Analysis of Integral Management

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore the history and key assumptions of Integral Management, which is an alternative management model developed by Lasse Ramquist and Mats Eriksson. The analysis is summarized here.

My first encounter with Integral Management was in 2008. The organization in which I worked as a consultant used the model. One of my projects received a ‘Mission of The Year Award’ in 2010. I have been using the model ever since.

The development of Integral Management started in the early 1980s. The model and its development is described at length in the book Manöverbarhet (2000)1 in Swedish. Integral Management (2009)2 is a shorter English version of the book. Integral Management has grown out of an inquiry into what it takes to make a company come together as one team. This is also why Ramquist & Eriksson calls their model Integral Management. Integral means here that something is whole, complete, and fully functioning.3 During the development, Ramquist & Eriksson asked the same questions over and over again: What works? What makes people tick? What makes people come together and stay together in a common effort?

The objective of Integral Management is to make an organization come together as one team—wholeheartedly collaborating to achieve a shared strategic vision. It’s Ramquist’s & Eriksson’s conviction that managers must master the art of mobilizing the intelligence and energy of all co-workers. Only working together can a company meet its challenges.4. Ramquist & Eriksson have met many executives over the years that believe in freedom and human creative drives. But, by far the majority of executives they have met believe in structure and control. Ramquist’s & Eriksson’s experience is that the best results always come from combining a good healthy structure with plenty of room for freedom and creativity.5

Integral Management is built on the assumption that an organization is a living system, which has a deep structure. The health of this structure is dependent on vertical and horizontal integration within the organization. It’s not possible to control a living system in the way a machine can be controlled. Integral leadership ensures that the conditions of life are put in place. Cultural development influences how people talk, think, and act.

Living system

  • Integral Management builds on the assumption that a company is a living system that lives its own life to a significant degree, with its own inner systems and dynamics.6
  • A mechanical system is designed to work in a relatively simple and linear way. The networks of cause and effect are pretty simple to understand. But if we consider the causality in a living system, the complexity quickly becomes chaotic. Changes ripple causing unforeseen consequences.7
  • Every living process is a structured organization that manages a huge and complex flow of information, energy and matter. Energy is continuously consumed and must be continuously replenished. Information and matter continually flow in, get processed, and changed. The system is open to its environment.8
  • Living systems adapt to, meet, and interact with the continually shifting conditions that occur both within and outside of its border.9
  • Since the company is an organic whole, and not a technical system, every basic function must be well integrated if you want to ensure that the company retains its vitality, resilience, and power to overcome the challenges it faces.10

Deep structure

  • It’s the deep structure which holds the company together, and what keeps it functioning as a single unit. It’s mutual understanding that keeps everyone pulling in the same direction, allowing co-workers to keep pace with each other, and feel that they are among friends while at work.11
  • Most managers look only at the company’s surface structure. The surface structure is what everyone can see. The problem is that you then only see the symptoms. The source of the problem often lies in the deeper structures of the organization.12
  • The health of a company’s deep structure is a function of how the company is integrated vertically (management and co-workers) and vertically (between co-workers).13
  • To repair the deep structure in your company, you have first to get everyone understand what’s at stake and why it’s important.14.
  • You need to repair the deep structure before you can make any headway.15

Vertical integration (between management and co-workers)

  • Executives need clarity, integrity and depth of conviction about what their real problems are.16
  • People, without exception, do care about what happens in their company once they understand what’s at stake.17
  • Only when a serious choice is present can the full power and potential of an organization be mobilized.18
  • Individuals must be allowed the freedom to say either Yes or No (consent).19
  • A person who is fully informed about their company’s business will behave quite differently than someone who is ignorant about the business environment they work in.20

Horizontal integration (between co-workers)

  • Everything that makes people more visible increases the likelihood of constructive, responsible action.21
  • People need to have an understanding of their own role in the workflow.22
  • Invite everyone in the workflow to change how they interact.23
  • The individual that suffers most from a problem usually has the strongest incentive to do something about it.24
  • When everyone has access to the thoughts and know-how of the group, then everyone can build on what the others know and really mean. Groups that can interact in this way often rise to unparalleled creativity and productivity.25


  • You cannot run a knowledge-based and highly complex company by direct control, pressure, high demands, and micro-management.26
  • You simply cannot control a company the way a single operator might control a machine.27
  • It’s not enough to merely design functions into workflows, like an engineer, and then run these through various control mechanisms.28
  • Making a commitment is always an existential action. Something happens inside. And, importantly, it is an event that cannot be controlled from the outside. You can only be asked to take that step; no one can force you, or order you to do it.29
  • Everybody has to understand that work, where you have total control and single responsibility for the outcome, just does not exist.30

