I recently read "Getting Teams Done" for Managementboek.nl. A book with an English title, but the content and authors are Dutch. It's a great book about team productivity and I hope a translation into the English will come soon! The basis of this book is a method developed in the US, so all source material can be found in English. In this post, I want to give a short introduction to this method called "Holacracy", and what I've learned about it in the book and in a recent webinar.
People familiar with the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, have seen the link with this method in the title of the book. GTD is aimed at the individual worker, to get his or her work organized. Team productivity however is not the sum of individual's productivity. Holacracy...
"... is 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. It is a new “operating system” that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization." (from the Holacracy website)
Holacracy gives people the authority and accountability for their work / tasks. It's not the boss who defines the work and keeps control, this is delegated to the team and people who carry out the work. Holacracy provides a set of rules that help set the boundaries.
Elements of Holacracy:
1. Organizational structure: the work is organized, not the people. Everyone's 'job' is to energize the roles they fill. A role describes what needs to be done. People can have several roles.
2. Governance process: In Governance Meetings, roles are defined by the group. It's the Lead Link who assigns the role to the person who can do this best. Role descriptions provide clarity of who is accountable for what activities, with what authority, in which domain(s). The meetings follow a fixed structure and give every member a voice.
3. Operations: authority is distributed. A team’s operational flow is synchronized by regular Tactical Meetings that facilitate rapid-fire triage of key issues. The focus is on next-action, not on endless analysis.
4. Tensions: tensions identify a gap. They drive work, change, opportunities - are not necessarily negative. Tensions are brought up in the Tactical or Government Meeting (depending if they relate to the work or a role) and assigned to someone to solve. Tensions are not solved in the meeting, to keep pace of the meeting high.
The result is an adaptable organization that is able to move quickly (like Agile) and gets the work done (like Getting Things Done).
I think this method looks very promising. I was very enthusiastic after reading the book, since I recognize so many of the typical team and organizational issues that are being described. At the same time, I think it's not an easy method to implement. It not only requires another way of working, but managers need to let go of their authority and leave it to the people. The meetings will only work with an experienced Facilitator, who can keep the meeting on track. In the webinar, Brian Robertson (who is the founder of Holacracy) said that at the start he doesn't ask employees if they agree with the new method. He just gets started with permission /agreement of higher management, knowing that there will always be people who resist change. He is convinced that they need to experience Holacracy to see the benefits.