Holacracy  in action

Holacracy in Action: Five Steps to Developing 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 will show you the first steps on how you can easily introduce holacracy into your organization. To start with, I will briefly explain what holacracy (also known as holacracy) actually is and what advantages this type of management can bring to your organization.

Holacracy - What's it all about?

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

Holacracy - What does it promise?

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

  •       higher satisfaction within the organization
  •       more freedom for the individual employee
  •       more freedom for the boss
  •       better scalability of the organization
  •       more agility in the organization
  •       increased 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 fulfils a very specific purpose.

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

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

Role Finances Raidboxes 1
Example of a role description in short form

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 overarching purpose, which should also be recorded in concrete terms. At Raidboxes, the purpose is to give creative people more freedom.

Adjust. - Monthly Governance Meetings

As the role descriptions are nothing more than a company constitution, the meetings for adapting the roles are called "Governance Meetings". The meetings serve to deal with minor and major conflicts (tensions) and to 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.

That pretty much says it all. Of course, entire books could be written about holacracy . Fortunately, others have already done so, such as Brian J. Robertson, the founder of the holacracy movement. Personally, I find Robertson's book "holacracy" is unfortunately a bit dry and does not do justice to the system. Nevertheless, it is a must-read for the person introducing the system in the company.

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 change management recommendation has proven remarkably successful in our organization. The procedure is as follows: decide on a test phase instead of a final implementation. It's important not to stick strictly to every detail when starting out. The overall concept should be adapted to each organization. The two points above, "role descriptions" and "governance meeting", are absolutely essential, however, and can't be excluded.

The advantage of this approach is that instead of just talking about doing it, you actually get started.  At the same time, tests often end up becoming permanent fixtures as soon as the first successes are achieved. It's far easier to adapt a functioning system than to completely introduce a new one.

Step 1 - Appoint Holacracy mentors

There should be one person who has worked with job descriptions before. This person is also the moderator at the meetings and the 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 "Holocracy". Facilitation experience is an advantage.

Step 2 - Make the decision for Holacracy

It's essential that the decision to try Holacracy is made by the top management team. The Holacracy mentor must prepare a briefing and explain the consequences. The most important consequence is that authority is given up and replaced by other leadership elements in some areas.

Step 3 - Hold a Holacracy 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

By the time of your first governance meeting, the roles should be laid down and further clarified. Governance meetings should initially be held every two weeks. Circles (see above) should work out their roles for themselves. This part is actually the most time-consuming. Over a period of two months, probably 20 hours per person must be factored in. During this time, roles are dropped, added and changed until a final version emerges.

Excerpt Holacracy  Marketing Roles RB
An excerpt from our Raidboxes roll document. We use Google Docs for the documentation.

Practice Tip:

There is a holacracy tool called GlassFrog. Unfortunately, we didn't like the user interface of the tool that much.... Since we use Google Docs throughout the company, we simply created a "holacracy roles" document instead. Our 50 or so different roles are listed there. Google Docs also has the advantage that every team member can enter role changes in the suggestion mode, which are then discussed and approved in the monthly governance meeting.

Step 5 - Bear and process tensions

Strictly speaking, Holacracy should now be fully implemented - were it not for habit and human nature. Habit leads to old bosses actually wanting to continue being bosses and giving instructions or blocking decisions. Conversely, the new bosses (the individual employees) have to understand that being boss doesn't just mean free decision making, but also entails responsibility and, above all, being a role model for others. It's important the Holacracy mentor recognizes any undesirable developments in this area and discusses and solves the issues with each individual and in the group.

In order to properly understand the effect of holacracy , it helps to refer to Tuckman's team phase model. Here, every 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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