This is a good way to think about Holacracy:
“…Holacracy is not a governance process ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ – it’s governance of the organization, through the people, and for the purpose.” Holacracy, page 34
What are the elements of Holacracy?
The key elements are:
- A constitution
- A new way to structure an organization and define roles and spheres of authority
- A decision making process
- A meeting process
As you might be able to tell, I recently read Brian Robertson’s new book, Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World. Brian is one of the thought leaders and founders of Holacracy, and I have crossed paths with him two times, most recently at Conscious Capitalism.
Spotlight on Holacracy
Zappos has adopted Holacracy completely through their organization. With this shift, Zappos has received a lot of attention, especially when 14% of their employees decided to take a package and leave the company. Zappos is undeterred and they are pushing the organizational boundaries, driving change.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting article about the change at Zappos and Holacracy. Reading it will be worth your time.
There are a number of reasons why Holacracy matters.
First, in many ways, organizational structure has not dramatically changed in decades. Holacracy is dramatic.
Second, with a new generation quickly becoming the majority in our workplace, more freedom is desired along with bold changes. Holacracy delivers.
Third, with the discussion of how employee engagement isn’t cutting it, Holacracy embraces employee activism and provides a platform for a better way to work.
Holacracy needs to continue on the path of being adopted, changed, and explored as a better way to organize and achieve better results in more purposeful ways.
Holacracy and freedom collide
Holacracy (the book) provides a solid foundation in understanding how it all works. The big missing part is the stories of organizations who have implemented, tested, succeeded, failed, and continued forward with the lessons learned. With 300 firms using Holacracy, more stories should have been in the book.
Having said this, Holacracy is a must read for any leader looking to take on more of an activist approach to organizing and achieving results. For organizations considering this shift, there is a complete chapter on things to do now. Holacracy is not a partial implementation; it is an all-in one.
Here are four elements of Holacracy I found interesting, especially looking through a freedom and activist lens.
Engage the tension.
Tension is described as “the perception of a specific gap between current reality and a sensed potential.” (page 6)
Holacracy sets in motion a means to bring the tension to the table and engage it in a thoughtful, productive way. Tensions are addressed, not ignored. Given this, organizational politics should be minimal.
Freedom will always contain tensions. Freedom stretches us to dream bigger and do more to make a bigger difference. Freedom also means there are diverse viewpoints. To bring this all together in a meaningful way, the tensions need to be open, transparent, and resolved in a respectful, trustful way.
Holacracy seems to get this.
Define the roles.
Responsibility is distributed to roles, not humans. These roles have responsibility, authority, and accountability, as they should. People become stewards of a role, as they should.
Freedom requires different roles for the magic of it to work well. We need to rise above the personal or self-centered views and embrace what the role requires of us. We need to care for the role and make the most of it.
When we need help, more roles can be added. Capacity increases in an orderly, natural way.
Holacracy seems to deliver clarity and capacity of roles.
Focus on the purpose.
With the way roles are viewed and implemented, purpose has a greater chance of success. Purpose is at the center of what is achieved – clarity of mission radiates.
Purpose is the anchor in the tensions, the decisions, the roles, and the work. What distracts is set aside. What matters is addressed.
Freedom and purpose are very close friends. However, too often, friends disagree. Civil and defined purpose bring the two together again.
Holacracy seems to center everything on an evident purpose.
Make decisions within structure.
Holacracy delivers an essential process to reach decisions. Too often, organizations do not define a clear way decisions get made and so they wander, meander, and go nowhere. Holacracy is not whimsical; it is about definition and resolution.
Freedom requires decisions to be made. Freedom cannot be left alone, hoping good things will happen. Freedom entails decisions to promote, protect, and grow what is most important to our communities and workplaces.
Holacracy seems to bring a well-defined framework to work.
So, Holacracy and freedom collide.
Yes, in a very good way.
- Freedom collides with responsibility, creating the necessary checks between the two.
- Freedom collides with purpose, ensuring the right focus is in the right place.
- Freedom collides with structure, delivering expected results and impact.
- Freedom collides with problems, resolving tension for a productive way forward.
I have no doubt Holacracy will change over time as more is learned and then applied to the model. The process is there for Holacracy to succeed.
More than this, Holacracy has a way to create an activist employee culture, filled with purpose and meaningful results.
Holacracy and freedom need to collide. From these collisions, good things are ahead for the next generation of leaders and team members. Are you ready?
What intrigues you the most about Holacracy?