Holacracy is a comprehensive management practice for structuring, governing and running an organisation. It replaces today’s top-down, predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power.
Holacracy defines people not by the conventional hierarchy and titles, but by roles. It aims to create organisations that are fast and agile, i.e. ones that succeed by pursuing their purpose, not following a dated and superficial plan.
Holacracy is not the same as a flat organisation.
Brian Robertson, a former computer programmer, invented holacracy. He created holacracy in 2007 because he had a burning sense that there has to be a better way to work together.
This is after his own frustrations over the bureaucracy in traditional organisations that seemed to stifle people from using their natural gifts and talents.
Champions and advocates of holacracy include Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer (CEO) of Zappos; Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium; and David Allen of the David Allen Company.
Holacracy is specifically designed for swift and sustainable scaling, as the organisation’s structure of circles expands and divides based on the work that needs to get done.
It establishes a framework for integrated decision-making, without falling into the trap of hierarchical consensus building.
Leadership and management is distributed, resulting in more engaged and autonomous team members.
Common terms used in holacracy
- Circle: People work within circles that represent different aspects of a company’s work.
- Role: A job with a specific mandate within a circle. The person who empowers a given role has autonomy over that domain.
- Governance: A regimented meeting where the structure of the organisation (circles and roles) is decided. These can happen whenever an organisation thinks is necessary.
- Tactical meeting: A replacement for weekly team meetings, during which circle members ‘process tensions’ until they’re resolved.
- Tension: The problem someone has with the work. It’s officially defined as “dissonance between what is (current reality) and what could be (the purpose).”
- Tension processing: Each person talks out his problem with the group until he who raised the tension is satisfied with a next step.