‘About Holacracy’ Blog

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Holacracy® is a radical new way of running and scaling responsive companies. By empowering people throughout the organization to drive meaningful change, the Holacracy practice unleashes an organization’s untapped power to pursue its purpose in the world. - Medium. You can also follow this blog directly on Medium.

From Top-Down, to “Flat,” to Holacracy

January 16, 2018 - 3:39pm
GrantTree’s Journey Towards Self-Management

Daniel Tenner is the co-founder of GrantTree, a London-based tax credit advisory helping pre-revenue startups to access available R&D tax credits from the UK government.

Prior to adopting the Holacracy practice, GrantTree tried to cultivate an autonomous management style, hoping self-management would organically emerge, but found a lack of structure held them back.These are excerpts from a conversation with Daniel about the organization’s journey from “home-grown self-management” to Holacracy®.

The Impulse to Begin

We wanted to do self-management since we discovered Semler’s books and decided to “go without managers” long before adopting Holacracy. The idea really came together when the co-founder (Dan), while looking for information about different ways of working, ended up reading the book Reinventing Organizations and started our journey to the illusory “Teal” destination. This was also a turning point at which we decided to implement the “advice process,” which started us down the path of letting people use their own judgement to make day-to-day decisions, which is also a key principle of Holacracy.

Self-Management Without Structure

Despite our extraordinary efforts to make self-management work for us, we knew there was still a lot of untapped potential in the team. The problem was threefold:

First, strategic decisions weren’t being executed. We would come up with clever strategies, a co-founder would declare them, and nothing would happen. Another was that we discovered one of our core assumptions - that if you remove managers, self-management will flourish - was wrong.

The final problem was the real inner workings of the firm were unintelligible to the outside. If a new person were to ask “how do I get X done?” the answer would be, “well, you should probably talk to this person, and then that person, and then get those people to agree…” — there was no clear map of who was responsible for what, that could be understood by anyone who hadn’t been at GrantTree for at least 6 months.

Our assumption that “if you remove management, self-management will flourish” was dead wrong. If you just remove management, then there is just “no management.” To have self-management, you actually need a helpful structure to enable people to do the work in addition to their day to day work. Otherwise it simply doesn’t get done.Self-Management With Holacracy®

One of the reasons you want to do self-management from a commercial perspective is that the people who are dealing with clients have all the power they need to do the right thing. When you are B2C you do this by putting all the power in the hands of the call center staff. You don’t stymie them with scripts and processes, you get them to “own the work.”

Holacracy gave us a way to give people the work in a clear and unambiguous way. Everyone knows “the buck stops with them.”

In order to qualify for a UK tax credit you need something genuinely innovative. About half of our client work is producing reports about the client’s technology. The Holacracy practice allowed us to optimize this process earlier, when a team member made a proposal to outsource part of the work. It’s a decision we tried to make in the past unsuccessfully. Now that we have, it’s helping the business save tens of thousands of pounds and free up a lot of time.

Structure . . . and Flexibility

Holacracy had this reputation of being “rigid” and that worried the team. Thankfully, that turned out not to be true.

The Holacracy practice turned out to be just a set of tools, off the shelf, that you get to apply to how you work. There are obviously many ways to run or build a business, and we still get to build it any way we want to, we just run it using this off-the-shelf system. You can’t play chess and not play with certain pieces. The same is true with the Holacracy practice.

To put it another way, we could have built our own spreadsheet but Excel is just better. Some of us use pivot tables while others only use charts. But we don’t use a different spreadsheet and chart app. We use Excel.

This constraint ironically helps make our “open culture” movement work. It gives us a means to get things done better by the hands of the frontline technicians.

People who think Holacracy is limited just lack imagination. It provides even more flexibility than when we had no structure because Holacracy invites you to be intentional about what part of the business you are working on. Staff now feel like they have a quick means of “hacking” Holacracy to fit our culture.Encoding a Culture of Self-Motivation

The Holacracy practice has given us a way of to encode our culture.

With Holacracy, we don’t need a constant reminder from the CEO to keep momentum. The way things work are now explicitly and clearly documented. Strategically speaking, GrantTree has moved from only being able to make one big decision a month to making lots of smaller incremental changes each week. Now circles and business units with budgets can get even more done.

Ironically, one of the co-founders has now found she can spend less time managing the business and has even more power to influence needed change because of how interconnected and explicit things are.

