Friday, July 24, 2015

What are your biggest Challenges with Holacracy at the Moment?

One of the goals behind Holacracy is about improving employee engagement to encourage purpose discovery, autonomy, and mastery.

“Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously.” (www.holacracy.org). However, organizations have been using the pyramidal organizational structure for so long (since the industrial revolution), there’s no overnight shift for either mindset or structure change. Now Holacracy model is still under experimentation and learning stage, what are your biggest problems with Holacracy at the moment?


Holacracy as a concept is progressive, but how to get it work in detail takes learning and practicing: The first question is are you sure what you're using is close to Holacracy? Holacracy has a very specific set of rules that are meant to address a lot of issues and create checks and balances in a distributed authority system. It makes sense that using only some of the rules would create holes and imbalance that are normally addressed through adopting the entirety of the rules. Holacracy is not at odds with the notion of worker cooperatives. Holacracy is attempting to solve a different problem than what the cooperatives model is attempting to solve. There's absolutely no reason why a cooperative can't run with Holacracy and in fact it would be a very powerful choice for any cooperative to do so. Distributing ownership and distributing decision-making authority is a beautiful synergy for a digital organization to take on to harness agility. But the matter in details are: How do projects get assigned or prioritized, or what is the intake process for projects? Is it strictly through the proposal process that new projects are identified and prioritized? And how do individuals in other circles propose work that sits in a domain outside of their circle?


Holacracy provides the free choice for employees to select the projects they would like to work on, can this process go smoothly without sacrificing efficiency or losing manageability?  One key difference between the traditional hierarchy and Holacracy is that you can only request/ask another role to take a project, you cannot strictly "assign" it to them. When you request a project, the question for the person in the other role is "would it make sense for my role to take that project, given the role's purpose and accountabilities?" If the answer is "yes," then the person must accept the project. Otherwise, they can simply decline it. If they don't take the project, they might be requested to explain what another project they would take to express their role's purpose and accountability. It's everyone's duty in Holacracy to define projects for their role. Here is a list of the basic partner duties: And if you're not satisfied with the project another role takes, and you think they should be working on something different, it might be that you need to propose changing their role's purpose and accountabilities to better fit the need that you sense. You can propose that change in a governance meeting. So one of the goals behind Holacracy is about improving employee engagement to encourage purpose discovery, autonomy, and mastery.


The problems usually aren't with Holacracy itself but are a result of it. For example, one of the problems the organizations has at the moment is with remuneration. Without job titles, it’s very hard to apply the compensation to an employee. Without a hierarchy, it's hard for an employee to get a proper incentive. Even if building your own solution stay up to you, you may use Holacracry to clearly organize the specific work about compensations; setting a specific project, creating roles and adding relevant accountabilities for ongoing needs, editing policies. Everyone is bringing a unique value to the organization and the compensation must reflect that value brought. There needs to have a system in place, where each partner could assess their value compared to others and assess the accuracy of such assessment. It is based on the agility principles that humans are very good when comparing two things, hopefully, it’s an apple to apple comparison; not about apple to orange comparison.

There are two types of tensions: operational and governance tensions in practicing Holacracy, how to handle them? There are specific processes to deal with these two types of tensions. Governance tensions are tensions related to the clarity of roles and policies of the circle. it's the tension you have when it is not clear who has to do what or how things are supposed to be done. This type of tension is resolved in the circle governance meeting. Operational tensions are tensions related to the decisions or actions of roles, it is clear already who has to do what, you just need them to do it. This type of tension is resolved in a tactical meeting or directly from role to role. Processing of a tension that results in a request of a project from another role happens in tactical (operational) meeting, or directly to the person filling that role. If there is no confusion about who can do what, then there is no need to have a governance meeting for it. As to how circles can create work for roles outside of their circle: the whole organization is linked via double links. Tactical or governance tensions are brought to higher circles by the rep links and down to lower circles by the lead links. Using these double links, a role can have a tension resolved anywhere in the organization. defining or agreeing to work on projects is separate from the prioritization. There are many levers for prioritization, including each individual making that decision, being required to give transparency into your priorities, and align to circle priorities. One useful distinction is that because you prioritize work separately from taking it on, it allows you to be able to take on more work and then decide if it is important or not, rather than always responding to the latest thing or always dropping the latest thing because people are always busy. Anyone can define a project at any time, but it doesn't necessarily give you more people or funds either, so it is safe for everyone to be deciding what work makes sense to them.


Under Holacracy structure, how to handle workplace conflict. What people's anecdotal experience is, around how alternative management structures fare in terms of workplace health and safety complaints about workplace stress and bullying. How Holacracy deals with the legislative environment that gives employees access to external complaint resolution. Whether external investigators, or legislators, can handle alternative management, or how to set and follow the rules to manage the conflict issues. Opening up the tensions should mean things can be resolved, but does the system understand alternative management? Does it lower the stats?


Holacracy is good, but you can not expect every employee to be of a same level of maturity to adapt to it. You need to build the high-mature, and high - collaborative team, before you build the self-management initiative. You can’t overcome all these challenges without trying and failing, but fail fast and fail forward, with the goals to improve organizational agility and harness the culture of learning and innovation. And it is the means to the end - to achieve high performing business result and build high-level business competency.

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