8/31 – 3D-Management: An Integral Business Theory

August-November 2016 / Integral European Conference #IEC2016

Marco Antonio Robledo

Dr. Marco Antonio Robledo

Dr. Marco Antonio Robledo


3D-Management is an integral meta-theory of management that integrates organizational knowledge in an integral, balanced and non-marginalizing framework. It stands for Three-Dimensional Management, in reference to the three fundamental and irreducible dimensions (the Big Three) that integral management should address: science, arts and ethics, which refer respectively to the techno-economical, the aesthetic- emotional and the moral aspects of organizational reality. Those three dimensions combine in a fourth one, the spiritual dimension, which integrates the other three in an essential unit and strives for unity and meaning.

The underlying assumptions of this integral, post-conventional, and humanistic theory will be presented, together with its constituents (the four dimensions), and its fundamental tenets (integral leadership, higher purpose, conscious culture and total stakeholder integration).


The global economic crisis that originated in the US in 2007 and spread like a virus to every part of the world resulted in a deep questioning of some of the more fundamental tenets of Western Society, including Capitalism, Parliamentary Democracy, and Consumer Society. Social movements, like Indignados in Spain or Occupy Wall Street in the US, campaigned against entrenched political and financial systems and, at the end of the day, they were a reaction against the limitations and wrong premises of the conventional business model.

Business is the most powerful institution not only of our times (Barrett, 2011:2) but of all times (Bakan, 2004:5). No other social institution affects us more than business does. As Spiderman would put it “with great power comes great responsibility”, so such a dominant institution should take responsibility for its actions and impacts in society. But business is not the socially responsible institution we all liked it to be. On the contrary, for authors like Bakan (2004) business acts more like psychopaths in their pathological pursuit of power and profit, regardless of the harmful consequences they might cause to others.

Actually, this is not surprising, since business is currently promoting both the benefits and limitations of its primarily orange altitude worldview (Anderson, 2013; Laloux, 2014). In the special issue that the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice devoted to Integral business, I used the AQAL model as a framework for a multi-paradigm review of management and organizational theories (Robledo, 2013). The article showed that, despite the absence of a dominant paradigm in management science, there is an underlying paradigm at a meta-theoretical level: scientific materialism. Wilber has repeatedly warns us against it: “What if the worldview of scientific materialism is in itself corrupted, deficient or inadequate in several fundamental ways (inadequate in methodological, ontological, and/or epistemological ways?) (Arnsperger 2010, xvii). His answer is that the discipline of management itself would be deficient and inadequate since it would not cover all of the areas or dimensions that need to be included in order to produce a full, balanced, comprehensive, and integral approach. That is exactly what has happened: my article showed how the dominance of the LR quadrant have resulted either in the marginalization of the left-quadrant perspectives or, at best, in its instrumentalization. According to Mackey and Sisodia (2013:18) this reductionist view of the world is based on a narrow view of human nature (under the assumption that people create business to pursue only their personal self interest) and an inadequate explanation of the causes of business success.

Going beyond the mere denounce of the limitations of traditional business theories at blue and orange levels of development, many theories are trying to raise the bar to help companies grow beyond conventional levels of development and are laying out the foundations for a new management paradigm inspired in more evolved world-views. Most of them come from the green level of development, but the raising stars are the theories that come from the second tier such as the re-inventing organizations theory (Laloux, 2014) that defines the characteristics of teal organizations or my own 3D-Management theory (see table 1).

Table 1: Compilation of some post-conventional theories of management

Table 1: Compilation of some post-conventional theories of management

I believe that only an integrally-informed perspective can appropriately address the complex problems business and organizations face today. An integral theory of management can contribute to develop a new paradigm of business that is in greater harmony with society and the essence of our beings. It would bring a broader, richer and non-marginalizing conceptualization of business and organizations and a deeper consciousness about why business exists and how they can create more value in all senses of the word.

