Holacracy – an innovative management practice for organizations

During Gdynia Design Days and Design Talks Business Summit, I had a chance to participate in a workshop about Holacracy run by Ewa Bocian – a partner at Dwarfs and Giants, an innovation company which is organized in a holacratic way and its mission is to help shape the future of work.

1*ZQFtM9QCicFHxNqeFZdwog

Source: Harvard Business Review

Source: Harvard Business Review

For those who are not familiar with holacracy, let me introduce you to it shortly. It is one of the alternative ways of managing a company by replacing the hierarchy. Holacracy makes everyone an entrepreneur. Everyone is a partner in an organization with dynamic roles to take and a purpose to realize instead of a static job description. The company is organized around circles (projects) which consist of people with supplemental roles.

In holacracy, nobody can tell you to do something. You are your own boss and you decide how you would realize your purpose as long as it does not violate the common rules.

Together with other participants we took part in a simulation of a tactical meeting. We could see the IT system used for managing projects. We had a few volunteers who played a few roles at the meeting. There was a secretary of the meeting and a facilitator (Ewa) who helped to moderate the discussion. The rest of the  workshop participants were able to observe everything. Ewa (facilitator) took us through the tactical meeting, one of the two types of meetings which is arranged in every project circle.

It usually takes a few weeks to get accustomed to holacracy as people have lots of habits to change during job meetings. For example speaking whenever you feel there is a need for it. In holacracy you speak at your turn and otherwise leave the stage to others. We could observe how the participants were struggling with it.

We did not have enough time to go through the process in detail but this short sample gave us a chance to experience it on our own.

If you would like to see the example of tactical and governance meetings, check Springest company videos on YouTube e.g.:

I must say I was impressed by the order holacracy brings to the meetings, how it gives space to everyone and enables meetings to move forward even if there is a strong need of some participants to give advice and digress. From my experience, the latter is usually the main reason for unproductive meetings.

Whether you implement holacracy or not, there are certainly things which you can take from it. For example how you organize your meetings. Creating common rules and nominating a meeting secretary, as well as having a facilitator, really help.

If you are searching for examples of companies who use holacracy, a fascinating example is Gore: https://www.gore.com/about/working-at-gore Interestingly, Gore is also one of the most innovative companies. Does an innovative way of working mean that innovation flourishes? Or is it the other way around, innovation provokes an innovative way of working?

To fully understand and work in a holacratic way takes weeks or even months but I am really glad that I had a chance to try it and would recommend you to do the same. You can find more information on the HolacracyOne website:  https://www.holacracy.org/holacracyone 

For those who would like to go straight into the details, I recommend studying the Holacracy Constitution available here: https://www.holacracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Holacracy-Constitution-v4.1.pdf

Additionally, check this TEDx video with the founder’s story to get a quick understanding of how it works:

My main take-away, if you are about to start your own company or you are already an entrepreneur who is willing to share the profits with others, holacracy is definitely worth considering. However, if you are working in a hierarchical organization with bosses who would love to have full control over its finances, I do not believe that this approach will have a chance of being successful. One more thing is definitely needed in order to apply holacracy, it is trust in your employees’ competencies to get the job done. If you do not believe that anyone in your company can play their role independently, there is no point of even trying holacracy.

Written by Cecylia Kundera

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s