Our Starter Governance Kernel

We ran Holacracy at Undercurrent, and even with very little formal training, we did pretty well. People have lots of (both good and not-so-good) reasons to dislike Holacracy, but I do know this: I won’t go back to a Traditional or Charismatic Authority scheme, and the alternative requires…rules.

Holacracy’s constitution captures many productive, good rules for self-governance, but it’s too long to be useful.

At August, we’re starting with this four-sentence alternative:

Governance
Governance is recorded as either Roles or Policies. All of it is changeable with data on a cycle-by-cycle cadence, at open, facilitated Governance Meetings. Policies apply to teams that create them, and to any sub-teams. Everything else is up to your best judgement.

Governance is recorded as either Roles or Policies.

Formatting governance into two types is helpful. Providing up-front guidance about what constitutes a Role or a Policy isn’t helpful — the name says it all and we can introduce formality later as it becomes necessary. But at the very least, we have two options when it comes to output.

All of it is changeable with data on a cycle-by-cycle cadence, at open, facilitated Governance Meetings.

In most companies, everyone knows that the rules are not subject to change. If they do change, they’ll change very slowly, and probably without the consent of those impacted by the rules. We’re saying that everything is subject to change every four weeks, and that the process for changing the rules will be open to everyone…and that the changes will be driven by data.

Policies apply to teams that create them, and to any sub-teams.

Policies cascade “downward.” So it’s a good idea to keep rules to a minimum, particularly at the “top” of the organization, so that we don’t have to remember so much information. Crucially, though, if a team creates a policy, it applies only to them. This encourages a local feeling to governance—teams we work with find the concept of local rules really powerful.

Everything else is up to your best judgement.

This is the most important part. If it’s not written down, you don’t have to do it. And if you have an idea that isn’t captured in the governance, go try it. If you think one of the rules is bad—based on your best judgment—go break it and change the rule if you have data that suggests a change is necessary.


We also captured an open process for how Governance meetings should work, including a definition of how objections should work. It’s all in the open for you to steal.

Anyway, that’s where we’re starting. We’ll let you know how it works.