With that purpose in mind, I present an integral theory of management based on the Big Three called 3D-Management or three-dimensional management. The theory was initially brought to light in a book I wrote in Spanish (Robledo, 2004). Since then I have refined it both at academic and practical levels and now I introduce it to the English speaking integral community. 3D-Management is, to the best of my knowledge, the pioneer theory of integral management and the most integrally informed of them all. I say so because the theory was developed using a meta-theory-building process that combined AQAL with meta-triangulation and it is based on the Big-Three dimensions of human existence, in order to take into account all possible perspectives from which organizations can be studied for a truly integral management (i.e. the intentional, the behavioral, the cultural, and the social dimensions).

The Fundamental Dimensions of Management 

A truly integral theory should consider, in an inclusive and non-marginalizing way, all the different elements that structure organizational reality. Thus, if we follow the structure of the AQAL model, managing an organization in an integral manner should take into account the individual and the collective, together with the objective and the subjective. Therefore, integral managers should address the feelings, emotions, needs, desires and motivations of people – the interior of the individuals, their physical well being and conduct – the exterior of the individuals, the beliefs, values ‌‌and symbols of the organization – the cultural dimension, and all the technical, social and economic aspects – the social dimension (Robledo, 2004, 2014). In sum, the four dimensions of reality to be considered for a truly integral management are the intentional, the behavioral, the cultural, and the social dimensions. As both of the Right-Hand quadrants are characterized by objectivity they can be put together in one single dimension, so the four quadrants correspond to the three value spheres of subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and objectivity which are referred to by Wilber (1995, 2000b, 2006) as the “Big Three” (see figure 1, which fits the Big Three into the AQAL matrix). These three spheres can also be characterized as aesthetics, morals, and science, or as consciousness, culture, and nature. Here I will use them as science, arts and ethics.

Robledo Table 2

Table 2: The four quadrants and the Big Three

My integral theory of management is called 3D-Management, i.e. three-dimensional management, alluding to those three fundamental and irreducible dimensions[2]. 3D-Management conceives an organization as a unified three-dimensional reality. Let’s examine in detail those Big Three dimensions of management:

  • Science: The scientific dimension analyzes business from a scientific viewpoint using mainly objective and quantitative measures. Its ultimate goal is to maximize the economic value of the organization through quality, productivity and profitability. To this end, the science of management has developed an arsenal of theories, systems, models, techniques and technologies for planning, organizing and controlling organizations. The scientific dimension is central to the management of businesses and organizations. You cannot run a company based on hunches or faith, without logic or reason, and no planning, budgeting and control mechanisms.
  • Art: Art takes us into the aesthetic and emotional dimension of business, the one of creativity, imagination, intuition, design, fun and passion. The purpose of the artistic dimension is the development of human potential and the organization and the beauty of its works. It aims to create a space of expression for people, and helps develop the organization through creativity, emotion, beauty and learning. Management is a practice, and any practice has a strong artistic component. The business world is the territory of the uncertain, the unpredictable and the indefinite. Given this overwhelming lack of certainty, science, at best, can present a consistent set of alternatives but ultimately decision-making, as Gary Hamel (2010) concludes, is an art. Of course, management should draw on all that organized body of knowledge we consider science, but decision-making, creativity and human relations are beyond logic.
  • Ethics: Ethics is the moral dimension of management. Its aim is to guide the organization by ethical principles and values ‌‌such as honesty, social responsibility and respect for the environment. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to the common good. Ethics is a sort of meta-dimension to which the others must be subordinate, since it marks the limits of what is right and what is wrong, what should be done and what should not. Business does not have to choose between social responsibility and profits, but to integrate and balance both, becoming an agent of humanistic and social welfare.

The three dimensions of 3D-Management represent equally important phenomenological realities that work as an organic whole, interconnected and interdependent. Science (theories, techniques, systems, models) is necessary to know what, art to know how and ethics to know why. Excessive focus in one of those dimensions refuses the importance, even the existence of the others, and unbalances the triangle. It is important to understand that each dimension is governed by its own rules (Wilber, 1996; Paulson, 2002). The modes of thinking and techniques used by science are totally different than the ones employed by arts or ethics (it is impossible, for example, to be creative using logical reasoning). Explaining with the eye of science aspects of other areas such as motivation, social responsibility, fun, job pride, creativity, etc. is what is called in philosophical terms a category mistake (cf. Ryle, Kant, Wittgentstein).

