From Agile to Zappos: New organisational models and the companies embracing them An overview and some real-world examples

New organisational models are turning the world of work on its head by doing away with bureaucracy and hierarchies, and making room for greater innovation, flexibility and creativity. These changes in the organisational landscape have emerged in response to the evolution of the workplace - especially since the pandemic - and are often collectively referred to as New Work. Many companies choose to apply a combination of the new models. Here's an overview of some of the most popular ones:

Sabina Sturzenegger, Guest author
5 minutes
A bird's eye view of five athletic rowers in a skiff, standing out from the seemingly black surface of the water.
New forms of organisation are turning the world of work upside down. They should be more innovative, more flexible and more creative. Under the collective term "new work" for various concepts, you will find familiar and less familiar forms of organisation. © unsplash/Josh Calabrese

Agile Organisation

Being adaptable is no longer enough: if companies want to be able to respond to changing needs and requirements, they also have to be fast. Jim Highsmith and the 16 other software developers who penned the Agile Manifesto figured this out back in 2001. They realised that for many projects, the specifications were being defined before development had even started - and that often, this didn't lead to the desired outcome. So they drafted their manifesto to help change that. When people talk about Agile, they're referring to a collaborative, iterative approach to developing a product. Methods such as scrums and kanban bring structure to the process.

Example: Spotify. Employees at the Swedish music streaming service are organised into "squads". A group of squads form a "chapter", which in turn form a "tribe". "Guilds" are interdisciplinary teams that are organised as needed.

Ein Mann im schwarzen Anzug präsentiert auf einer Bühne mit grünem Hintergrund auf dem das Spotify Logo prangt.
Als agile Organisation sind die Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter bei Spotify in "Squads, "Chapters" und "Tribes" organisiert. © Spotify

Scaled Agile at LGT

LGT is no stranger to new organisational models, in fact, according to Stefan Wolf, Head Transformation and Operations at LGT, New Work models are something the bank had been concerning itself with for some time. "But the Covid-19 pandemic really accelerated the process of introducing new models."

LGT Advice, which is one of the first projects at LGT to be organised using the Scaled Agile approach, is an excellent example of this. The project team is led by Finn Ross, and has been tasked with developing a new hybrid product for LGT’s relationship managers and investment managers that will further improve both the advice provided to clients and their performance. Ross’s team is spread across four locations: Adliswil, Liechtenstein, Barcelona and Aachen, with Agile teams of eight to ten people and a Scrum Master at each location. "Because of the complexity we’re dealing with on several levels, we have to scale the Agile organisation", explains Ross. Regular in-person workshops and hackathons where strategies, solutions and software are developed are also a key part of the Scaled Agile approach. "My most important task is to invest in the relationships within the team", says Ross.

Teal Organisations

Cover of the book Reinventing organisations with a drawing of a globe showing people in different everyday situations.
In his fundamental work ‘Reinventing Organizations’, the Belgian business philosopher Frederic Laloux called organisations that want to constantly change in line with nature and have a strong mission teal organisations. © Oliver Soulas/laif

This approach is based on the idea that evolution is an ongoing process of growth and development. It is modelled on living organisms, which must adapt to a constantly changing environment in order to survive. Teal Organisations are characterised by self-managed teams and holistic thinking, self-organisation and autonomous working. Another key element of Teal Organisations is that all employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work; so their emotional, intuitive or spiritual sides, for example, and not just their professional selves. Teal Organisations focus on a specific mission, such as being part of the shift to a circular economy. The term Teal Organisation was coined by the Belgian economic philosopher Frederic Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations. In the book, he assigns a colour code to different types of company structures. According to Laloux, teal companies are the most evolved type of organisation.


Example: Patagonia. The American outdoor clothing company focuses on environmental protection and values. In 1994, it started using organic cotton, which was three times more expensive than the non-organic alternative. However, the move paid off financially despite the higher costs - and inspired other brands to follow suit. Employees at Patagonia are free to engage in social and environmental initiatives at any time.

Yvon Chouinard, company founder, and Rose Marcario, Managing Director at Patagonia, stand in a tool room.
The US outdoor clothing company Patagonia is committed to environmental protection. It is constantly setting new standards in this area, e.g. as an activist filing lawsuits or through generous donations. © Laure Joliet/NYT/Redux/laif

Lean Management

A modern concept for work and process optimisation. The entire value chain focuses exclusively on customer needs and continuous improvement. Waste is eliminated to the greatest extent possible, as is anything that does not add value for the customer.  

Example: Toyota. The Japanese car manufacturer developed the Lean principle and optimised all of its work processes accordingly.

Asian man in a light-coloured suit lectures in an auditorium in front of a group consisting mainly of male business people.
Toyota is the epitome of lean management: here, managers learn the Toyota Way to optimise and increase the efficiency of production processes. © Samuel Zuder/laif


An organisational model with flat hierarchies characterised by self-organisation and transparent decision-making structures. Holocracy was developed by the American entrepreneur Brian Robertson. It builds on the concept of sociocracy (joint decision-making), and provides employees with transparent and participatory opportunities for involvement.

