Has the system proved to be everything we wished for? What were the key elements behind the successful transformation? Looking at things now, what are the benefits of Holacracy? What were the greatest challenges?
Back in September 2016, we decided to adopt Holacracy as an organizational ‘operating system’ here at FREITAG. Check out Pascal’s story to find out more about our previous management system and why we opted for a new one.
Holacracy won us over due to its ability to distribute authority across the company in the form of roles rather than putting it in the hands of a few supervisors and managers. That means the organizational structure isn’t fixed; clear processes allow all employees to adapt the system to their requirements whenever they need to. And thanks to structured meetings, these interdependent roles can be synchronized efficiently and regularly.
Roles are defined according to the activities that help the company survive and thrive. Related roles are organized into circles, and each circle and role has a purpose that supports the aspirations of the company as a whole. We assign responsibilities to these circles and roles depending on their purpose.
A HIERARCHY OF SPECIALISTS
The circles and the employees in the various roles make decisions based on their responsibilities. Just because there are no individual supervisors and managers doesn’t mean Holacracy does away with hierarchy entirely. Quite the opposite: Holacracy is a deeply hierarchical system, but one that consistently revolves around expert roles. This way, the hierarchy is distributed across the entire organization and every member of the team can change it via the governance processes whenever they wish.
«Just because there are no individual supervisors and managers doesn’t mean Holacracy does away with hierarchy entirely. Quite the opposite.»
Circles generally come with two key roles that serve as a kind of liaison to the next circle up in the hierarchy. The ‘Lead Link’ role involves introducing information to the circle, setting priorities and filling roles. The role of a ‘Rep Link’ is to communicate requests from the circle to other circles. One example is to lift any restrictions resulting from the governance processes introduced by the next highest circle.
Other standard roles in a circle are ‘Facilitator’ and ‘Secretary’, which come into play during meetings.
Tactical meetings focus on synchronizing the circle’s members by getting them to exchange information and setting out next steps (as required) so that they can get to work on overcoming the associated challenges.
The aim of governance meetings, by contrast, is to optimize the organizational structure by creating, suspending or amending roles, circles and policies (guidelines for collaboration).
An inclusive decision-making process enables us to keep tweaking the organizational structure, as it permits circle members to raise objections to proposals for change and, in turn, allows the validity of such objections to be checked based on a clearly defined workflow. Valid objections are then integrated into the proposals.