Unfortunately, if we were to represent the management dimensions of most of the organizations according to their importance, it would look like an isosceles triangle, as they tend to be dominated by a scientific view of their practice. Since the birth of neoclassical economics in the beginning of the 20th century businesses measure success basically on profit and utility maximization. The influence of Comte’s positivism, resulted in the aspiration to shape management science into a natural science (Bozesan, 2013; Robledo, 2013). Science, in all its manifestations (economics, statistics, technology, finance, etc.) imposed its instrumental dictatorship and reduced the company to only objectively verifiable truths. Thus, the Big Three were reduced to the Big One, a flatland of monological, empirical analytic, positivistic “its” (Arnsperger, 2010: 209), resulting in technocratic organizations where technical and economic needs prevail over human ones and where the only reality is the objective one. An exclusively scientific approach to management, based on a series of assumptions focused only on quantitative results reduces organizations to a prosaic and instrumental reality that turns interiors into exteriors, subjects into objects, depth into surface, quality into quantity, wisdom into data and value into profit. The result: purely materialistic companies focusing on increasing profits at the expense of people, the planet, and everything else involved, without heart or soul, full of logic but meaningless, overflowing with information but lacking wisdom (Robledo, 2004, 2014).

3D-Management overcomes the fragmenting assumptions of science to achieve a multifaceted and inclusive vision of the complexity of organizations. The scientific view of management and the values ‌‌it entails (objectivity, efficiency, productivity, profit) is merely one approach to the complex reality of organizations that must coexist peacefully with the other dimensions.

To avoid any kind of imbalances in the management triad, we cannot contemplate the dimensions as isolated components, but as a whole. In order to do that, we need a fourth dimension which integrates the Big Three in an essential unit (Morris, 1997). The fourth management dimension is the spiritual dimension, that aspect of our nature that strives after unity and meaning. Thanks to it, the scientific, artistic and ethical blend into an intimate union resulting in the noetic or spiritual. Its concern is the whole rather than the parts. Spirituality can be regarded as a basic human instinct for wholeness and completion (Wilber 2006). The ultimate goal of the spiritual dimension is unity: the close integration between our thoughts and actions, between our reason and emotions, between ourselves and the rest of the organization, between business and the environment, between environment and Universe (Zohar and Marshall, 2004). A limitless integration. An ultimate unity that leads directly to wisdom.

The spirituality at work school of thought identifies three dimensions for the spiritual dimension, namely community, meaning and purpose.

As Edwards states (2010: 123) social and environmental connectedness is a fundamental facet when we talk about organizational spirituality: “The emphasis is on the connectedness that exists between individuals, groups, organizations and communities in terms of their mutual responsibilities, ethical behaviors and care for integrity of natural and social environments.”

The second facet related to workplace spirituality is the search for deep purpose and meaning (Cacioppe 2000:49). Sheth et al (2003:4) maintain that we have entered a new era that they called the Age of Transcendence. Based on numerous surveys they identify in our contemporary society a craving for transcendence especially among people in midlife and beyond that make them look for higher meaning in their lives and in their works. Deep fulfillment and discovery of one’s true potential through work is regarded as a pathway to personal transformation (Edwards 2010: 123). From this perspective, workplace spirituality would be “a framework of organizational values evidenced in a culture that promotes employee’s experience of transcendence through the work process” (Giacalone and Jurkiewica, 2003:13). When this happens work is not something we do for a living. It is a calling, a vocation, something we feel passionate about and that gives us value and satisfaction beyond the paycheck.

Mitroff and Denton (1999) are responsible for one of the more influential studies on spirituality in the workplace. His conclusion was that companies with a greater sense of spirituality were perceived by its members as better and more profitable, and that they were able to bring more of themselves to work without the risk of having to renounce their principles. In sum, more spiritual organizations get more from its members and vice versa.

It is imperative that the language of spirit becomes a part of organizational jargon: words like community, soul, contribution, transcendence, authenticity and vocation should be as much a part of the management vocabulary as the usual ones of profit, productivity, competition and value.

The 3D-Management theory promotes the emergence of a corporate spirit, a spiritual unity of all members of the organization who feel they are a part of the organization in mind, body and soul. In this way, the individual does not feel alienated or disconnected from the objectives of the organization, but a part of it, committed to what it does and represents. The corporate spirit unifies the enterprise and elevates it to higher degrees of performance, development and ethical commitment at the same time. This corporate spirit is articulated and made tangible through the mission, vision and culture of the organization.

