5 Steps To Start Holacracy

Holacracy in Action: 5 Steps to a High Performance Team

In my last article on holacracy, I described the reasons why we as founders decided to rely on a completely different management concept. Today I'll show you the first steps on how you can easily introduce holacracy into your organization. To start, I'll briefly explain what holacracy (also known as Holacracy) is and what benefits this type of management can bring to your organization.

Holacracy - What's it all about?

holacracy is a management system that transparently distributes responsibility within the organization and gives all members the opportunity to make their own decisions in their area. It eliminates direct top-down authority.

Holacracy - What does it promise?

In the previous article, I went into detail about the benefits. In summary, Holacracy offers:

  •       A higher level of satisfaction in the company
  •       More freedom for employees
  •       More freedom for the boss
  •       Better scalability of the company
  •       Greater agility in the company
  •       A higher productivity.

The core of Holacracy - Do your job and adjust!

Put simply, Holacracy consists of two central elements. The elements are roles and the monthly meetings where these roles are adapted.

Do your job! - Roles as Job Description

I'm sure nearly everyone has seen at least one job description in their lives. Many people probably see their own for the first and last time in their job advertisement. The job description comes to life in Holacracy. As a role, it becomes part of the daily work and an anchor point for the allocation of tasks and responsibility. Each person usually has several roles. The roles consist of the following elements:

Purpose: Each role serves a very specific purpose.

Responsibilities: These are the duties of each role. At the same time, they reflect the expectations of other team members. Of course, also those of a "former" boss. The responsibilities may well include 15-20 items.

Area of responsibility: These are the rights of each role. Here the role has the say and others have to ask for their permission for actions in the role's area of responsibility.

Example of a role description in short form

Role finances

Task / purpose: Ensure liquidity of the company

Responsibility / expected results of others: Complete annual financial statements by the end of March

Authority / area of responsibility: financial budgets. For expenditures outside of defined budgets, the Finance role must be asked.

The roles in turn can be grouped into departments. In the holacracy these are called circles. The largest circle is the company itself. Of course, the company itself also pursues an overriding purpose, which should also be recorded in concrete terms. At Raidboxes, the purpose is to give creative people more freedom.

Adjust. - Monthly Governance Meetings

Since the collected role descriptions are nothing more than a corporate constitution, the meetings to adjust the roles are called "governance meetings". These meetings are used to work through minor and major conflicts (tensions) and incorporate them into the role descriptions. 

But don't worry about the extra meeting! Our meetings currently last between 30 and 45 minutes. The meetings are tightly moderated. In any case, the moderator should make sure that the set procedure is followed.

Each role can be adapted, provided these changes don't harm the company.

This says almost everything. Of course, entire books could still be written about holacracy . Fortunately, others have already done so, such as Brian J. Robertson, the founder of the holacracy movement. Personally, I think Robertson's book "Holacracy" is unfortunately a bit dry and doesn't do the system justice. Nevertheless, it is a must read for the person implementing the system in the company.

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Just do it! - The way to more freedom

Anyway, getting started and trying out Holacracy is much more exciting than reading every minute detail about the system!

Test & start instead of plan & wait

This is a basic change management recommendation that has absolutely worked for us. The procedure is as follows: First decide on a test phase instead of a final introduction. It is important not to insist strictly on every detail during the introduction. The overall concept should be adapted to the respective organization. However, the two upper points "role document" and "governance meeting" are unavoidable and indispensable.

The recommended procedure has the advantage that it is actually started instead of just talked about. At the same time, it almost always leads to the trial quickly turning into something constant when the first successes are seen. A working system is easier to add to than to introduce a system completely.

Step 1 - Set Holacracy Disciples

There should be one person who, for example, has worked with job descriptions before. This person is also a moderator at the meetings and a contact person for questions. This person should have some "power" or influence in the organization. When in doubt, he or she must defend the concept to existing managers or have the authority to stand in front of other employees. It is also imperative that this person read and review Robertson's "Holacracy". Facilitation experience is an advantage.

Step 2 - Make the decision for Holacracy

It is imperative that the senior leadership team makes the decision to holocracy test. For this, the holocracy disciple must prepare a briefing and explain the consequences. The most important consequence is that in certain situations authority to issue directives is relinquished and replaced by other leadership elements.

Step 3 - holacracy Hold Kick Off Workshop

In the Kick Off Workshop the concept is explained and introduced to the other team members. In a second part, each team member should start writing down their roles. 3 to 4 hours should be reserved for the Kick Off Workshop.

Step 4 - Develop and adapt roles

Roles should be completed and further elaborated by the first governance meeting. Governance meetings should be held every two weeks at the beginning. Circles should work out their roles for themselves. This part is actually the most time-consuming. Over a two-month period, probably 20 hours per person need to be scheduled. During this time, roles are dropped, added, and changed until a final version emerges.

Practical tip

There is a holocracy tool called GlassFrog. Unfortunately, we didn't like the tool's user interface that much. Since we use Google Docs company-wide, we simply created a "holacracy Roles" document instead. There, our circa 50 different roles are listed. Google Docs also has the advantage that any team member can enter role changes in Suggest mode, which are then discussed and approved in the monthly governance meeting.

Step 5 - Bear and process tensions

In principle, holacracy is now implemented. If it were not for habit and human nature. Habit leads to the fact that old managers actually want to continue to be managers and give instructions or block decisions. Conversely, the new leaders (the individual employees) have to understand that being a leader does not only mean free decision-making, but also responsibility and, above all, being a role model for others. Here it is important that the holocracy disciple recognizes such undesirable developments and addresses and solves them accordingly with each individual and in the group.

To properly understand the effect of holacracy , it helps to refer to Tuckman's Team Phases Model. Here, each team goes through Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing phases. The last phase of holacracy is the Performing phase.

Ready: happy high performance teams

Like in football, when the underdogs Leicester City beat the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea to become the English football champions. The team worked perfectly together, everyone knew what to do, and, in the end, history is written.

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