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If you liked Daniel’s story, please hit the green ✋ button below so that others might find this article too. If you’d like to read more stories like this, we encourage you to take at our blog.

Want to learn more about the Holacracy practice? You can attend a free introductory webinar or visit our website.

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Holacracy is a registered trademark of HolacracyOne, LLC

From Top-Down, to “Flat,” to Holacracy was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Holacracy® and Growth Mindset

December 19, 2017 - 11:24am
Vulnerability, Failure, and Other Good Things

Why do some people collapse in the face of challenge while others persist? Why do some people feel intimidated when others feel inspired? There are almost too many reasons to consider, but we need to consider them because adopting the Holacracy practice is hard. And it’s particularly hard on people.

Working in a Holacracy-powered organization is inherently psychoactive, meaning it inevitably pushes against our assumptions no matter how advanced or mature those assumptions already are.

So, to practice Holacracy effectively, you need to understand people. Their emotions and their mindsets. And most importantly, you need a shared language for talking about those things.

Specifically, two terms worth adding to your vocabulary are “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.” They describe two profoundly different responses to challenge. And I’m picking sides, because I’m suggesting organizations that succeed in adopting Holacracy do so because they support a growth mindset.

Later on, I’ve got some concrete tips for how Holacracy-powered organizations can create and nurture a growth mindset. But first, some research.

Growth mindset children didn’t assume their talent was fixed and therefore didn’t associate their performance with their identity. With less at stake, they worked harder to find solutions.

In the 1970s, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found that different children had surprisingly different approaches to solving problems. She monitored children’s reactions as they were given a series of progressively difficult math problems. As the level of difficulty increased, each child was asked if they would like a harder or easier problem.

Dweck found that those children who chose the harder problem reported they enjoyed the challenge. They remained engaged and confident, because their goal was to learn. Those who chose the easier problem were more likely value the final output, i.e., getting the correct answer. Their goal was to perform.

As Dweck explored why children made these different choices, she identified two types of mindset or orientation; a “fixed mindset,” in which students believe their level of intelligence and capacities to be unchanging, and a “growth mindset,” in which students believe their talents and abilities can be developed through hard work and persistence.

While the fixed mindset children became disinterested or upset with unfamiliar problems because they feared looking foolish, the growth mindset children didn’t associate performance with their own value, and were therefore much less afraid to try and fail.

But here’s where it gets interesting: The studies also showed that children with the growth mindset took more risks, learned more, and ultimately performed better. Yes, performed better.

Meaning that, over time, the children who were NOT focused on results actually performed better.

Now, if you’ve ever learned anything (and I hope you have), then you’re probably not completely surprised by this. Usually the only way to get good at something is to start by being bad at something.

And when it comes to making a transition to a new way of working like Holacracy, the same principle applies. People who approach it with a growth mindset are more likely to be successful and to further inspire a culture of experimentation and self-management.

Of course, fixed mindset has its place, and there are contexts in which it is quite appropriate. Yet, if your organization is doing “knowledge work,” then it may be increasingly ill-suited to mechanistic models of motivation and performance.

Too often organizations find themselves (without conscious intention) engendering a performance-oriented, results-now culture that sacrifices long-term capacity-building for short-term gain. And in systems that can’t effectively process any tension felt by any person at any time, it’s a completely rational strategy to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place.

Does your organization embrace failure?

So, how is your organization currently doing? You don’t need a sophisticated survey to find out. You alone are a perfectly valid data point. Your answers to these questions needn’t be a shared opinion.

  • How comfortable do you feel raising an objection in a governance meeting?
  • How comfortable are you sharing constructive feedback with co-workers?
  • How often do you ask questions when you don’t understand something?
  • How comfortable do you feel saying “no check,” or “no updates” during a tactical meeting?
  • How often does someone publicly admit a mistake they made?

These unscientific questions should give you at least an intuitive sense of how you’re approaching your work and, more interestingly, how your work approaches you. So, if you want your Holacracy practice to be grounded in a growth mindset, here are two concrete things you can do.

#1: Share Vulnerable Check-ins

The rules for the Check-in and Closing Round don’t limit you to only sharing what’s on your mind at the moment. You can provide any type of comment you want. So, get creative. This is one of the most powerful opportunities to set a learning context for yourself and others.

