Holacracy | Social Technology for Purposeful Organization

Posted on by Brandon Klein

How It Works

Holacracy is a real-world-tested social technology for purposeful organization. It radically changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed.

Distributed Authority

Holacracy is a distributed authority system – a set of “rules of the game” that bake empowerment into the core of the organization. Unlike conventional top-down or progressive bottom-up approaches, it integrates the benefits of both without relying on parental heroic leaders. Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’, processing tensions with real authority and real responsibility, through dynamic governance and transparent operations.

Related reading: Blog post: Empowerment is Dead; Long Live Empowerment

Related reading: The Holacracy Constitution: the actual rules of Holacracy

Processing Tensions

Holacracy harnesses the conscious capacity of those within to sense dissonance between what is (current reality) and what could be (the purpose): the feeling of a “tension”. When there’s lack of clear and effective channels for processing tensions, they fester into frustrations, burn-out, and disengagement. Tensions are only useful to the extent the organization can process them into meaningful change. Holacracy provides several explicit channels to process tensions.

Holacracy installs clear processes for “governance” and “operations” – in every team, at every level of scale. Governance is about working “on” the organization, and operations is about working “in” it – each has different mechanisms for processing tensions into actionable clarity.

Related reading: Blog post: Processing Tensions

Governance & Governance Meetings

With Holacracy, regular governance meetings structure and evolve how the work gets done – everyone leaves with clarity on who is accountable for what, with what authority, and what constraints. These change dynamically with every meeting, based on the real tensions sensed while doing the work. A structured process ensures the organization’s purpose is at the center. Governance Meetings:

Generate explicit and light-weight role definitions that are actually meaningful (e.g. HolacracyOne's governance)

Give everyone a voice, without the tyranny of consensus

Apply clear rules that prevent egos or politics from dominating

Focus a team on fast, incremental improvements in light of real data

Continually restructure the organization, one tension at a time

Related reading: Blog post: The Power of Governance

Operations & Tactical Meetings

Governance clarity enables most work to get done by clear roles using clear authority, outside of painful meetings and group consensus-seeking. On the ground, a team’s operational flow is synchronized by regular Tactical Meetings that facilitate rapid-fire triage of key issues. Anything in the way of getting the work done gets identified and processed into clear next-actions and target outcomes. In Tactical Meetings:

Every agenda item gets processed every meeting, on-time every-time

The focus is on next-actions, not endless analysis

Metrics are surfaced and checklists are reviewed – quickly

No one hides – radical transparency shows all progress, or lack thereof