As argued by Barrett (1998), organizations as living organisms, must meet their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. The physical wellbeing is expressed in economic terms. Profits are as important to a company as water, food and air are to humans. Emotional wellness is achieved through healthy and satisfactory internal and external relationships. Mental wellbeing is achieved through learning, development and innovation. Finally, spiritual welfare is determined by the degree of internal and external cohesion of the organization, by the existence of a community of people in search of a purpose and a shared sense of fulfillment. As I have explained, 3D-Management integrates those four dimensions in a unified whole.


Table 3: Dimensions and objectives of 3D Management.

The Pillars of 3D-Management 

As shown in figure 2, 3D-Management is based on four main tenets: higher purpose, total stakeholder orientation, integral leadership and culture[3]. Same as it happened with the four dimensions of the theory, the four pillars are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

Figure 1: The four tenets of 3D-Management 

Figure 1: The four tenets of 3D-Management

Higher Purpose

3D-Management organizations subscribe to a purpose that is different from and goes beyond making money. Any first year management student will tell you that the purpose of a business is to make money. Traditional management theory has spread the myth that the goal of business is profit maximization. Everything else comes second to that. That statement is monological and reductionistic, since it only applies to the scientific dimension of business.

As early as 1954, Peter Drucker, the most influential management thinker of the 20th Century, told us that profit is not the purpose of business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless but also dangerous, because it is antisocial and immoral. However crucial it may be, for Drucker (1973: 59) “profitability is not the purpose of, but a limiting factor on business enterprise and business activity. Profit is not the explanation, cause, or rationale of business behavior and business decisions, but rather the test of their validity”.

Profit maximization is only the objective of the scientific dimension. If economic value is the only concern of a business, the values of the other dimensions will be disregarded or marginalized. The other dimensions have their own particular objectives, independent and by no means subordinated to that one. As shown in table 1, the ethical dimension aspires to achieve the common good and the artistic dimension pursues the development of the organization and its members and the creation of beauty.

So, maximizing economic value is not the primary objective of businesses. That is not, by no means, minimizing its importance. As Collins y Porras (1994: 8) argue:“Profitability is a necessary condition for existence, but it is not the end in itself for many visionary companies. Profit is like, oxygen, food, water and blood for the boy; they are not the point of life, but without then, there is no life.”

Being aware of that, Tom Morris (1997: 155) gives an excellent definition of business based on the Aristotelian dimensions of truth, goodness, beauty and unity:The essence of business must never be viewed as the attempt to move money from other’s people pockets into our own. It should be viewed as a performance art, the creation and care of structures within which people can join together in partnerships of living well.

At the end of the day, the purpose of business is still creating value. If we define value integrally, the concept incorporates other connotations in addition to the purely material of profit. An integral business should aim to create simultaneously multiple kinds of wealth or value (technical, economic, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional, social, cultural, ethical, environmental and spiritual, among others). The integration of them all in a spiritual mission gives a higher purpose to the organization. Thus, value is multidimensionally redefined so that it contributes to the welfare and happiness of the greatest number of people possible.

Unfortunately, most mission statements focus on profit maximization. From my point of view, mission statements should be integral and incorporate the purposes of all three dimensions. Think about Disney. Its simple mission statement is “Making people happy”, a spiritual purpose that exquisitely combines the ethical, scientific and artistic dimensions. If so many philosophers from Aristotle to Wittgenstein, have identified eudaimonia i.e. the attainment of happiness as man’s life purpose, why should not that be the purpose of business? The spiritual purpose of business is the higher purpose I am talking about. This purpose is to create happiness, either through products or services that make customers happy, through profits that make shareholders happy, through work that make employees happy and through contribution to the common good that make society happy.

Mackey and Sisodia (2104: 33) highlight the benefits of having a higher purpose:

“Business has a much broader positive impact on the world when it is based on a higher purpose that goes beyond only generating profits and creating shareholder value. Purpose is the reason a company exists. A compelling sense of higher purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement among all stakeholders and catalyzes creativity, innovation, and organizational commitment”

Today’s greatest companies are fueled by passion and purpose, not cash. “Choose a mission that is bigger than the company” and “create a cause, not a business” are the respective advices for business success of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and strategy guru Gary Hamel.