If you’re facilitating, try suggesting any of the following to the circle:

  • “For Check-in, share something you did well and something you failed miserably at last week…”
  • “For Check-in, share something new you tried or a risk you took…”
  • “For Check-in, share something you’d like to experiment with during this meeting…”

And if you’re not facilitating, so what? Use your check-in to answer these questions anyway or share something else vulnerable and real. You’ll likely find you’ve “broken a vulnerability sweat” that serves you for the remainder of the meeting. Plus, others will be grateful you disrupted the monotonous repetition of “Checked-in” and “Here” that most settle for.

#2: Encourage Objections

For many, the Objection Round of the Governance meeting is awkward and underutilized. The discomfort usually comes from assuming objections are a form of personal criticism.

One of the most damaging things Holacracy practitioners do is create an “avoid objections” environment by trying to fix the proposal before the objection round.

It’s not uncommon for people to self-filter their objections rather than raising one and letting the process sort out its validity. Or for a proposer to feel pressured to amend his proposal in response to a critical reaction. Both of these habits move your circle away from a growth mindset. Instead, proactively encourage objections.

Don’t just make objections OK. Make them a welcomed part of the process:

  • If you’re facilitating, ask each participant, “Would you like to try an objection…yes or no?” And if they say, “Well, I’m not sure,” then encourage them to raise it and determine its validity together.
  • If you’re presenting your proposal say, “Here’s a proposal that would solve my tension, but if you have an objection, please raise it.” Make it clear you’re not going to take objections personally.
  • Even if you’re just someone in the meeting, you can always use your reaction in the Reaction Round to say something like, “I like the proposal, but I hope others will raise objections if they have them, because we can fix it together in integration.”
It’s easier to risk when we know failure won’t kill us.

Carol Dweck uncovered the interesting paradox that when we focus on performance to the exclusion of learning, it’s more likely our results will diminish. But if we instead define goals that measure what was explored, learned, or risked, we are more likely to improve our performance. It’s a cherry-picked and partial rendering of her conclusion, but a valuable insight none the less.

And if this isn’t shocking, hopefully it’s at least a good reminder.

………………………………………………………………………………………. If you’d like to read more stories like this, we encourage you to take a look at our blog.

Want to learn more about Holacracy? You can attend a free introductory webinar or visit our website.

Holacracy® and Growth Mindset was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

» More blog posts directly on the "About Holacracy" collection on Medium.

Introducing Tags in GlassFrog®

December 4, 2017 - 4:51pm
A Little Something to Support Innovation in Your Organization

Many folks in Holacracy-powered organizations are experimenting with new approaches to business. These folks have pioneered radically new peer-to-peer approaches for things like performance reviews, budgeting, salary, and more.

To support this entrepreneurial spirit, we’ve added GlassFrog Tags, designed to help our fellow Holacracy® practitioners as they innovate.

Now, anyone in your organization can add tags to policies, roles, or people, and find things by tags in the search results. There’s also a history of who added what for increased transparency and auditability.

Here’s how it works:

The Tag Page & History

When you create a tag, you automatically create a new page for the tag that shows everyone what policies, roles, or people are associated with the tag. You can also enter a description for the tag or add any other useful information.

The tag page shows all of the policies tagged “Spending Auth”

When you view the tag page, you can also access the tag history to see what’s happened with this particular tag.

The history for the tag “Spending Auth” shows who added the tag to each policy and whenPolicies

Policies can sometimes be a challenge to organize and find.

Now you can add tags to policies outside of meetings so that you can group them together. You can also add meaningful keywords that folks may use to search for policies — even if those keywords don’t show up in the policy itself.

The policy titled “Spending Authorization — Base Process” has been tagged as “Spending Auth”

For example, if you have multiple policies related to your organization’s budgeting process, you can add a “budgeting” tag to allow anyone to find them all with a single search.

Roles

Tagging roles works the same way that tagging of policies does. You can create a tag and add it to any roles within the organization.

The “Developer” role has two tags — “software” and “technical”

Here are a few possible uses:

  • Group roles by field or area like “financial” or “technical”
  • Add all of the skill sets needed to fill a role like “software development” or “legal expertise”
  • Make it easier for new people to find all of the roles involved in a specific process like “compensation”

However you use it, tagging allows you to create an overview of relevant roles filtered by these tags.

People

Have some folks who are part-time? You can create a tag and tag them. Have some folks with specific skillsets or accreditations? You can use tags for that too.

