Another thing what Holacracy ain’t.

Well, well… that was the best reaction to a first post of my blogging career. Just because Hollywood does it, I thought I’d follow my hit up with a knock-off sequel…

More of what Holacracy isn’t:

Flat. Like Valve.

I don’t claim to know a lot about how Valve manages itself. I think, in general, they lean toward fairly extreme autonomy at the individual level. I’ve read the founder talk about how that sometimes results in engineers making bad decisions that go unnoticed for quite some time. Still, they find that the efficiency and creativity that a lack of any kind of significant hierarchy gives them, for what they do, is a good fit. I say good on them. I wouldn’t manage a start up like a multinational conglomerate. They’re inherently different.

Side note: Probably the stuff of another entry is this tendency to equate the word ‘management’ with ’employee supervision’ or some such. There are a lot of decisions to be made about finance, market strategy, capital expenditures, hiring policy, firing policy, organizational behavior, etc. that I would argue fall under the term ‘management’. What we generally seem to be talking about in these contexts is employee management– the supervision, allocation, and evaluation of the staff. 

But that’s not what Holacracy is. To the contrary, Holacracy is, in fact, hierarchical in a fashion. Circles live in circles, which live in circles. It is a kind of hierarchy; it’s just not the traditional kind with it’s focus on titles and functional group organization. The lead (link) of a circle is concerned with getting some work done. Within her circle, another circle may be responsible for getting some subset of that work done, and it’s representative will report back to the containing circle in its meetings. That’s hierarchy by necessity of breaking work down into achievable pieces.

Holacracy concerns itself with distributing the day-to-day decision making to the lowest level possible. If that sub-circle meets its objectives, no one needs to involve themselves with it. They are allowed to make the necessary decisions to get their work done, adhering to the Holacracy process. If, for example, though, that circle has a procedural problem and can’t get it’s act together, the containing circle can step in and try to fix it. If that doesn’t work, it continues up the chain of parent circles.

That’s hierarchy. It’s just a different kind.


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