Mackay and Sisodia (2013: 55) find a clear correlation between corporate purpose, business performance and personal satisfaction. When an organization has a strong purpose and communicates it clearly and consistently, the organization naturally attracts people who align with the purpose and people are most fulfilled and happiest when their work is aligned with their own inner passions.

Culture and core values

Collins and Porras (1994) found that one of the critical success factors of business was culture. According to their findings, the truly exceptional and long-lasting companies had a culture that differed from the rest in a number of respects: They spent more time in the indoctrination of employees, creating strong cultures; had valued the degree of fit of the candidate with the organizational culture in the selection of managers; and obtained more consistent alignment with their core ideology on such aspects as goals, strategies, tactics, and organizational design (1994:73).

3D-Management organizations consider their corporate culture to be one of their greatest assets and a primary source of competitive advantage. They have strong corporate cultures based on the tenets described here, i.e. commitment to a higher purpose, total stakeholder orientation and integral leadership, plus other common traits such as democratic decision making, autonomy, creativity and social responsibility.

3D-Management organizations pay special attention to their values. While they can have very different values, they share some core values[4] such as trust, accountability, transparency, integrity, egalitarianism, post-conventionalism, respect, solidarity, social responsibility, fairness, loyalty, creativity, personal growth, and love and care.

They carefully choose their core values so they are balanced according to the four dimensions of management. Core values are thus classified, following García[5] (2002a, 2002b) between practical, ethical and poetical values which correspond with the dimensions of science, ethics and art. Practical values are those that make companies or individuals competitive and are techno-economical (e.g. flexibility, efficiency, teamwork etc.). Poetical values are creative and emotional in nature (e.g. imagination, illusion, development and fun). Ethical values have a moral content (e.g. solidarity, sincerity, honesty or respect to the environment).

The set of all those values accumulated by the company over time constitutes its axiological capital. Once identified those values need to be translated into internal and external rules of conduct. Thus “values provide a framework within which each member of the organization can operate with responsible freedom” (Barrett 2003: 107).

Integral Leadership

You cannot have an integral business without integral leaders. Research has shown that leadership is the top predictor of long-term corporate success (Collins, 2001; Whetten, 2013). Increasing specialization, separation between public and private life and bureaucratization of organizations are just some of the reasons that highlight the growing need for an integrally-informed leadership style. Nevertheless, most organizations have incomplete bosses. One of the main reasons is there is a tendency to promote to managerial levels those who have excelled in technical or operational activities (i.e. in the scientific dimension). But technical excellence is not the same as leadership excellence. The best doctor is not necessarily the best hospital manager and the best computer technician can fail as I.T. manager. Technical knowledge is just one of the many aspects good leaders must have. Equally or more important will be their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, their ability to plan, organize and coordinate, and their integrity and creativity.

Until recently, no one had applied integral theory to leadership, but in relatively few time it has become the area of management that has received more attention by integral theory researchers (to the point that there is an academic journal devoted to that topic, the Integral Leadership Review) and the one where more significant inroads have been made. As any other integral approach, integral leadership attempts to integrate other major styles of leadership in a contingent approach, as a result of the recognition that all of them will work with some of the people some of the time, but no single approach works with all types of people all of the time (Thomas, 2014). The power of Integral Leadership lies in that it transcends and includes all the other styles (or schools) of leadership. As Thomas (2014) asserts: “The promise of Integral Leadership is to know when, where and with whom a given leadership approach will reliably work (and when it will reliably fail)”. Integral leadership tries to consider all of the factors in a given situation, with a given person or group of people and in a given organization to know which approaches to draw upon. In particular, it requires a deep understanding of ‘where people are’ (their needs, motivations, values, goals, capabilities, etc) and then interacting with them in a way that is appropriate and helpful (Kupers and Volckmann, 2009). Thomas (2014) has developed a breakthrough model for practically applying Integral Leadership called the Leadership Rosetta Stone. The tool correlates four universal leadership styles with the four most common world-views (red, blue, orange, green) so leaders can fine tune the leadership style that is most resonant with the person’s (or group’s) dominant worldview. Thus, a leader has to harmonize, balance and integrate the different interests, voices, values, and cultures of the different stakeholders. This integration inevitably requires the management of the classical Aristotelian virtues of prudence, justice, strength and temperance.

