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‘Holacracy makes everyone a leader; defines people by roles not hierarchy’

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on March 22, 2019 Published on March 22, 2019

Brian Robertson Holacracy

It is widely acknowledged that people leave managers, not companies. However, Holacracy, a new management framework that empowers organisations to self-manage without managers is gaining steam around the world. Holacracy is used by over 1,000 companies across industry verticals in Dubai, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Bengaluru, London, Las Vegas and Africa. BusinessLine caught up with Brian J Robertson, the creator, trainer and author of Holacracy, to find out more. Excerpts:

How does Holacracy work?

Holacracy is management without managers, where everybody is collectively participating in the job of management in their own way, instead of putting that burden on one person. Holacracy turns everyone into a leader, it distributes authority and decision-making throughout an organisation and defines people not by hierarchy and titles but by roles.

There is no CEO, instead your job is defined by the collection of roles you fill. In my company, HolacracyOne, I fill 20 roles in 6 different teams. Right now, I am on a spokesperson role, as I am in Bengaluru to deliver a keynote for a conference. I have a trainer role, where I train people and companies all over the world in Holacracy. I have voluntarily taken on another role of booking travel for newer team members of my company as its a hobby, its fun and is stress relieving for me. We have a 20-people team who fill 200 different roles such as casting agent, quick win cowboy, agile leader, demo master and developer on-boarder and each person takes on an average of 7-10 roles.

What are the tangible benefits of Holacracy for organisations?

Holacracy creates organisations that are fast, agile, engaged and productive by turning everyone into a leader of their role and giving them access to tools that can get their job done. It enables speedy decision making, drives change in the organisation and reduces burn and overwhelm at the top.

Every individual acts as a ‘sensor’ for the organisation and has direct pathways for processing their challenges and opportunities into organisational change.

After six months of adopting Holacracy, a department in the Washington State Government made a change in policy of the organisation in 20 meeting minutes, something they could not achieve before.

Another company measured over a 90 per cent reduction in the number of meeting minutes spent to get an action/decision from somebody.

A CEO of a fast growing company told me, he had not been able to comfortably take a vacation in seven years until Holacracy. After that, he took a two-week vacation, hiking in the mountains with no cell phone. Earlier he had to take all the hard decisions, he held everything together. After Holacracy, he had a team of people holding everything together, it wasn’t just his burden alone. And I feel that too, as a former CEO, I would never go back to it.

And for employees?

In Zappos, a company which has adopted Holacracy, there was one guy who was hired for party planning. His role was called ‘fungineer’ but he had a passion for marketing. Before Holacracy, he could not find a way to do any kind of marketing work. He loved Zappos and his job and did not want to quit to take on a marketing role elsewhere. With Holacracy, he started watching the circles that were marketing related and watched when they created new roles. He eventually found one which he could do with 20 per cent of his time, pitched for the role and clinched it. He is now in charge of one of the most significant marketing initiatives in the company’s history. You don’t find job descriptions like that in companies.

My casting agent who books my public speaking engagements came to our governance meeting and asked me to define my criteria for acceptable speaking engagements, because I had refused a few that she had shortlisted earlier. It took just two minutes for that expectation to be added to my role in the governance meeting, at the end of which she asked me, by when I will have it done.

Can you imagine the newest hire, fresh out of college asking the founder of the company who is also a seasoned CEO, to commit to a timeline? Holacracy supports that, because its not about structure, status, ego and politics. Most employees have no ability to change company policy. With Holacracy you can change policies, job descriptions, almost anything.

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Published on March 22, 2019
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