Book Cover



In approximately three weeks we will begin the next book is The Science of Successful Organizational Change. Remember to use the link to buy a copy in order to support the podcast and blog. The reread will be led by Steven Adams.   I am looking forward to sitting on the other side of the table during the next re-read!

Chapter 9 continues the third section of Holacracy, Evolution Installed: Living Holacracy.  This week’s chapter is titled If You’re Not Ready To Adopt: Moving Toward Holacracy.  In this chapter Robertson softens his if-you-can’t-do-it-all,-don’t-do-anything approach.  

This chapter begins with a story of Robertson being asked by very someone that had just intently listened to a talk on Holacracy. The person intently explained that they could see the value but did not have to power to change an organization or even their department.  Robertson’s knee jerk response was that you could not use parts; however, the response felt wrong.  So he reached out the larger community of practitioners to gather their field observations for how they handled scenarios in which everything could not be implemented.  Whether the story is apocryphal or not matters less than that this chapter softens the all or nothing stance stated earlier in the book.

Robertson suggests four ways that parts of Holacracy can be leveraged.  The are:

  1. Start using the language of Holacracy. Language is both a reflection of culture and a tool to generate culture.  For example, shifting from using words like ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ to ‘tensions’ and ‘processing’ shifts the blame-game dialog to a dialog of continual improvement.  Other examples include using providing proposal instead or just identifying problems.  A final example is to stop talking about people and focus discussions on roles. The idea is that if you change the words used in the organization the culture will follow.
  2. Rewrite your role descriptions.  Writing or rewriting role descriptions changes the focus to the set of activities needed to deliver value rather than mushy job descriptions.  Once written roles then evolve to address changes in the environment more easily than modifying job description with often is mired in bureaucratic rules. 
  3. Work on your organization not just in it.  Own the part of the business you can and engage in governance (a Holacracy word) to make changes that will help people work together to deliver value. Change the part of the organization that is within your span of control.  Foster an entrepreneurial mindset and evangelize that mindset to colleagues in an effort to evolve the organization.  
  4. Streamline your meetings. The meeting structure for tactical meetings, with its focus on building a dynamic agenda, training issues and processing one issue at a time, have value outside of Holacracy.  Robertson also suggests that the check in and closing rounds are useful focusing mechanisms in all meetings.  Another meeting technique that I have borrowed is the integrated decision-making process (described on page 72).  I have found the process useful for meetings that have to get through a number of emotionally charged decisions in an efficient manner (such as a project review board).

Chapter 9 answers, for a second time, the question of whether you can do parts of Holacracy by saying you can’t do Holacracy without going all in, but you can borrow parts and perhaps start the change.

Remember to buy a copy of Holacracy (use the link 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