One Circle consists of multi-disciplinary staff including administrators, GPs, and nurses, all working together to serve one service (e.g. Palliative Care; Human Resources; Patient Registration, or Diabetes).

Our five pilot Circles drafted a Charter, outlining its unique Purpose, Domain, Roles, Objectives, Budget, and Accountabilities, and practiced working as an autonomous team, with all decisions made without input from management.

Circle roll-out

We scrapped formal, individual job descriptions and created over 80 Circles, each responsible for its own governance within a given scope. Circles and the roles within them are not fixed and can be added, removed, or adapted in response to the changing needs of the organisation.

In this way, the static hierarchy of the pyramid gives way to fluid natural hierarchy, where influence flows to those with the most expertise, passion, and interest. Freed from the rigidity and sluggishness of a command and control structure, Jubilee Street Practice could be more responsive and energised.

Each member of staff self-nominated to join five or more Circles with a giant, flexible Circles structure displayed in the practice to promote transparency, understanding, and collaboration. As with the Pilot, each Circle also completed a Charter to clarify responsibilities.

Ongoing training backed by one-to-one coaching

Throughout the transformation, we ran workshops to share experiences and challenges, and to help staff adopt the Teal principles. Key highlights included ways to promote a freedom-based workplace, identifying personal strengths and areas for development, the launch of a peer-to-peer coaching system to drive professional development beyond the annual review, and creative problem solving and team decision making.

This may all sound simple enough, but changing processes and behaviour takes time and practice. Some needed additional support to take responsibility, while others struggle to let go.

It is particularly challenging to ensure everyone finds their voice in every situation, which can vary hugely depending on their nature, the context, and other members of the Circle.

Backing this all up with simple yet effective internal communications and maintaining momentum is no mean feat. It is also important to remember that this cannot be seen as a recipe card for Teal. There is no one-size-fits-all and what Teal looks like will differ hugely between organisations.

Organisational structure, processes, and culture must be designed around your people and your evolutionary purpose.

So what?

For a real sense of the impact on individual employees you would have to go and see for yourself, but here are a few of my highlights:

  • Staff are primed and pumped to get things done at all levels of the organisation. They’re stepping up to volunteer for tasks that excite them, from editing the quarterly newsletter to prescribing governance, simply because they have been given permission and greater ownership.
  • We’ve successfully boosted transparency and understanding of each other’s roles, interests, and values. Plus, the restructure offered the perfect opportunity to spot gaps and opportunities for improvement.
  • There’s been a big increase in six staff engagement scores, including satisfaction and stress, despite raised responsibility, a significant shift in mindset, and complex problem solving. We’ve also seen improvement in transparency, retention, and recruitment.
  • We’re saving a whopping 80 hours of management time and £5,600 each month (now being reinvested in quality initiatives) through direct work delegation to autonomous Circles that now better serve functions such as QOF Management, IT, HR, social media, risk assessment, premises, finance. and health and safety. Time saved has sliced the former Practice Manager’s role by three days per week and she’s been busy sparking NHS interest in Circles across the country

Running as a Teal organisation may seem daunting to many leaders, but it is also a strong and effective response to our increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world.

It certainly seems vital for General Practices. By empowering staff at Jubilee Street Practice under a model of collective leadership, management resource is being freed up to think of new and creative ways to deliver better and more sustainable care. Patients are already starting to reap the rewards through improved communication, better processes, more streamlined appointments, and happier staff.

Flick Hardingham is Founder and Director of Habit. Habit work with leaders, teams, change agents and entire organisations to arm humans with the attitude, behaviour and culture to drive innovation. Discover more here www.wearehabit.com or contact Flick:

Twitter: @wearehabit
Email: flick@wearehabit.com

Flick HardinghamFlick HardinghamOctober 12, 2017


The global workforce is getting restless. In fact, it seems to be distinctly dissatisfied.

Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report revealed that 51 percent of US employees are disengaged, and this is by no means news. Engagement levels have barely budged over the past 15 years and sometimes have even declined.

The UK is in a similar state with 28 percent of employers acknowledging they are struggling to keep employees engaged.

So, what are the symptoms of this disengaged workforce?

Although they may seem passive and apathetic, the disengaged are kryptonite to business success and innovation: 48 percent will not hesitate to clock in late or leave early, 41 percent exceed their break quota, and 55 percent have no qualms about browsing the internet on company time.

They are also more likely to steal from the company, dabble in destructive office politics, drive customers away, and court head-hunters. In fact, Gallup estimates that these disgruntled employees cost the US up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

The malcontent delivery man will not try to redeliver your parcel, a despondent estate agent will not hesitate to complain about her ineffective team to new tenants, and the unhappy barista will not smile unless the boss is looking…you get the picture!