Example: Zappos. The online shoe retailer from Las Vegas abolished titles, hierarchies and departments in 2013. From that time onwards, employees organised themselves and worked together as equals in dynamic task-focused groups. Two years later, only 14 per cent of the workforce had resigned, showing that Zappos employees were able to deal with this new freedom and self-management.

A shipping box stands on a table with a colourful plush sheep next to it.
In line with the principle of holocracy, the employees at online shoe retailer Zappos have been organising themselves since 2013 and working together as equals in dynamic task groups. © Zappos


This multi-dimensional structure is organised along two lines: a functional and a project line. Project-related tasks are distributed across several departments, teams and employees. The fact that everyone is organised in both a functional and product -oriented manner enables the organisation to react more flexibly to different needs. In addition to a traditional line manager, team members have another supervisor, namely their project manager, who is responsible for all project-related work. The amount of authority assigned to project managers depends on the matrix structure.

Example: Procter & Gamble. This multinational consumer goods company is able to react flexibly to developments in the market thanks to its matrix structure.

Male employee working with detergent tabs in a lab.
Procter & Gamble. The multinational consumer goods company can react flexibly to different market requirements thanks to its matrix structure © RGA/REA/laif

Network Organisations 

Unlike the traditional top-down model, this decentralised organisational structure has few hierarchies, and the ones it does have are flat. Teams consist of small, multi-disciplinary units that work independently or are connected through a network, and collaborate flexibly to achieve common goals. 

Example: Starbucks. The coffee chain is structured as a network of independent, licensed shops. This set-up supports rapid scaling and helps ensure a high level of quality and a good customer experience at every location.

A group of young people pour coffee from large warming containers under Starbucks umbrellas.
The Starbucks coffee chain is structured as a network of independent, licensed shops. © Jim West/Report Digital-Rea/laif

Fluid Organisation

As the name suggests, Fluid Organisations are structured in a way that is fluid and horizontal. Both employees and the company adjust and move in sync with changes in the environment, and are thus constantly adapting. The organisation serves as a hub, with employees working in dynamic project teams and project networks. Work is often divided into programmes and portfolios that exist for a short, pre-defined period of time.

Example: Valve Corporation. This US-based company develops software and video games. Employees are free to choose their projects and can decide when they work on what and with whom.

Young employees stand at desks with many monitors in a sparsely lit office.
Animators and artists work on "Dota 2" at Valve Software's offices in Bellevue, Washington, east of Seattle. The office is set up as a "bossless office" with flexible structures and flat hierarchies. © Stuart Isett/Polaris/laif


The term "Adhocracy" is a combination of "ad hoc" and the Greek suffix "... cracy", which means "to govern". It largely dispenses with bureaucracy, and is characterised by democratic decision-making and a participatory working culture where different people work together to find the best solution to a problem and achieve a common goal. Little value is placed on authority and abstract seniority. Management is a shared responsibility and all employees are authorised to introduce new measures. Adhocracy can be especially well-suited to industries with a high degree of unpredictability, as it does away with red tape and promotes quick decision-making. However, to be successful, good communication is pivotal and employees must work in concert.

Example: Tesla. Employees at Tesla are explicitly encouraged to question all of the company's standards and work processes, and to take risks and push the limits of new technologies

Three people are talking around a laptop in an industrial production hall.
At Tesla, employees are explicitly encouraged to question all norms and work processes and to take risks. © Tesla, Inc.


Staff members work as if they own the company that employs them. This means they have a vested interest in seeing the company perform well, and work to continuously improve processes and products to make it even more successful. They take initiative and look for opportunities for further optimisation. The company, on the other hand, ensures that the necessary conditions and structures are in place.

Example: Google und 3M. Google has introduced a policy called "Innovation Time Off", which is designed to encourage engineers to spend 20 percent of their paid working hours on projects that are close to their hearts. The American multinational 3M gives its employees freedom and time to pursue their own projects, and to develop innovative ideas within the company.

5 men and women are holding a virtual meeting sitting at a wooden table. A woman is connected via a large screen.
At tech giant Google, employees are encouraged to invest 20 per cent of their paid working time in projects close to their hearts. © Google

Dual Operating System 

A combination of a stable, hierarchical structure and an agile, network-like structure that promotes innovation and efficiency. The company's strategy is set by the traditional, stable hierarchy, while the network, which is able to react quickly to changes and opportunities, is responsible for the operational side of the equation. The two "operating systems" work hand in hand, meaning that companies don't have to choose one model over the other, and can instead apply both. This model is well-suited to very large companies and organisations, and focuses on "achieving", not "having". Ideally, employees will have a vision and bring volunteers on board to implement it. Management is expected to lead effectively, not just manage. In order for the model to be successful, the hierarchy and the network must work in partnership.

Example: General Electric. The American conglomerate implemented this model under the leadership of Jack Welch, who was the company's CEO from 1981 to 2001. 

A man stands in front of a wall of screens displaying graphs, numbers and progressions.
General Electric uses the Dual Operating System, a combination of traditional hierarchy and agile practices, at GE's control centre in Tualatin, Oregon. © Mason Trinca/NYT/Redux/laif
Vacant office space with cleaning machine

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Two young women "ride" on an office chair through an office and radiate great joy.

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