Holacracy the New Organizational Goverance
I like to think the shift from traditional organizational governance and practices is happening because some people are getting smarter. They understand that authority and decision-making policies should be distributed throughout self-organizing teams rather than at the top of a hierarchy. Today, holacracy has been adopted by numerous companies to create effective working environments where people have the opportunity to voice their ideas, to take decisions and see them considered.
Why isn’t it working anymore?
I don’t think anyone can expect that traditional organizational governance is going to work forever. Thanks to IT and how mobile everything is becoming, there are fewer barriers in place and people are capable of much more than they were before the internet. This is why old management systems don’t work anymore. People can do so much more and old structures and rules stifle them too much. Research has shown that hierarchical management:
- Reduces human creativity
- Generates conflict
- Blocks employees from success
- Reinforces elitism, privilege and bureaucracy
If you’re one of those people who like ‘the old boys’ club at work, then that’s fine. But you’re not going to be able to keep up with all the startups bursting onto the scene full of innovative ideas.
So what can holacratic organizational governance do?
If you’re looking for a good, solid reason to switch your organizational governance, just take a good look at the tech and IT industry. Some companies inspired by Agile software development principles and the Lean manufacturing process have loose and interconnected teams working on different projects all at the same time. They have adaptive processes, self-governing management systems where there are no job titles or managers. This is why they can churn out so many new things. The lack of rigidity also lets motivation, ideas and innovations flow freely.
Self-managing teams that adhere to holacratic organizational governance are also cheaper and easier to maintain. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. You don’t have to pay a middle manager to keep everyone in line. You may still need a project manager to keep everyone on track but it should be only a facilitating and coordinating role.
Zappos known for his original corporate culture has already implemented this way of working. The company is made of 400 different circles and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. According to Alexis Gonzales-Black, who is leading the transition to Holacracy at Zappos: “One of the core principles is people taking personal accountability for their work. It’s not leaderless. There are certainly people who hold a bigger scope of purpose for the organization than others. What it does do is distribute leadership into each role. Everybody is expected to lead and be an entrepreneur in their own roles, and Holacracy empowers them to do so.” Source Aimee Groth.
That’s awesome; now tell me how to set it up!
If you’re just setting up your business, then you can immediately implement a holacratic management style. If you have something else in pace, however, be ready for an uphill battle. Nonetheless, here are some policies to employ:
1 – Create a culture that values the right principles, ethics and strategies.
You can’t expect people to embody innovation and manage themselves if they don’t know how to be accountable. Part of being holacratic is being responsible for your actions and decisions. Your staff has to realize that you’re giving them freedom; they better do something productive with it. It’s not just for you, but for their own personal fulfillment.
2 – Create shifting, changing circles that respond to roles/tasks that comes up.
You can assign people to meet specific situations but make the response a team effort. Everyone can and should come up with ways to solve problems and grab opportunities. Your organizational governance should reflect the fact that you’ve created a system where everyone mobilizes when there is a need.
3 – The leaders you choose should be able to help different teams reach their full potential.
Good leadership is no longer equal to good management. If you plan to install managers, make sure that they know their job is to mentor, facilitate and coordinate between different teams.
4 – Your business and work processes should be based on democracy and collaboration.
Don’t fall into the trap that all the traditional businesses have fallen in. Give your staff power to make decisions but in a democratic way.
5 – Your teams should be innovative and independent.
Self-management frees up a lot of resources to devote to other businesses processes. You don’t have to hire a person to purely manage the team. That person can just be a facilitator or coordinator who also has other duties.
Putting in place a system that allows your staff freedom to pitch, enact and fail without fear gives birth to a host of innovations and proactivity. It’s up to you to accept that this is the way management is going or be left behind with lackluster employees.
Here is an other article on ZAPPOS Creative Corporate Culture
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