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 Drawfs and Giants, an innovation company which is organized in a holacratic way and its mission is to help shaping the future of work.

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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 the company replacing the hierarchy. Holacracy makes everyone an entrepreneur. Everyone is a partner in an organization with the 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 ask 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 with simulation of a tactical meeting. We could see the IT system used for managing projects. We had a few volunteers who personated 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 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 circles.

It usually takes a few weeks to get accustomed with holacarcy as people have lots of habits to change during job meetings. For example speaking whenever you feel there is a need for it. In holocarcy you speak at your turn leaving a 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 details but even though 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 vidoes on YouTube e.g.:

 

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

No matter if you implement holacracy or not, there are certainly things which you can take from it. For example the way of organizing your meetings. Creating the common rules and nominating a meeting secretary as well as having a facilitator really helps.

If you are searching for the examples of companies who use holocracy. The fascinating example is Gore: https://www.gore.com/about/working-at-gore

Interestingly, Gore is also one of the most innovative company. Can it mean that together with the innovative way of working, innovation flourishes or the other way round, innovation provokes innovative way of working?

To fully understand and work in 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.

More information you may find on the website of the Holacracy creator a company called HolacracyOne https://www.holacracy.org/holacracyone  For those who would like to go straight into the details, I recommend to study the Holacracy Constitution available here: https://www.holacracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Holacracy-Constitution-v4.1.pdf

Check also this TEDx video with the founder story to get the 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, definitely holacracy is 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 to be successful. One more thing is definitely needed in order to apply holacracy, it is a trust in your employees’ competences to deliver the job. If you do not believe that anyone in your company can play their role on its own, there is no point of even trying holacracy.

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