What is an organic strategy?

 City Meshwork

Reinventing Organizations, author Frederic Laloux differentiates Tier 2 organizations from Tier 1 in the ways that they relate to strategy.

Tier 1 organizations interpret strategy from the perspective of a worldview that uses strategy to produce results. Strategy arises from intentions to produce profitable bottom lines. Priorities tend to be profit and productivity driven with a focus on producing returns for shareholders.

As Tier 1 organizations mature, they expand the beneficiaries of operation from shareholders to stakeholders. Stakeholders generally include clients, employees, suppliers and in the most progressive organizations, also the community. These progressive organizations often use forms of Balanced Scorecards to track the effectiveness and efficiency of their strategic intentions (using selective indicators to measure the attainment of targeted outputs and outcomes).

Successful Tier 1 organizations may grow their spheres of influence from local to regional to continental to global. But as Tier 1 organizations their strategies are primarily focused in the systems and structures of the Lower Right (LR) quadrant.

Organizations who mature into Tier 2 organizations build on this LR performance platform and expand the understanding and implementation of strategy so that it integrates all 4 quadrants of reality. These organizations wake up to the impact they have through “liberating their corporate soul”. They come to realize that their Values (Lower Left) forms their Vision (Upper Left) and in turn their Mission (Upper Right) and that all of these realities co-arise with the Systems and Structures (LR) that manifest their organizational contribution to the city, eco-region, nation(s) and world.

Tier 2 organizational strategy also aligns Purpose, Priorities, People and Planet in a vertical trajectory – so that each of these become foundational values systems that support and grow one another in not just a logical sequence but an organic complexity hierarchy. This alignment of organic values systems expands the context and the complexity of the strategy beyond being organization and market centred to being ecologically, globally and life centred. These Tier 2 organizations see their operations as organic contributions in service to Life on this Planet.

Reinventing Organizations traces the processes, structures and patterns that eleven Tier 2 organizations (operating as living systems) have discovered. Laloux proposes that such organizations have strategies that have arisen organically amongst the people inside the organization as well as amongst the stakeholders served outside the organization. These organizational (or organic) relationships enable a recalibration of the organizational stakeholders into “steward holders”. Steward holders operate from the principles of living systems and have the capacity to respond and adapt to changing life conditions in flexible and non-linear ways. Thus their organic strategies are not based on fixed methods and goals, but can and do express themselves as systems of co-creative response to life conditions.

If we want to reinvent cities as evolutionary, integral, living systems, can we imagine that possibility without reinventing core systems of organizations with Tier 2 capacities who co-develop organic strategies that enable steward holding not only for themselves as organizations but in service to the City and its Purpose? If we think of the Integral City itself as a living system, it is natural to consider that it would have “organs” – or organizations – that enable it to function as an organic living system (the most complex system yet created by humans).

If we follow the lessons of organic systems, then I think we can also consider that the fractal patterns from the Tier 2 organizations will be critical to the Integral City aligning its Purpose, Priorities, People and Planet capacities.  And the only way an Integral City can develop a strategy for thriving at this level of complexity is using the self-organizing intelligences of people and the stabilizing (but organic) strategies of Tier 2 organizations in relation to each other. We call such a dynamic but strategic relationship a meshwork.


This blog continues an exploration of what we can learn if we applied some of Laloux’s ideas from Reinventing Organizations to recalibrating the complexity of the city.