But engagement means more than happiness. A ping pong table, Friday night drinks, and a gift voucher on your birthday are nice to have, but will not necessarily keep you engaged. Similarly, even if your annual survey reveals high levels of job satisfaction, a merely satisfied worker is unlikely to go the extra mile outside of work hours.

Employee engagement is the instinctive connection and passion an employee has for their company’s vision, which translates to shared goals, self-motivated accountability, and optimum performance.

Organisations boasting top levels of employee engagement report double the rate of success, 22 percent higher productivity, 65 percent lower turnover, 48percent fewer safety incidents, happier customers, higher revenue…and that’s just for starters!

The business impact is clear and thankfully more companies are beginning to realise their human power deserves the same gold star treatment as customers and shareholders.

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report showed almost 80 percent of executives rate employee experience as a top priority. Rather than just focusing on employee life cycle, value proposition, or happiness, employee experience takes a holistic view of all interactions and judgements an employee has about the company.

Numerous models identify fundamental ways to engage your workforce and all are relatively consistent. Deloitte’s Simply Irresistible Organization model neatly pinpoints the five factors that supercharge employee experience when brought together with a strong dose of cross-organisation collaboration and stellar internal communication.

1. Trust in leadership

The average Glassdoor employee workplace recommendation is 3.2 out of five. Companies that rank higher cannot be differentiated by sector, age, or size, but their leaders are committed to investing in people.

Ranked as one of Fortune magazine’s Top 30 Best Places to Work in America for 11 years running, mortgage giant QuickenLoans does certainly not view engaged workers as a nice to have.

Founder and chairman Dan Gilbert integrates employee experience into business strategy and culture, creating a positive and empowering workplace to maximise performance. Gilbert and CEO Bill Emerson even go to the extent of personally leading an eight-hour orientation for new staff, ensuring everyone feels valued and understands their personal contribution.

Employees look to leadership for direction, inspiration, and stability. They need their leaders to live and breathe the company’s purpose, clearly communicate goals, and champion their workforce.

2. Growth opportunities

Nobody likes to feel stuck. Companies investing in opportunities for growth through training, career mobility, and a dynamic learning culture show a clear devotion to their people with a knock-on effect on productivity, performance, cross-functional collaboration, and employee experience.

3. Supportive management

An April 2015 Gallup study flagged that half of the US workforce has quit to escape bad management. Coaching and training is vital to develop these five skills Gallup spotted in bosses who consistently boost discretionary effort, loyalty, and profit.

  • They motivate their team
  • They push themselves to overcome obstacles
  • They drive a culture of accountability
  • They build trusting relationships
  • They make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and organisation

Making feedback and performance management part of the routine also has a huge impact on increasing self-awareness, improving communication, and building resilient connections.

4. Meaningful work

Despite the hype around millennials’ sole rights over fulfilling work, research shows that all generations share a similar desire to make meaning. Self-management and small, nimble, empowered teams armed with the tools to make decisions will reinforce connection and help employees find purpose in their work.

5. Positive work environment

Your people spend a lot of time at work, so it’s vital to create an environment that suits your people and your organisation. Global tech company Deliveroo’s new, open-p lan HQ features padded phone booths for when staff need a quiet space and a games room to bring people together.

Meanwhile, TrustedHousesitters, the largest global house and pet sitting network, encourage employees to bring dogs to the office.

Your people also want to be respected, understood and involved. The current political and economic climate has pushed diversity and inclusion up the agenda, as executives worldwide recognise its impact on talent acquisition, brand, performance, and innovation.

Connect Mentors, the soon-to-launch online mentoring platform, is beginning to close the gap by matching diverse, ambitious talent with inspirational mentors and organisations. Email hello@connectmentors.com for more details.

Integrating all of these factors into an effective employee experience is no mean feat and only 22 percent of executives believe that their organisations excel at creating a differentiated strategy.

At Habit, we use Design Thinking to help companies identify the distinct values, intrinsic motivators and challenges of their workforce and create simple solutions to inspire and promote innovation. There is no one-size-fits-all, as every employee at every organisation has distinct drivers. We believe this is the root cause of the engagement crisis.

The expectations, needs and wants of employees are unique and constantly evolving, yet many businesses have not adapted.

Your human power is packed with potential and a human-centred, holistic employee experience strategy, backed by smart, digital tools to optimise productivity and connection, will transform them into passionate brand advocates ready to make your mission their own.

Are you implementing successful EX strategies in your company? Join this year’s awards to receive valuable recognition for your efforts. Enter the awards here.

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