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“HOLACRACY – An out of Box Approach to Governance”

Prof. Shurlly Tiwari, ISME

Holacracy is an outcome of LEAN and AGILE ,it is a social technology or system of organizational governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holacracy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.

Holacracy, which originated with a former software company founder turned consultant named Brian Robertson, eliminates formal job titles, managers, and traditional hierarchy in favour of a series of overlapping “circles” where people can have several different roles” (
It is a technique for empowering the employees in the organization.,.Holacracy is not a model, idea, or theory. Holacracy is a practice. Holacracy explores a new tier of organization and culture only recently available to us, and so it is a new practice, one still emerging, and one which takes us into territory still largely unexplored. Roles in Holacracy hold multiple related accountabilities in a cohesive container. There are no title traps in Holacracy. With the detailed accountabilities used in Holacracy, any given role may have dozens of accountabilities, and any given individual may fill multiple roles.

It helps in filling Roles, whenever a new role is defined, it is then assigned to a member of the organization to fill and execute. This formally gives that member control to do what is needed to enact the accountabilities of the role, within any defined limits (accountability always goes with control). It also gives others in the organization the reasonable expectation that they can ask the individual to account for any of the role’s explicit accountabilities.

It differentiates Role with souls, Holacracy’s approach focuses on clearly differentiating individuals from the roles they fill. An amazing thing happens as we begin this process – we are able to understand and honour each more fully, integrate the two more effectively, and directly help both person and role evolve.

The goal is to increase the level of accountability, since employees are held accountable by all their coworkers rather than a single manager, as well as transparency in order to quickly and publicly resolve sources of tension.
Organisational Structures in Holacracy are:

1. Circle Organization
A “circle” in Holacracy is a self-organizing team. Each circle has an aim (purpose), and the authority to define and assign its own roles and accountabilities. some circles are focused on implementing specific projects, others on managing a department, and others on overall business operations. Whatever the circle’s level of scale, the same basic rules apply. Each circle is a Holon – a whole self-organizing entity in its own right, and a part of a larger circle; for example, a whole project team circle may also be a part of a department circle.

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2.  Double Linking

The other half of the double link is appointed by a sub-circle to connect to its super-circle. This is called a “Representative Link” role in Holacracy, or “Rep Link” for short – like the Lead Link, the Rep Link forms part of the membrane between two circles. The role itself is quite different from anything we’re used to in a modern organization, although it bears some similarity to a Lead Link (but in the opposite direction). A Rep Link is accountable for ensuring the super-circle is a conducive environment for the sub-circle, by carrying key perspectives from the sub-circle to the super-circle’s governance and operations.

 Organizational Control

Among the most fundamental paradigm shifts in Holacracy is its approach to maintaining organizational control.

 Dynamic Steering

Holacracy incorporates dynamism in the organisation , this  includes significant efficiency gains, higher quality, more agility, increased ability to capitalize on ideas and changing market conditions, and, perhaps most ironically, far more control. And the dynamic approach achieves these business benefits while meeting human and social needs at a level far beyond the traditional approach.

 Rules of Dynamic Steering

There are three key rules for effective dynamic steering:

  1. Any issue can be revisited at any time, as new information arises – steer continually, whenever needed.
  2. The goal at any given moment is to find a workable decision, not the “best” decision – make small workable decisions rapidly, and let the best decision emerge over time
  3. Present tensions are all that matter – avoid acting on predictive tensions and delay decisions until the last responsible moment.
 Integrating Predict & Control

Integrating future possibilities into present decision-making , if both the probability of a costly possibility arising is uncomfortably high.

 Integrative Decision-Making

Holacracy helps in speed and demands of modern organizational life, it helps to integrate the key perspectives of others. An integrated state is achieved, when each member of the circle making the decision sees no “objection” to proceeding with the proposed decision.


The Role of the Board

To discuss the connection between a single organization and the broader world, we first need to discuss the unique purpose of a “Board Circle”, Holacracy’s version of a more traditional Board of Directors. Each individual organization has a board circle at the outside edge of its holarchy. A board circle looks like other circles in most respects – it holds governance meetings using integrative decision-making, and it is doubly-linked to the single broadest “normal” circle within the organization. The CEO is the lead link from the board to the general circle, and a rep is elected from the general circle to the board.

Worldwide Holarchic Governance

A company is a semi-autonomous Holon, just like all the sub-holons within the company (departments, project teams, etc.). For a holarchy to remain healthy, all holons need clear autonomy as a whole, and clear responsibilities as a part or member of something larger. Our current organizational and governance systems are setup in ways that push towards this unhealthy agency – it is extremely difficult to work against this momentum in the current model, or even become fully awake to it.

 The We of Organization

This happens via a cross-organization double link, where the board of the individual company connects with an appropriately-focused circle within the broader entity. This means the individual company’s board circle will no longer need to appoint members itself – instead, it will simply establish a double-link with a broader organization representing its industry, another representing its specific social purpose, etc. Each broader organization will appoint one of its members to sit on the individual organization’s board, forming one half of the double link. The board in turn will elect one of its members – perhaps the CEO – to carry the voice of the company’s context into the broader organization’s decision-making, completing the double link.

 Towards a Sustainable World

Looking forward, as this web of organization grows, it can provide a distributed yet integrated capacity to govern our shared resources and move us towards a more global communion. It radically transforms governance from something that happens on a “big” scale.

Why Holacracy is not welcomed in Indian Society:

Indian Corporate system is bound by hierarchy and is driven by Goals and Objectives more than the performance. compliance has just started in the system, but it’s a long way to go ….

Indian system believes in directing rather than empowering, that’s why holacracy is not one of the popular practices in India.

Reporting system and urge to control is so high in Indian Management system that it’s difficult for the mangers and the CEOs to even think of let go of their powers.

Because of Failure of Empowerment and empowering teams in our system, Holacracy can be a difficult process to follow on.

Organizations currently practicing Holacracy are supporting this fledgling movement as best they can, and looking for others interested in getting involved and contributing as well.

  1. Holocracy are also actively searching for organizations interested in adopting Holacracy and consultants interested in servicing those organizations as well as taking Holacracy to their existing client base.
  2. Holacracy movement gained momentum and spreads beyond single organizations, the pioneers at the forefront of this next sociocultural evolution will face new challenges and tough problems; ones for which answers do not yet exist.
  3. Much of this buzz has come because of the early adopters, like Medium and Zappos. Apparently, over 300 organizations have joined the current and more to look forward to.

  3. Holacracy management by Brian Robertson
  4. Articles on Holacracy management by several authors