Lewis is tagged with “software” and “technical” tags

And since tags can be shared across people, roles, and policies, you can see when people and roles share a tag in common.

Pretty cool, right?

At HolacracyOne, we use a badge-based compensation system and we’re pretty excited to experiment with tags to track who holds which badges.

Search by Tags

And my favorite part: GlassFrog’s search will return all results with matching tags. This is especially helpful for policies where common search terms don’t show up in the body of the policy. Or for matching roles tagged with a particular skill to a person tagged with that skill.

This search page shows both the roles and the policies with the “Spending Auth” tagAPI and Integrations

We’ve also made adding, editing, and removing tags available through the API for easier integration with your other systems. See our API documentation for more details, or contact us for help.

We’ve got plans to continue evolving and improving tags, so don’t forget to reach out and give us your feedback if you have ideas. We’d love to hear how you’ll use them, too, so feel free to reach out just to share!

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If you’re on our Premium pricing plan, then tagging is already available to you!

If not, you can contact us for help with upgrading.

Want more details? Check out this tagging article in our GlassFrog Knowledge Base.

Introducing Tags in GlassFrog® was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

» More blog posts directly on the "About Holacracy" collection on Medium.

List Next Actions (Not Just Projects)

November 22, 2017 - 12:30pm
Sneak Peek #3: Holacracy® Habits

We all face rapid change. In our personal and work lives. Increasingly, our work doesn’t show up pre-defined for us.

More than any time in history, we must figure out what to do before we can do it.

But complex problems don’t always need complex solutions. Which is why David Allen’s Getting Things Done(GTD ®) methodology recommends a simple five word question, “What is the next action?”

This question alone can immediately cut through most of the complexity in our way.

David recommends we abandon the traditional “to-do” list, but only because we need to get our minds even more clear. Instead of having one single to-do list, we actually need two lists. One for projects and one for next-actions.

Here’s why:

You Can’t “Do” a Project

Most of us have used to-do lists. We love them because, through the simple act of writing something down, it unburdens our mind.

But there’s a problem.

Most lists include things like:

• Website redesign
• Contract to John
• Clean garage

So what’s the issue?

You can’t “do” a website redesign. You can’t “do” a contract to John or a dentist appointment. GTD ® tells us each of these to-do list items is actually a multi-step outcome (i.e. a project), meaning it requires many shorter actions to complete it.

The next-action for the website redesign may be “schedule a meeting with the designer.” Or even before that, “email the designer for availability.”

Deciding is Often Harder than Doing

Many times we procrastinate acting on something because there are decisions that we haven’t made yet. Time passes, and a month later, we still haven’t moved forward on that website redesign.

Often, the reason is simple: We haven’t yet asked ourselves, “What’s the next physical action I can take on this?”

If you just write down “Clean garage” on a list, you’ll have to stop and consider what to do every time you look at it.

However, if you write down “buy more trash bags,” you’ll be able to take quick action when you’re in the grocery store.

When we’re in the mood to get going, the last thing we want is to stop and try to decide what we need to do. So, give your brain a break and do the deciding beforehand.

That way, when you’re in the mood to do, you can get right to it.

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GlassFrog® users on the Premium Plan can access our Holacracy Habits Support Program. This program delivers sequenced, bite-size lessons to build the skills and habits essential to Holacracy practice.

Need help upgrading to Premium? Want free support migrating to GlassFrog from another role-based software?

Contact us: https://glassfrog.com/contact/

List Next Actions (Not Just Projects) was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

» More blog posts directly on the "About Holacracy" collection on Medium.

Cultural observations on self-management and Holacracy in China

November 8, 2017 - 5:22am

I had no expectations coming to Shanghai to speak on Holacracy, at The First China Organizational Evolution Forum. I was maybe too busy with day to day business, considering my trip something exotic that I just had to experience. Talking to a few dozen Chinese people, I realise I was right, and wrong. Right, because I was open to be surprised and had no judgment. Wrong, because the cliche is true: China is now moving so fast that you should pay close attention.

Important disclaimer: I spoke to maybe 50 people, who represented many diverse companies. From Alibaba-big (60.000 employees) to startups of a few hundred people that its founder would call small. People interested in these topics are no doubt the forerunners, and I will just generalise them and say “they, the Chinese” because I care for the potential and not the correctness :)They’re ready to be vulnerable

I heard some founders of “small” Chinese tech-companies talk very openly about discovering their personal weaknesses. Small company means 250 or 800 employees here, by the way. I felt extra humble, with 50 Springest colleagues running Holacracy in the past 5+ years.

