Where the method comes from
The Holacracy system was developed by Ternary Software in Pennylvania. Its founder, Brian Robertson, experimented with democratic governance and collected good practices in a system called the Holocracy Constitution, which was named Holocracy in 2007.
This is central
Holacracy is a system of self-administration of organisations. It replaces hierarchy with a peer-to-peer system to increase transparency, accountability and organisational flexibility.
In a traditional organisation, employees have fixed, well-defined functions. These functions form the organisation of the company. In a holacratic system the structure of the organisation is made up of self-organised circles with a certain scope and purpose. The employees integrated in these circles can take on several roles and can easily change roles if necessary. Once an employee has been assigned to a role and has accepted it, he or she is responsible for considering possible next actions that he or she could perform efficiently and effectively, and for performing the action that he or she believes would bring the greatest value to the organisation [Ref 1].
The basic concepts of holacracy
Purpose: defines the ideal target for a role and for a circle.
Area of responsibility: defines the things that are controlled and regulated by the role or circle. Adjustments in the domain of a circle are possible by everyone, but require the approval of the role responsible for the domain.
Accountabilities: defines all activities that the role or circle must perform in order to work together effectively and efficiently.
Role: has a purpose, area of responsibility and accountability. Qualified personnel for performing a particular role are identified. Employees can assume several roles. Roles develop when gaps between the reality and potential of the role are identified.
The circle: integrates several roles and has a clearly defined purpose and area of responsibility. A circle can include a specific project, product department, business unit or general function of the organisation. Circles organise themselves internally in an autonomous way to serve their objectives. Each circle has the autonomy to develop the roles, policies and processes necessary to organise and manage its operations in the service of its purpose.
Two roles ensure consistency between the Circles: the primary liaison role, which ensures that the purpose of the Circle is respected by all and that individuals are charged with fulfilling defined roles within the Circle; and the secondary liaison role, which ensures consistency with the mission and strategy of the larger organisation.
Governance process: is a structured process that enables autonomous teams to make decisions: what roles are needed, who has to perform these roles to achieve objectives, who has autonomy in each role and what responsibilities, how decisions are made. A structure is created to ensure that decisions reflect the needs of the company and not the preferences or ego of the people.
Policy: (if necessary) who defines the constraints acting on the circle.
The language used in Holacratics encourages new ways of thinking about the organisation. For example, the holacracy speaks of the role that each person fulfils, not of what each person is, of responsibility rather than obligation, of the integration of perspectives, not of the discussion of opinions, of descriptive role names, not of vice presidents or other status-based titles [Ref 3]. The aim is to strengthen a collective consciousness in everyone.
The management of the company will be redistributed among the teams (circles), with feedback and control guaranteed by the double link between the circles.
The transition from a company with a traditional structure to a holacratic structure is not easy. Each and every person bears responsibility for the company and therefore for its successes, but also for its failures. Both managers and employees must change their way of thinking. The transition is an evolutionary process that requires time and learning. Before embarking on the adventure, you should ask yourself at the beginning what you want to achieve and why. It is not necessary to change the whole company. Perhaps some areas that require a high degree of mobility are better suited to a holacratic system than others.