Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Can Holacracy Help Organizations be more Agile?

Being gile requires a lot of discipline around practices. Holacracy requires a lot of discipline around governance and structure.

"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, without a micromanaging boss. The work is actually more structured than in a conventional company, just differently so. With Holacracy, there is a clear set of rules and processes for how a team breaks up its work and defines its roles with clear responsibilities and expectations. "( So Holacracy is one of the ways to organize your teams or company into a flatter organization. Is Holacracy the next Silver Bullet? Can Holacracy help organizations to be agiler?

Holacracy and Agile have a considerable degree of synergy. And they are both comparatively easy in the small; increasingly difficult to scale. They have a degree of overlap. But Holacracy won't replace Agile; Agile won't replace Holacracy. The holacratic structure is a good one for an agile shop, but it's not the only structure that works, and it can only work in a company made up entirely of “grown ups.” Agile is all about relationships and collaboration at its core, so holacracy evolves from the culture that Agile creates. Agile is a catalyst towards moving organizations and people from more of an individual culture to a more relationship and team culture, which is all part of the evolutionary journey of holacracy.

Holacracy tries to define a new rule set, taking into account the human aspect of organizations. The success of agile is really down to being quite confined to the development and product team, whereas Holacracy wants to apply it to the entire organization. The bigger the organizations or enterprises, the more they have “change inertia,” resist Agile and want everything completely waterfall. Holacracy steps in the direction of solving the problem that many experience with attempting to scale agile to fit large organizations. Most seem to think that Agile is "situation specific," there are no universal best practices. Holacracy tries to flatten organizations hierarchically and enforces agile philosophy throughout the company by having the business leaders confirm a new set of rules, with the goals to improve organizational agility.

Agile requires a lot of discipline around practices. Holacracy requires a lot of discipline around governance and structure. A functional Agile organization as a (squat) pyramid, but it's a pyramid balanced on it's point. Some of the principles behind Holacracy align well with agile principles, probably because they were born in an agile software environment and that influenced its creation. Holacracy appears hard to grasp to start, but is actually "lighter" than "agile practices." Holacracy, while outlines the governance of work, doesn't tell you how to execute your actual work. It governs the roles, accountabilities and authority, but it’s up to the role holders to figure out the best way to execute. It speeds up decision making, allowing decisions to be made more effectively without too much rigid rules. Agile (done well) requires a lot of discipline around practices. Holacracy requires a lot of discipline around governance and structure. While you can certainly do a half baked agile, but it’s hard to do half baked Holacracy. Maybe this is in part because agile rollouts tend to start and stop with the software delivery team, are often ground up and without full organization buy-in.

The big shift is moving from a command and control mindset to a service mindset. It is all about taking ownership of what you do and taking employees more responsible towards their work. If you are up for Holacracy, make sure you have great people in your organization who are able to accomplish the task on their own without getting stuck anywhere. It's not for those who need guidance or direction. You need a strong leader to motivate people and achieve goals. At the same time, a good leader is the one who makes others self-motivated and more responsible towards their work. It's not for those who need guidance or direction" - that depends on. If people cannot free themselves from feeling a need for guidance and direction, that’s a contra-indication. On the other hand, people need to learn all the time, and sometimes that will mean getting guidance and direction from others who already know. Given that most agile organizations are only agile in respect of certain parts of the business, and that many businesses fail to understand the relatively simple concepts behind agile. So if the agile organization has very flat hierarchies, and the people at the "top" are very much committed to the high level leadership maturity model, and then they can shift to Holacracy mode smoothly.

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 collaborative team before you build the self-management initiative. There are three needs in an organizational setting which are embedded in Holacracy or another format of digital “style”: Self-determination, Self-organization, and Interdependence. The purpose of Holacracy is to breakdown silos, to improve organizational agility with the faster speed of responding the changes and to increase employees engagement, with the ultimate goals to build a people-centric organization.


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