In a panel on personal leadership as “ex-CEO’s” these founders shared their fears of not able to inspire their employees to take initiative. And the risk they run if they don’t trust their employees to make decisions. At the same time acknowledging their tendency to command their troops*, because we have businesses to run and goals to achieve.

Over lunch I talked to one founder extensively through 2 Chinese — English interpreting colleagues, about his trouble to motivate employees in a non-extrinsic way, about his doubts about Lead Links “demanding” overwork from their circle members, etc. I was really impressed with his openness and willingness to let his ego not get in the way.

They’re moving (too) fast

On every slide from every speaker where there was a model with “rules” to follow, half of the crowd got out their phones to make a picture. Likely to WeChat it back to their colleagues to start learning from those principles right away. As if one slide can hold the solution, simply to be implemented to quickly beat the competition. I often felt that they are so eager to quickly adopt, that they do it before really understanding. I’m not even sure this is a problem though: they might just get enough of the methods to combine their execution power with a bit more efficiency so that they’ll get there sooner than those who patiently figure out all the nuances of self organising methodologies.

Let’s not forget we’re still at the beginning anyway. The current systems are not “done”, nor will they ever be. So understanding everything might be a paradox of self-management: to study it very thoroughly means falling in the same predict and control trap that we try so hard to avoid.

We’re different but also very similar

In more than a few discussions, we turned to human nature versus culture. Yes, culture can be in the way of adopting self organisation. The Netherlands is showing to be a more fertile ground for new Holacracy adoptions than even Germany and the United States. Yes, China is much more anchored to centralised management and very strong top down leadership.

But people are just as resourceful, can be just as driven by a purpose or a dream. Many employees are at least as disengaged as their Western counterparts. And like all evolved monkeys, we love to feel safe, be in a group and follow a strong leader. Their leaders recognise these human traits and want to address them to increase the potential of their organisation.

It will all converge

We all have to figure out how to organise ourselves in ways that make organisations last. Hopefully, that way will also be healthy for humans. The west can learn from China just as much as they can learn from us. In any case, our companies and cultures will converge naturally because the world is still getting smaller (or was it more flat?). So we will have to learn from each other and I’m very happy to have had the opportunity.

*Military style is mentioned often as the “old way”, top down. But the army is actually going in the direction of self-organisation, because especially on the battlefield there is no time to wait for decisions from above.

Cultural observations on self-management and Holacracy in China was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

» More blog posts directly on the "About Holacracy" collection on Medium.

How Your Organisation Can Thrive in a Disruptive Market with Demanding Customers and a Millennial…

November 2, 2017 - 9:34am
5 Ways Holacracy Organizes Power to Thrive in a Rapidly Changing World

Here are some astonishing figures:

  • According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.
  • Only 50% of businesses with employees survive their fifth year in business.
  • Of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955, only 12% remain. The rest either went bankrupt, merged, acquired or fell off the list.

This looks bleak. Businesses today are not able to survive the pace of change.

Whole industries are getting disrupted, and it’s impossible to predict what’s coming.

Yet, there are some compelling reasons why there’s never been a better time to start a business.

  • Accessible funding. You no longer have to wait in long lines to raise funding. Services like Kickstarter and Crowdfunder allow you to get the capital you need to fund your idea.
  • Lower costs. Cheaper and better technology has lowered the barrier to entry, speeding distribution channels and reducing overheads.
  • Attract global talent. It’s easier now, thanks to the Internet, to establish & maintain a global workforce. You can attract talent at more affordable costs.
  • New opportunities opening up. As the population grows, people's interests and preferences are fragmenting. This is giving rise to several untapped niches available for entrepreneurs to fill.

As a business owner, I’m always searching for ways to help my organization thrive and at the same time protect it from the threats of a rapidly changing world.

I’ve found the key lies in understanding the role of power in today’s world.

The Decay of Power and What It Means For Your Organization

Power is shifting.

