Starting a Teal revolution at EDF

Written by Adèle Boinnot, on 05 September 2018


Employee empowerment is a priority at EDF, a historically highly hierarchical company built in silos. In this context, how can employees become more confident and autonomous to deliver more value? About a hundred employees at EDF experiment new methods…

t all started in April 2017, at the EDF Innovation Challenge Awards. Two teams suggested to set up a Teal approach (in reference to the Teal stage of organizational evolution theorized by Frédéric Laloux), which led one of them to win the “management innovation” category. Both teams merged as they were driven by the same vision, and they soon launched a call for applications within EDF. Their objective: to find managers willing to embark on this new experiment (alongside their team, to make things easier).

Not one, not two, but no less than seven different teams answered to the call and were selected to experiment the process! Ludovic Giusti’s team was one of them: he manages 40 technicians spread over two teams operating on hydroelectric production sites in the Strasbourg region. As you can imagine they’re quite technical and focused on the operational side of the business activity, so not really the type of profile you would expect to feel concerned by management innovation. That’s where we got it wrong! Ludovic still had in mind alternative ways of working that he had read about in a report on Happiness At Work a few years back. So volunteering to experiment Teal organization came pretty naturally to him… Now all he had to do was make sure his team was on board.

You feel something’s different from other teams. - Ludovic Giusti

o start the process, Ludovic and his team began by organizing several bootcamps during which employees were encouraged to reflect, exchange and project themselves onto the four dimensions of the approach: Governance and decision-making, Work organization (communication and exchange), Recruitment, evaluation and personal development, and Work environment.

Unlike other teams, they decided to work simultaneously on the four dimensions. Simply put, the important thing for them was to get small, quick wins that would give confidence to both agents and managers and to show that change is really happening. In this perspective, initiatives and ideas were judged according to two criteria: impact on the team and feasibility ("is it in our hands?"). They divided their approach into four projects, each led by teams whose members were permeable: some teams worked on several projects at the same time while others focused on a single one.

Among their most telling successes, we can mention the coconstruction by the agents and the management team of the intervention planning on hydroelectric power plants, the real backbone of the teamwork daily organization. Previously established by a manager, this activity load plan now involves two or three volunteer agents, which allows them to take a step back on their activity and make the planning more realistic and better constructed. Before finding this way of working, they tried to do the planning every Thursday with all the agents... then quickly realized it was just impractical.

Want other examples of implementation? All you have to do is ask.

Sharing best practices and improving performance:

During monthly management meetings, each site invites an agent working on the other site to provide expertise on a subject and to collect and share good practices for their own power plant. It’s a fairly good way to demystify these obscure instances for the common agents.

Transparency and shared governance:

Mirror steering committees: every quarter, non-executive technicians from both plants are invited to work on specific topics. Some of them are submitted by members of the steering committee, others are reported by technicians. This enables steering committee members to work on topics they are not necessarily aware of, they get feedback from the field on needs or problems and the technicians have a chance to share their best practices.


Some of the sites don’t have a cafeteria. So, they decided to use a local caterer to provide a guaranteed lunch at a preferential rate, mostly to improve the agents' daily lives. We can also mention other practices, such as 360° assessments so that managers can also improve, brunchstorming (a moment of collective breathing and taking a step back), the reorganization of offices to encourage free expression, gamification to develop skills....

While the practices implemented work rather well and are appreciated, the team also faces some challenges. The first one, according to Ludovic, is ego. His own, that of the other managers of his team, that of his agents too, without forgetting the ego of some members of other departments who frown upon adopting a position of servant leader, at the opposite of the entrenched command & control attitudes. In this kind of situation, Ludovic asks the team that came up with the idea of implementing a Teal organization for help, such as collective coaching and training sessions, so that the members of his team understand the meaning of managerial consistency and really take on this new posture.

The second difficulty encountered is time: it is not easy to find the time to bring the team together and take a step back, which can be disabling for their progress.

Third, there is fear of what other people will think. Indeed, teams embedded in the Teal approach no longer work like other teams, and thus do not display the symbols of success (personal or team) that are usually put forward. This can obviously be frightening, and the comments one gets may be felt as an attack on their professionalism.

Finally, the cultural obstacle of a historically highly hierarchical and codified company is not negligible. Some employees, in their beliefs, in their desires, and even in their needs, will not change...

Despite these difficulties, the results are very positive. There is no blocking point to the implementation of the Teal approach. While some people do not want to change their approach to work, everyone does their best. The process even became viral rather naturally, despite some initial reluctance.

At first I didn’t believe in it, I just did it to make my boss happy… But now, I understand the mindset and its interest, I believe in it. - An employee

The important thing for Ludovic is not to force the approach but to raise awareness (through Learning expeditions for example) to make people want to do it.

Today, more than a hundred people exchange views on the Teal approach on Yammer. Calls for applications to participate in the process are intensifying (around fifteen teams will join the process in November) and the result is very positively reflected in the answers to the employee engagement survey... positive feeling, commitment, purpose, value are very often pointed out.