Integral leaders have a more sophisticated and complex way of thinking about business that transcends the limitations of the analytical mind that focuses on differences, conflicts and trade-offs only (Mackey and Sisodia, 2013). Together with high levels of rational intelligence and technical competence, they excel in emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence (Zohar and Marshall. 2004). In other words, they have a balanced integral psychograph with relatively high levels of development in its different areas.

Integral leaders strive to achieve the organization’s higher purpose and creating value for all stakeholders. One of the defining characteristics of an integral leader is the ability to balance and harmonize different dimensions and interests into a single project. The four dimensions of science, art, ethics and spirit have to be balanced and combined inseparably in any action or decision of a leader. The essence of leadership is to achieve the intended objectives efficiently (scientific mission), motivate and develop people (artistic mission) and pursue the common good (ethical mission). Therefore, there are three key factors for an integral leadership that correspond perfectly to the 3D-Management dimensions:

  • Technical Factor: The leader needs knowledge and technical skills to manage and make decisions effectively and efficiently.
  • Emotional Factor: There is a leader only when he/she has followers. The leader needs to persuade, inspire and influence people.
  • Ethical Factor: The integral leader is a moral agent who follows strong moral principles and is a behavioral role model for other members of the organization.
  • Spiritual factor: Integral leaders build strong communities by transcending their own self-interest for the good of the group or organization and convey powerful and meaningful visions to their followers.

An integral leader has also successfully resolved the conflict between the different areas of life, devoting the necessary time to them and acting equally and with identical results in family, work and all the other theatre of existence.

Obviously, all leaders have their biases and preferences. Most leaders are often the rational type, some are visionary and creative, while others are very committed to social change. If there are different styles of leadership where one dimension is stronger than other it may make sense to split top management in dimensions, so we have a tricephalic management. It is not an idea at all unknown as a form of social organization in the history of mankind. Among the ancient Celts, the Druid caste was broken down into three; that of Ovate, Bard, and Druid. Druids officiated sacrifices, dispensed justice, collected and prepared potions and ointments to heal all diseases. Bards were priests who used word and music as a weapon. They composed and transmitted the cosmological wisdom, ancient legends and collective memory of the people, but also blessed or cursed rituals to celebrate the enemy. Finally, Vates or Ovates were sightseers and prophets.

To be an integral leader you have to be an integral person and that is a lifelong endeavor. Leadership effectiveness is linked to adult development level (Spence and MacDonald, 2010). In a number of studies leaders at a higher level of development were found to continuously adapt to changing market demands and consistently generated long-term positive and sustainable organizational transformation related to profit, market share, and organizational reputation measures, when compared to those located at lower levels (Cook-Greuter, 2004; Rooke & Torbert, 1998). Models that can be useful to improve integral leadership skills and vertical development include integral life practice (ILP) (Wilber et al. 2008), Spiral Dynamics (Beck and Cowan, 1996) or the Leadership Development Framework (LDF) (Cook-Greuter, 2004; Rooke & Torbert, 1998; Spense and MacDonald, 2010).

Total stakeholder orientation

Stakeholder[6] are all the people, groups or organizations that have interest or concern in an organization. Traditional business practice has an “either/or” mindset regarding stakeholders, whereas 3D Management favors a “both/and” view. As Mackey and Sisodia (2013:34) assert:  “Conscious business recognize that each of their stakeholders is important and all are interconnected and interdependent, and that business must seek to optimize value creation to all of them”. Viewing stakeholders as interdependent allows businesses to respect the dignity of each stakeholder (Simpson et al. 2013) and actively align the interests of all stakeholder groups in such a way that no single stakeholder group gains at the expense of other groups:

“Instead of trading off the interests of one group versus those of another (for example, higher wages for employees versus higher profits for investors or lower prices for customers), they have carefully devised business models in which the objectives of each stakeholder can be met simultaneously and are in fact strengthened by other stakeholders.(…) That’s why these companies can do seemingly contradictory things such as pay high wages, charge low prices and get higher profitability”(Sheth et al. 2013: 8)


This article introduces an integral theory of management called 3D Management or three-dimensional management. It is an attempt to promote the integration of organizational knowledge into a balanced and non-marginalizing epistemological framework that shows a way forward for management practice and makes possible the emergence of more humane, efficacious and responsible forms of business.