Smaller, more innovative players are displacing the more traditional powerhouses of the global economy. We’ve seen in front of our eyes how:

  • Amazon has replaced bookstores and other retailers
  • Netflix has taken over Blockbuster
  • Uber is killing taxi companies
  • Airbnb is now the largest provider of travel accommodations

There are many such examples of power-shifts. However that’s the not full story. Power is not just shifting from one company to another.

Power is decaying.

Moises Naim observed in his book, The End of Power the three trends that are eroding the barriers to holding power:

  • The “more revolution” — there are more of us, and we have more resources — overwhelms power.
  • The “mobility revolution” circumvents power by moving people and information further and faster.
  • And the “mentality revolution” undermines it by making people less deferential.

As the barriers that keep power in place are eroding, those who have power find it difficult to use and easy to lose.

“The decay of power is an exhilarating trend in the sense that it has made space for new ventures, new companies and all over the world, new voices and more opportunities. But its consequences for stability are fraught with danger.” ~ Moises Naim

Here are some ways the decay of power can impact your organization:

  • Without being able to adapt to changing times, new startups and competitors that are entering the market ready to displace you.
  • With an increasing number of options available, your customer’s taste’s and preferences have become more nuanced. Unless you’re able to cater to it, they’ll move to other options.
  • Millennials form the largest generational workforce. They want more power in the form of freedom and autonomy in their work. Unless your organization has a system to distribute power effectively, it’ll be difficult to retain your most talented team members.

Without the ability to effectively manage and organize power, the organization’s stability, and it’s ability to get work done, decreases.

Current Structures Make it Difficult to Get Things Done

If we plot the decay of power on the x-axis and stability on the y-axis, this is how it would look like:

On the extreme left power is concentrated. Organizations here have a command and control system to manage power.

It’s not a bad system. It was a useful model for almost a century. However, with the decaying of power, this system is too rigid. It creates autocratic leaders, bureaucracy and the reliance on few people to get things moving.

Have you ever been in organizations where you need to get everyone’s “buy-in” to get anything done? This is what happens when power decays to the right.

Here power has decayed to such an extent that the organization has become paralyzed. It’s complicated to move forward because everything requires the consent of other members.

In the absence of an effective system to manage power, as power decays in an organization it becomes a system of Vetocracy.

“A vetocracy refers to a dysfunctional system of governance whereby no single entity can acquire enough power to make decisions and take effective charge.”

Even though it may seem like a nice to get everyone’s agreement before moving forward, in practice, it paralyzes the members to make critical decisions to move the organization forward.

Holacracy — A New Social Technology To Organize Power in Pursuit of Purpose“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ Richard Buckminster Fuller

Frederic Laloux documents in this book, Reinventing Organizations a new generation of organizations characterized by self-organization, evolutionary purpose, and wholeness. He calls them “teal” organizations.

They’re at the cutting edge of what the future of organizations are going to be like, and demonstrate new ways of managing power in an organization.
But if you want to implement them in your organization, they’re very difficult to replicate, because their respective systems evolved out of their unique cultures.

However, there was one exception in Laloux’s book, HolacracyOne. It runs on an “installable” self-management system called Holacracy. Tom Thomison, co-founder of HolacracyOne, defined it as:

“Holacracy is a complete wholesale replacement of the Management Hierarchy. It’s exploring work in pursuit of purpose.”

Holacracy is a new social technology that any organization can adopt to self-organize. Instead of people holding power, the power lies with the constitution which has a set of rules on how to distribute authority to roles in the organization.

As I adopted Holacracy in my organizations, I experienced a new way of managing power other than the command and control, top-down hierarchical way.

Here I’ll share with you five ways Holacracy organizes power, and how it can help meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.

5 Ways Holacracy Organizes Power to Thrive in a Rapidly Changing World1. Meet Your New Boss — Purpose

An organization running under the Management Hierarchy, also has a purpose, but you don’t have the freedom to express it directly.

You have a manager, who has a boss and maybe another boss. And unless you all see eye to eye, you won’t have the freedom to fully express your purpose.

In a Management Hierarchy the purpose of the organization gets diluted and filtered through the levels of authority.

In Holacracy, a direct purpose-to-purpose relationship runs through the organization. People pursue work that aligns with their purpose.

There’s no central authority or managers. You don’t have people managing people. You have purpose agents who self-organize under the Holacracy constitution and engage in the work of the organization.

2. Yup. You’re the Leader. You Lead Your Role(s).

You may be wondering, are there any leaders in an organization without a hierarchy?

