Book Cover


This week, we tackle chapter 1 of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015. Holacracy is an approach to address the shortcomings that have appeared as organizations evolve. Holacracy is not a silver bullet, but rather provides a stable platform for identifying and addressing problems efficiently.

Part One: Evolution at work: Introducing Holacracy

Chapter 1: Evolving Organization

One of the most powerful points made in this chapter is that humans look for what could be; we can imagine a future and see the need to change.  The ability to see past the “now” generates our ability to respond and evolve our organizations and institutions.  When Imagining the future of an organization it is rarely effective to rely on the perception of a single person.  The ability to sense and then to filter and dismiss makes it critical to have multiple perspectives.

Most mature organizations use a classic organization model from early last century.  The model centers on the ability to predict and control. Centralized control and the prevention of deviation are core attributes of this model and reflect the Industrial Age in which the model evolved.  Today’s business conditions are less oriented on manufacturing and more dynamic. The need for change and a structure that avoids deviations cause friction.

Overlaying leading edge (closely the following edge) ideas and techniques require rewriting the basic infrastructure.  If the basic premise of predict and control organization is not changed, an enormous amount of time and energy will be wasted as the old and new paradigms struggle for supremacy. This struggle does not deliver value to any of the organization’s stakeholders. Robertson uses the metaphor of a PC operating system (OS).  In today’s computer environment the operating system should enable the functionality of systems and apps and should be invisible to those using it.  It is only when the OS is out of date or broken that people’s awareness of the OS is raised. Rarely is changing a part of the OS and leaving the rest intact advisable or even possible.

Holacracy includes:

  1. A constitution to provide framework for structure an organization;
  2. A new way to structure an organization and to find people’s roles;
  3. A decision-making process for updating those roles, and
  4. A meeting process for keeping teams in sync.

Robertson concludes the chapter with what I feel is the second major point in the chapter.  Holacracy is a guide rather than a cookbook with a fixed set of ideas principles.  This suggests that every organization will need to use its unique set of filters to interpret Holacracy.

Transformation Thoughts: Changing a small part of an organization’s overall management model will cause large amounts of friction.  Embracing Holacracy is a scenario in which a Big Bang change makes sense.  Re-writing the whole management model / operating system will help to overwhelm the organization’s change antibodies.

Team Coaching Thought:  Recognize the human capacity to look forward and imagine the future. Techniques like team planning can harness and guide this innate capability.  Plans that are not transparent to the team will often team members to envision a future that might be at odds with the overall intent of the team, generating friction and reducing their ability to deliver value.  

Remember to buy a copy of Holacracy (use the link in the show notes to help support and defray the costs of the Software Process and Measurement Cast blog and podcast).

All entries in the re-read:

Week 1:  Logistics and Introduction

Week 2: Evolving Organization

Week 3: Distribution Authority

Week 4: Organization Structure

Week 5: Governance

Week 6: Operations

Week 7: Facilitating Governance

Week 8: Strategy and Dynamic Control

Week 9: Adopting Holacracy

Week 10: When You Are Not Ready

Week 11: The Experience of Holacracy

Week 12: Final Comments