THE HOLACRACY — Episode 2

So it’s here, it is finally here. The day we all feared and awaited has come. Our official kick-off to Holacracy.

For many months it has been more of a rumour than anything else but 2 weeks ago we gathered at a Hotel with a team of 5 trainers and started 3 days of a very intense boot camp to introduce Holacracy as our company structure.

Needless to say, the atmosphere was strange, it was very early and cold and you could see in people’s faces anxiety but also curiosity. How is this going to improve what we do? Or worst, what if this ruins everything we do? To be honest, the scepticism was strong in our group and the anticipation was strong, but then, the doors finally opened. We walked into the room to start our journey.

The first thing we noticed was the wide array of stress-relief toys, some chocolates and a big binder with tons of information. We started by going around the table to “check in” or basically, express how we felt that morning. Like in most Tech companies, we have quite a few introverts in our files, so sharing in front of 50 people was quite a challenge, but when we managed. We had all this anxiety off our chests and moved quickly into the training.

A Quick Turn

Of course we had MANY questions, even before the start, and as we had a mixed group with SCRUM masters, Marketing, Office management, HR, engineers, and our founders, the questions and concerns came from all kind of sources. But it was the first statement from the Dwarfs and Giants team that set the mood for the rest of the training: “Holacracy doesn’t care about people, it is all about the process.”

If you are an “AGILE” practitioner, it will crush everything you believe in straight away. Our SCRUM masters were looking at each other in disbelief but other people started to smile anticipating the change of paradigm. And yet, after those 3 days, it did completely make sense to take the “person” out of the process and focus only on the workflow.

I was there along with my colleague Jagoda representing the Marketing team. It was great to have someone that shares your duties and understands the work process inside marketing. So I’ll let her continue with some of this story.

Hygean opened its doors, the real challenge has now begun!

I’m pretty sure that most of us didn’t expect workshops to be so intense and challenging. In fact, we were thrown into the deep end — something that nonetheless turned out to be beneficial ;) Let’s get more into the details to give you the lowdown on the concept of these workshops.

The program was mixed with both theoretical and practical exercises with, the latter being more prominent. We jumped into the practical part of the workshops almost right away.

It was surprising when our trainers introduced us to ‘the Hygean’ idea — we were divided into groups and started to work for a new fictional company called Hygean, of course, with a Holacratic management structure. We were assigned to a number of particular roles such as:

  • Finance,
  • Marketing,
  • Trainer,
  • Sales etc.

Everyone in the group had their own responsibilities and goals. We started working very quickly and had our first meetings. It was aimed to teach us how to cooperate in the Holacracy system and show us basic rules and terms. To be honest, it turned out to be really engaging and most of us were working hard to achieve the best result possible!

Tactical and Governance tradition

By resolving “real” problems, creating new tasks to achieve our goals, the cooperative task led to the meetings concerning the issues that cropped up during our journey. In the Holacracy we run 2 crucial types of meetings:

  • Tactical,
  • Governance.

At this point, we’re getting closer to the real goal of ‘hiring’ us in the Hygeans — we were practicing Holacracy schemes and trying to see them by ourselves. In my opinion, it was a very useful part, although the most stressful one. Luckily, after the practical part, we had some space to talk about our concerns and analyze cases and questions which we brought up during the task.

Goals of the meetings

Participation in two mentioned meetings is a crucial part of working in Holacracy. Meetings are aimed to resolve tensions (“tension” is a feeling you get when you sense a gap between the current state and the future) and are held with a strictly-structured agenda. Each circle in the company needs to set up these meetings regularly. For many of us, meeting simulations during the workshops meant leaving our comfort zone — every participant had to become a facilitator during both meetings.

While tactical meetings seem to be quite easy (they are held to process all the operational issues), the governance meeting is as challenging for the group as it is for the facilitator. This meeting is aimed to resolve more serious tensions such as creating or changing new roles, preparing policies or electing people to certain roles. During our workshops we were practicing most of these cases, so after 4 days the only thing which I could picture was a big circle ;) and some small ones — Holacracy stayed in my head for a long time. The last day focused on creating initial structure and first circles at Tooploox.

Fears & challenges

While we’re digging deeper into the Holacracy, we still have some doubts and fears about the future. Here are our main concerns:

  1. Learning the formal and strict structure of the meetings. We were thrown into a totally new way of holding meetings and organizing our work, so it might be challenging to learn the new structure and still find our work natural. In the beginning, tactical and governance meetings aren’t easy and the agenda seems to be weird. Finding a way to make it effective on a daily basis is a challenge we need to deal with. Luckily, Holacracy implementation will last for around half a year with the full support of Dwarfs & Giants, so we have some time to learn it.
  2. Presenting the Holacracy to our colleagues. Almost all of us who attended the workshops have to take this challenge. We were responsible for sharing the knowledge with all those who didn’t attend the workshops and, in fact, make them think positively before the first meetings :)
  3. Process vs people. Ok, so for many people it’s still hard to embrace the idea of Process vs People, but by doing it, you get to understand how removing the human element makes complete sense. You have no emotional influence on the flow of your work, instead, you become a role and that’s good. Your role is accountable for things, which makes it all about work. After the meeting you can go back and do whatever you feel like with your team, but for that 1–2 hours, it is all about moving work forward, fast and furious.
  4. Taking responsibility. It is almost magical how suddenly all of your accountabilities are listed right in front of you, is clear as ice. Everything you are in charge of is documented and you are the owner now to add things that you want, can, or should do. This gives you the freedom of creating your own job description and the safety of knowing exactly what is expected from you and what you are accountable for. No small print.

Change is always a scary word, and especially at work. Nothing changes when nothing changes so it is great to see our company embracing this massive change and understanding that it is the best way (so far) to move us forward. Our work environment was never chaotic, but we didn’t have anything to support it! Having some structure was more than needed.

Starting the process with Holacracy is only the first step but is giving us the push to go from that small software agency to a Tech Hub for the world. Yes, I do know I sound over excited but I don’t think it will be all flowers and rainbows. In fact, friction is already happening, but there is no fire without friction and we need fire, a lot of fire if we want to rocket the company to the next level.


Originally published at Tooploox.