The new 3D-Management paradigm advocates for a new model of business that overcomes the limitations of the conventional business model. This model is integral, humanistic, post-conventional and socially responsible in nature:

Integral: 3D-Management is a theory distinctly integral. Together with re-inventing organizations (Laloux, 2014) they are the only theories that we can consider integral and teal. The difference between the two is that Re-inventing organizations is integrally inspired and integrally informed but cannot be considered an integral theory. On the contrary, 3D-Management is an integrally built theory. First, because it is a meta-theory whose building process combined two large-scale methodologies as guiding resources: meta-triangulation (Lewis and Grimes, 1999) and AQAL (for an in-depth analysis of the meta-theory construction process see Robledo 2014). Second, because it takes into account all possible dimensions or perspectives from which organizations can be studied (intentional, behavioral, cultural and socio-economic) and because it is a summum bonum of science, art, ethics and spirit, four key dimensions to rediscover personal satisfaction at work, reinvent corporate spirit and achieve sustainable corporate excellence. Due to its integral nature, 3D-Management makes important contributions to management practice. Business processes cannot always be cut and parcelled in the arbitrary categories that make up the structure of science. There are a host of important issues – probably the most important- that lies between disciplines, or in no man’s land. When something is difficult to understand or to classify, it is very tempting to marginalize it. As a result, some fundamental aspects of organizations such as spirit, emotions or ethics have been left in oblivion. As it was explained in this article, organizations are dominated by a techno-economic (i.e. scientific) orientation, marginalizing, as a result, the other three fundamental dimensions. 3D-Management provides the conceptual framework to give their rightful place to those dimensions and recognize the relationship among them. Organizational aspects like profitability, quality, spirituality, ethics, creativity, emotions, etc. have been brought together here for the first time into one integrative and coherent conceptual system, depicting their internal and external relationships. Certainly, there are other theories that admit the importance of the other dimensions and even focus on multiple “bottom lines” but always subordinating those dimensions to the techno-economic objectives of value maximization. From this point of view, 3D-Management is a theory that challenges conventional wisdom and critiques the theories that currently drive management practice, uncovering the distortions in theory which create ideology and the imbalanced forms of organizational activity which pursue narrow objectives based on a monistic approach. 3D-Management breaks away from the conventional paradigm and advocates a change of regime, in which the absolutist imperialism of science is replaced by a harmonic triumvirate that takes into account the perspectives of each dimension without any of them dominating the others. The 3D-Management model honors the complexity of management and organizations and makes a contribution to the functional, aesthetic, and ethic evolution of business.

Humanistic: The most common reason why organizations fail is the way people are treated. The basis of all humanistic philosophies is the recognition and respect for the dignity of Man. This should be the guiding principle of any organization. The Greek philosopher Protagoras considered man the measure of all things and Kant expressed the basic law of his “practical reason” as follows: “Act so that you always take humanity as an end and never use it as a medium”. Instead, the capitalist system tends to consider man as merchandise and an instrument of the production system. There is something fundamentally wrong in a system where money is more important than people. Treating a human being as a means is a crime against his/her dignity and humanity. Workers feel increasingly alienated and powerless with the progressive deterioration of working conditions, disguised under euphemisms such as flexibilization of the labor market or outsourcing. At present, only a privileged few have stable contracts while most must conform to low wages and temporary contracts and are living under the constant threat of losing their jobs. Firing a person is a very serious thing. That is why I believe that downsizing measures should be considered as a last resort as, and much too often they are the first ones to be adopted. 3D-Management places the person at the center, as an end in itself. It aspires to the humanization of organizations, the respect for individuals and the facilitation of people’s satisfaction and fulfillment in the workplace. We have globalized the world, now we have to humanize globalization.