Yes. Everyone’s a leader, but it’s a different kind of leadership. In Management Hierarchy Leaders lead people. In Holacracy, people lead “roles”.

In a Management Hierarchy leaders lead peopleIn Holacracy people lead roles

Each role has a clear purpose and accountabilities expected of them. Once a person energizes a role, the constitution grants them full authority to do what is necessary to fulfill the purpose of their role(s).

For example, if you’re in a role called Web Designer that has the accountability of updating the website with the product details, you don’t need permission to make updates. You don’t have to have long meetings to get everyone’s buy-in. As long as you work within the bounds of the constitution, you have full authority to get the work done.

In that sense, you lead your role.

“It (Holacracy) is a system where everyone has autocratic authority but they know the bounds of that authority. They know the interconnections, they know when they have to get someone else’s input. They know what they can expect of each other.” — Brian Robertson

No more single heroic leader that everyone looks to for answers. In Holacarcy, everyone is a hero, called upon to lead their roles.

3. It’s not Hierarchical or Flat. It’s Holarchic.

Because Holacracy is a replacement of the Management Hierarchy, it’s often confused with being a flat organization, without a structure.

In fact, Holacracy is often more structured than a Management Hierarchy. But it’s not a structure of people, it’s a structure of roles.

Think of a human body. Each cell function autonomously within organs, which in turn function autonomously within the body. There’s no CEO cell that tells other cells what to do.

Similarly in Holacracy power is held by roles, not people, and those roles gain power through a governance process, not from a boss delegating it. Each role is autonomous with a clear boundary and purpose.

What emerges is a lot of clarity and freedom for people to use the power within their roles to get work done.

4. In a Conflict? There’s no Manager to go to. Use the Process to channel your tension.

As you rise up the ranks of a Management Hierarchy, you’ll soon realize that a lot of your energy goes into managing people and not doing work that directly adds value to your customer.

That’s because it’s the role of the manager to create alignment, especially when there’s a conflict.

But how do you resolve conflicts in an organization without managers?

For that, you need a process. A process that aligns and integrates. In Holacracy, anyone can use the governance process defined by the constitution to remove what is in the way of their Role’s work.

It removes the need to have managers, and lets each person be autonomous.

There’s very little room to be a victim. Do you have a problem? You don’t need a manager to take care of you. You can use the process to take care of your role’s work.

“Get the ongoing process right, and it will keep generating ongoing benefits. In our new era, processes trump products.” Kevin Kelly

This frees up energy which people can use in their work.

5. A Responsive Conscious Organization

How does an organization adapt to changing times?

A Management Hierarchy is a rigid structure that is designed upfront to address a certain need. So the only way to adapt is to go through re-organizations that are painful, disorienting and expensive.

Holacracy allows for incremental changes. Any tension sensed by anyone in the organization has some place to go to get rapidly and reliably processed into meaningful change.

These changes result in small changes to the structure, just enough to meet the demand.

“We process that tension to change the design, we express that design, and we test it and start the cycle over again. This is how Holacracy introduces the innovation of evolution inside our companies.” ~ Brian Robertson

Instead of a master architect applying a perfect structure up front, Holacracy uses the power of evolutionary process to meet the demand of changing times.

Power is Decaying. Is Your Organization Ready?“Power is changing in so many areas that it will be impossible to avoid important transformations in the way humanity organizes itself to make the decisions it needs to survive and progress.” ~ Moises Naim

The forces at play are accelerating the decay of power. And not doing anything threatens the existence of our organizations. You do not want to be in the 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who fail in the first 18 months.

The reinvention of work is no longer a choice.

But we don’t have to be carried away by these forces. By adopting new social technologies, our organization can not only survive, but thrive.

Getting Started with Holacracy

Here are some resources to get started with Holacracy

Holacracy.org Official website. Check out their Tactical & Governance Meeting Formats.

Holacracy Book by Brian Robertson, co-founder of Holacracy. This is a comprehensive book to get started with Holacracy. Foreword by David Allen.

Holacracy Comic Book

Book: Reinventing Organizations An amazing book on the evolution of management and the emergence of self-managed organizations.

Ted Talk by Brian Robertson. If you don’t have time to read any of the above books, watch this video.

Attend a free introductory webinar

How Your Organisation Can Thrive in a Disruptive Market with Demanding Customers and a Millennial… was originally published in About Holacracy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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