Governance | Holacracy – Robertson

In Holacracy  (Robertson) there is a clear governance process for keeping roles up-to-date: on regular intervals (e.g. every two weeks), each organisational entity (in Holacracy these are called “circles”) will hold a governance meeting to detail and sharpen the relationships between the roles. This is done in a strictly defined procedure which eliminates interference from outside people’s own roles and responsibilities – the Integrative Decision Making process. This process is aimed at solving tenstions that are perceived by a specific role. The person experiencing a tension is expected to come up with a proposal how to solve this. This proposal will be accepted unless there are valid objections that are being brought to the table. An objection is only valid if:

a. the objective / purpose of the circle is jeopardised if the objection is not properly dealt with, and
b. the objection will be materialised by accepting the proposal (i.e. the objection is currently not existing; it needs to be a result of the proposal to be valid), and
c. the objection is backed up with existing evidence / information or – in case the objection is a prediction, there are sufficient opportunities for timely adjusting, should the proposal be accepted, and
d. the proposal limits the role / mandate of the person who is submitting the objection.

In case there are valid objections (this conversation will be guided by the facilitator role), a new proposal will have to be deveoped, which addresses both the original tension as well as the objection. The new proposal will be tested to see whether there are new objections according to the criteria stated above.

The power of this procedure for adjusting the governance is that it is based on step-by-step improvements, based on actual tensions that people experience in their role. This prevents the paralising effect of approaches that seek to solve all problems in one effort. The disadvantage of such approaches is that these usually result in very conceptual proposals that are not very much linked to actual day-to-day problems.

Tactical meetings (about the operation / day-to-day affairs) are also guided by a strict protocol. The agenda of such a meeting is built around issues and the person / role submitting the issue needs to state clearly what they need in order to be able to proceed. In case this leads to adjusting existing roles, the specific issue will be referred to a governance meeting to be processed according to the Integrative Decision Making process.

The power of Holacracy is the ongoing effort to reflect on a transparent adjustment of relations between roles and the step-by-step improvement aimed at solving actual tensions that people experience in their roles. Clear roles and mandates are based on the assumption that a person in a particular role is assumed to be able to make decisions about what is needed in that part of the organisation. Transparent governence eliminates the need for organisational politics. Strategy in Holacracy sets a direction (priorities) without losing itself in making predictions. Organisations who work with Holacracy turn out to have less and more effective meetings.

An organisation that organises the governance in such a way, is continuously adjusting itself based on internal tensions, but also based on tenstions that the responsible persons feel in the outside world. I think this way of gradually discovering and developing solutions for these tensions is an elegant and more concrete translation of Laloux’ “being sensitive and responsive and listening to where the organisation naturally wants to go”.


Brian Robertson, 2015, Holacracy, Henry Holt & Co.​