Integral leadership

  • Obviously every company must be led. But what this entails is not so obvious.31
  • Leading a company involves touching the heart of every co-worker — something that needs to be done if you expect to influence the way they go about their daily work.32
  • Leadership involves building on the natural common interests between the company, customers, co-workers, and community.33
  • Integral leadership is needed to ensure that the conditions of life are put in place.34
  • Leadership is needed to inspire and focus the energy, to facilitate interplay and learning, and, finally, to ensure a steady outflow of results.35

Cultural development

  • Cultural patterns show up as repetitive ways of speaking and acting, among a group of people.36
  • Culture is always based on a habitual way of viewing or interpreting reality.37
  • Culture forms the eyes you see with.38
  • If you can’t create an environment of greater clarity concerning how people talk, think, and act in regard to their commitments, then any cultural development will lose momentum.39
  • No matter how systematic and well-structured your process management is, it will never live up to its potential as long as culture is unaddressed.40

Ramquist & Eriksson claim that it isn’t complicated to gain an understanding of and learn how to manage the dynamics of a living process. It’s all about getting a grasp on the simple and obvious and put it into action.41 However, they also say that their experience is that almost none of the groups they have worked with at first can agree on what the major problems are and what has to be done. Ramquist & Eriksson have seen this problem everywhere and on all levels, from senior management to the workshop floor.42 In other words, understanding and putting things into action are all but obvious.

Integral Management is about systematically involving the entire workforce in the organization’s future, and to sustain long-term energy and commitment. It’s about activating the combined intelligence in the entire organization.43 If this is done successfully, then suddenly everyone will start put their own local knowledge and experience into play. Strong local initiatives will get launched. People will spontaneously pitch in and assist each other as needed. The work spirit will stay high. And there will be a sense of team play within the group and between groups. A well-integrated organization generate more energy and use the energy to greater effect.44 Everyone is full of energy and pulls in the same direction. Communication and interaction reaches a level where everyone can think together. While focused on results, there’s still room for everyone to think, reflect, and learn together.45

1 Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Manöverbarhet: VU-processen—en ledningsmodell för strategisk fokusering, medarbetarengagemang och konkurrens på livets villkor (Ekerlids Förlag, 2000).
2 Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Integral Management (Lasse Ramquist AB, 2nd ed. 2009).
3 Ibid., p. 9.
4 Ibid., p. 17
5 Ibid., p. 76.
6 Ibid., p. 31.
7 Ibid., p. 37.
8 Ibid., p. 176.
9 Ibid., p. 177.
10 Ibid., p. 200.
11 Ibid., p. 22.
12 Ibid., p. 29.
13 Ibid., p. 45.
14 Ibid., p. 125
15 Ibid., p. 152.
16 Ibid., p. 28
17 Ibid., p. 52.
18 Ibid., p. 127.
19 Ibid., p. 128.
20 Ibid., p. 160.
21 Ibid., p. 76.
22 Ibid., p. 151.
23 Ibid., p. 153.
24 Ibid., p. 154.
25 Ibid., p. 183.
26 Ibid., p. 36.
27 Ibid., p. 37.
28 Ibid..
29 Ibid., p. 127.
30 Ibid., p. 154.
31 Ibid., p. 90.
32 Ibid..
33 Ibid., p. 170.
34 Ibid., p. 178.
35 Ibid..
36 Ibid., p. 93.
37 Ibid..
38 Ibid., p. 97.
39 Ibid., p. 125.
40 Ibid., p. 134.
41 Ibid., p. 175.
42 Ibid., p. 81.
43 Ibid., p. 21.
44 Ibid., p. 187.
45 Ibid..

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

2 reaktion på “Analysis of Integral Management

  1. Simon Robinson

    Hi Jan

    I enjoyed reading this summary. What is interesting is that Maria and I now receiving a number of compliments from our clients who are starting to really understand what the Holonomics approach is all about. They are saying that we are doing things that they have never seen other consultancies do, and this is because we work so hard taking leadership teams into the lived experience of others. This means that instead of an intellectual understanding of statements such as ”we need to engage everyone in the organisation” we are taking them into the lived experience of different people at different levels. It is only when this deep level of experiential empathy is achieved that people really start to change internally.

    I have seen big presentations where a ”guru” has presented a slide with a list of new behaviours and attitudes need, and the audience may nod sagely, but you can see people as they leave that nothing has changed inside.

    This is something I discussed with Fritjof Capra and Benjamin Butler in the webinar we took part in this week – the need to combine a mastery of understanding lived experience (and how you have to go upstream into the act of seeing to really get it) with understanding systems thinking. Otherwise your systems thinking is still going to be about modelling from a purely mechanistic and intellectual paradigm.

    Also, Maria and I gave an interview on seeing and leadership to Bill Fox of Container13. I don’t know if you have had a chance to see it yet:

    Warm regards

    1. Jan Inläggsförfattare

      I appreciate your input Simon! Bill Fox of Container13 contacted me too in August. Here is a post about him and his interview series on forward-thinking workplaces.



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