Book Cover

Holacracy

Next week we will begin the next book, The Science of Successful Organizational Change. Remember to use the link to buy a copy to support the podcast and blog. Remember, the reread will be led by Steven Adams. I will be posting follow-on comments as we go!

Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World presents a mechanism to redistribute authority and improve decision-making processes.  Holacracy is very different from the common hierarchical corporate management structure currently in use.  That difference means that we have to read this book with the knowledge that unless we are working at Zappos or a few other avant-garde companies, many of these concepts are something in our future.  Four comments about the book and Holacracy in general that need to be made in closing:

  1. Holacracy will probably never be for everyone. Adopting Holacracy requires the ability to have some control over who is on the team and to control the boundary of your organization.  Departments within a company, boards of elected officials or even tightly bound associations will have difficulty turning governance over to a Holacracy Constitution.  Holacracy is biased toward whole organizations making the transformation.  In this case, the executives can enforce boundaries and play by the rules.
  2. The book could use a broader discussion of the type of organization that can adopt Holacracy.  The book infers that any organization that meets Robertson’s definition of an organization can adopt Holacracy. Any organization that had the burning desire to adopt Holacracy could make the transition, however, the transition would probably be easier for a small to a midsize firm that is just past start-up mode than a larger, mature, publicly-held company.  A more in-depth discussion of attributes would be helpful as a change management tool.  Robertson’s book is less about adoption and transition than in the nuts and bolts of the specific activities.
  3. The book does a poor job at explaining the structure and content of the Holacracy Constitution.  I was surprised that the book pushed off tackling the constitution.  (see http://www.holacracy.org/constitution for a copy of the document and links to supporting explanations).  Understanding explicitly what the Constitution expects in critical to understanding how to manage the change.
  4. There are a large number of ideas and concepts that are useful for holding more structured meetings and making decisions.  The whole idea of building agendas as part of the meeting, helping participants become more present and iterative decision making is useful to emulate with or without with Holacracy. The book goes into intricate detail on these topics which make using (or at least emulating) these techniques possible.  

Holacracy provides a useful alternative to classic hierarchical management. The book’s strength is that it has a deep how-to approach for meetings and decision-making techniques that are at the core of the model.  One of the core tenants of the book is that organizations need a set of mechanisms for identifying and processing the tensions that accumulate in an organization as people do their work at a tactical and a governance level.  Each requires different tools and evaluation criteria.  Holacracy gives us the tactical and governance meeting structures which are tools to diffuse tension by making decisions rather than just talking about the problem. 

Holacracy is light on theory and adoption strategies. I found the lack of an adoption thread a weakness.  I think my perception of this as a weakness stems at least partially from the fact the last few books in the re-read series have been novels which leverage using a central concept as a plot technique.  Robertson could have been to cast at least part of the book as a business novel to explore the trials and tribulations of adopting and using Holacracy.  

If you have not read Holacracy, you need to read the book to expand your knowledge of what is possible.  Buy a copy (or see if your library has copy) and read the book, discuss the book with a friend and/or a manager.  Better yet, read the book as part of work book club.  In most organizations, the ideas will be controversial but should provoke an interesting discussion and perhaps 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).

Previous 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

 

 

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