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Holacracy Approach for an Agile Organization.

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Brian Robertson, partner at HolacracyOne, in his latest blog talks about Holacracy approach for an Agile organization.

It is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss.

Brian said that Holacracy is an approach which offers a complete system for achieving agility in all aspects of an organization.

Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer, in his blog defines Holacracy as:

A comprehensive practice for structuring, governing and running an organization. It replaces today's top-down, predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power. Right now, this system is being used to the advantage of companies like Zappos, Medium and more.

Adam mentions that just like agile development systems break work into sprints, Holacracy forces a company to revisit its rules, roles, objectives and authorities in short cycles. This prevents upfront over-planning. It also gives a chance to re-evaluate plans, direction and beliefs on a regular, frequent basis.

Adam explains the difference between traditional and Holacracy organizational structure. He says that when organizations adopt Holacracy, people move to a much more networked chart where people often take on more than one role and move teams/circles when it makes sense without worrying about breaking some pre-established hierarchy:

Brian said Holacracy differs from the traditional management model in four ways:

  1. No more job descriptions - In most companies each person has a single job description that is often imprecise, outdated and irrelevant to their day-to-day work. In Holacracy, people have multiple roles, often on different teams, and those role descriptions are constantly updated by the team actually doing the work.
  2. No more delegated authority – In Holacracy, authority is truly distributed and decisions are made locally, by the individual closest to the front line. Teams are self-organized. They are given a purpose, but they decide internally how to best reach it. In this way, Holacracy replaces the traditional hierarchy with a series of interconnected but autonomous teams.
  3. No more big re-orgs - In traditional companies, the organizational chart gets revamped every few years. In Holacracy, the structure of the organization is updated every month in every circle.
  4. No more office politics - In Holacracy, distributing authority is not just a matter of taking power out of the hands of a leader and giving it to someone else or even to a group. Rather, the seat of power shifts from the person at the top to an explicit process.

Adam also mentions that distributing decision-making isn’t easy. It goes against generations of learned behaviors and deep-seated mental models. He says that distributing authority is not binary instead it is a spectrum.

If you want your organization to become more responsive, you should probably start figuring out how to distribute authority, even if you do it just a little at a time.

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