Post-conventional: 3D-Management is a post-conventional theory that aims to bring organizations to the next stage in human consciousness, the second-tier of development. First-tier consciousness has led to confrontation, hatred, distrust and injustice in the world. Me against you, my department against the other, my company against its competitors, my country against the world. The greater challenge we face is that our society raises its consciousness to second-tier levels, kosmocentric in nature, and able to relate with and value people at other levels of development. And business, being the more important institution of the world should lead the way in raising global consciousness, because organizations are the best practice fields we have for planetary change (Gidley. 2007). As Anderson asserts (2013):

“People spend more of their time at their jobs than in any other waking activity. What is modeled at their places of employment has a profound impact on people’s world-views and behaviors, as well as on the larger cultural and systems. (…)Bringing Integral Theory to business and developing organizational leaders to become conscious leaders of change is more than just a good idea; it is a primary strategic lever for planetary transformation”

Businesses are dominantly orange and it is about time they raise the bar to the next levels. Stakeholders are demanding that and consumers will push for this by closing their wallets to companies that don’t comply. Customers not only care about getting a quality product for a good price. They are increasingly concerned on where those products come from and if the companies that supply them are good citizens whose purpose and values align with their own. Integral organizations have a better chance to get loyal customers, emotionally linked with the organization and the values it represent. 3D-Management can help create a new model of integral social progress, not just economic and material, that finds the right balance between the scientific, artistic and ethical dimensions and achieves a more harmonious development of both society and organizations.

Socially responsible: The teal meme is kosmocentric, therefore social responsibility is intrinsic to its nature. At this level of consciousness the organization follows rules or moral principles not because society dictates them, or because of external incentives as rewards or punishments, but as a result of a reflective and independent decision. However, most of the writings about teal organizations are focused on internal practices, but the relation between organization and environment is insufficiently addressed. The teal organizations movement is too self centered, probably as a result of the individualistic nature of this level of development. Self management, self organization… the self is sufficiently covered, but what about the planet and the society? As I pinpointed at the beginning of this article one of the main criticisms against orange organizations is its lack of social responsibility so we shouldn’t take for granted social responsibility at the teal level. Social responsibility was one of the greatest contributions of green theories and organizations and it has to be even more present in the next stages of development that are really kosmocentric. I believe that social responsibility is a sine qua non condition for a theory to be considered integral, second tier, yellow or teal (call it as you want). Integral organizations think not only in their own good, but also in making the world a better place. That is why social responsibility, embedded as a subdimension of ethics, and also present in the total stakeholder orientation, is an essential element of 3D-Management.

If what makes one theory preferred over another is advancement toward “what is believed to be true” (Dubin 1978), then a second-tier theory that is integral, humanistic and socially responsible rings more true than any other.


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[1] This is a slightly modified versión of the article that received the award of best academic paper at the Integral European Conference 2016.

[2] Other models developed around the “Big Three” are Garcia and Dolan’s (1997, 1999) management by values  that uses the Platonic dimensions of praxis, ethics and poietics, or Morris’ (1997) that focuses in the Aristotelian dimensions of goodness, truth, beauty and unity.

[3] Those tenets are very close to the ones identified by Mackey and Sisodia (2014) for their model of conscious capitalism.

[4] Core values are the set of values that chiefly support the vision and mission of the organization and that make it unique and valued by customers and society.

[5] Who, in turn, were inspired by Plato’s classification of praxis, ethis and poiesis.

[6] Sheth et al (2003: 12) have created the acronym “SPICE” as a memory tool that identifies the five major stakeholders of modern corporations: Society (communities, governments, NGOs), partners (suppliers, retailers…), investors, customers and employees.

About the Author

Marco Antonio Robledo (PhD, MBA) is a full professor of management at the University of the Balearics Islands (Spain). He is also the director of the MBA program of the same university. He has published a book in Spanish where he introduces 3D-Management his pioneer integral theory of management and several papers about integral business in a number of conferences and journals. He defines himself as a change agent that helps organizations and individuals in their integral development and transformation. He is the founder and leader of the 3D Management Club of Conscious Organizations.

E-mail: marco.robledo@uib.es

3 thoughts on “8/31 – 3D-Management: An Integral Business Theory


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