Holacracy is a method of decentralized management and organizational governance.
Authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.
I’ve experienced all kinds of business management (as an employee and freelancer) and in setting up my own business I have hoped that there could be a way to build an enterprise that allowed each employee to contribute their strengths to the greater whole. I had a wishful thinking that the business could be non heirarchical. I didn’t want to wear the “boss” hat and hoped we could all be on the same plane of responsibility.
What I have learned (through trial and error) is that people who are employees, don’t always want to be that involved, or invested. Indeed a lot of people thrive around structure and prefer a very limited involvement in their work. Only a small percentage are like me… and want a very deep soulful connection to work and invest their passion and commitment into it.
So what has worked and what hasn’t?
I’d like to offer that I have explored several methods of governance offering employee participation and these are a few tips to consider if you are building your own creative enterprise. Note that I am going to use the term co-workers meaning ‘collaborating employees and contractors’;
- If you want to involve co-workers in decision making, its important to devise the structure for this early.
- Not all co-workers are comfortable with management matters. It is easier if you make it optional, as for some it can cause anxiety.
- There can be a conflict of interest; how can you collectively discuss performance issues for one particular staff member for example.
- A holacracy really will work better when the team have benefits from participating in good business governance. For example, if they have shares that will increase in value if the business performs well, or some rewards for participation. Otherwise, co-workers will tend to aim for decisions that suit themselves as individuals rather than a ‘highest good’.
You will probably find, as I did, that experimenting with management structures adds a layer of complexity that doesn’t necessarily make the business run better, and while the socialist in me thinks Holacracy as a concept is fabulous and worthy of pursuit, actual experience says that its best to make the business run as efficiently as possible, so that people have good breaks and job certainty… because that means more than feelings of shared investment and responsibility. Indeed those, who want to share in the journey, will often take time to discuss and be part of the conversation. It’s essential to provide a good chance for those conversations to happen, but its not necessary to build governance around the hope that they might.