When the cat’s away the mice will play
Everyone knows this proverb. We use it to describe one of the deeply ingrained ideas in our society — someone needs to be appointed to control and give orders to others, otherwise we risk chaos and collapse. Holacracy seems to be one of the first movements to challenge this mindset. In this post I reflect on my first experience without hierarchy and the impact it had on my working life.
How the mice multiply and finally become the most valuable asset of your business
We’ve had endless discussions about untapped human potential. We’ve been wondering what it is that makes people less and less motivated, productive and happy. In modern companies, with highly advanced technological processes and skilled human capital, somehow we haven’t embraced the very basic ideas of trust and freedom. Instead of being fixed on true empowerment, we kept debating the topic and maintaining the command and control chain.
One of the basic rules of Holacracy is to let go of the proverbial cat. We replace layers of management with the holacratic process, which when fully implemented and adopted by everyone, takes care of operations and people in an organisation. Therefore, not only do we provide more space at the bottom of the old pyramid to act and develop, but we also energise people who were stuck in the middle of the hierarchy, spending most of their time in endless meetings and playing politics.
If you haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ to experience this yourself, there is plenty of research on how our energy in the complicated myriad of echelons gets lost. I would recommend reading one of Linda Hill’s books; she studied many organisations (in the USA) with several layers of management. In ‘Becoming a Manager’, she observed that each person (without exception) struggled for at least a year with uncertainties surrounding their responsibilities, processes, relationships, and more. Do you think that this amount of human energy could have been invested better? I do.
So what’s the beginning of my story?
I decided to write the first article with my own insights and refer in it to the traditional hierarchy not without the reason. I remember when I read about Holacracy a while ago, I couldn’t fully conceive it. I mean, no one in charge? Sounds crazy, right? I’ve co-operated with some really awesome IT companies, such as Spotify, and even they have several layers of management! I dug deeper and it made more and more sense. Now I start to fantasise about how much further Spotify could go if they adopted Holacracy or another similar idea.
After almost a month onboard Energized.org, I see my own transformation happening on the fly. What has the lack of the old-fashion structure of power brought about so far for me?
I used to think that I was good at managing my work. Now I know I’m not. I was assigned three roles within our company’s structure. Not too many in comparison with my peers. Nevertheless, I suppose that having even one of them would bring me to the same conclusion. This is because the whole system of working is upside-down. With no one to look up to, work has become more complex. No one makes choices for me, therefore I need not only to pull my weight but also, or rather foremost, to make choices, identify all the actions needed, pick the best ways and tools, and follow up on my own progress.
Lack of tentativeness
So far that doesn’t sound good, does it? Yet, I’ve never felt better! The fact that I’m able to manage myself within clarified boundaries (one of the features introduced by Holacracy), and goals makes me even more proud of the work I do. The rigid structure that shows me the path to follow and the lack of uncertainty once connected to the satisfaction of a manager over me feels incredible. These two dimensions generate an upsurge in my energy and willingness to give one hundred percent. I don’t waste my energy on guessing which solution is better, or waiting for the green light. I just act as I see fit. And if I make mistake, I learn from it and mature in my own professional development.
It’s been less than a month and I’ve managed to embrace a new paradigm of working and thinking. As the side effect of fulfilling my roles, I managed to read four books, learnt how to operate on three completely new software tools, started my first personal blog, wrote several posts, and the list continues. With all those things, big and small, I feel that the speed of my personal development upgraded from a Ford Focus to a BMW i8, and that this is just the beginning. This makes me even more energised and excited about Holacracy and possibilities that it opens in front of an individual who is ready to embrace it.
What makes me most happy is that I’ve met dozens of entrepreneurial souls who are extremely passionate about their lives and purposes they serve. A big chunk of this group already works with Holacracy, whilst others are deeply interested in digging deeper into the topic. Seeing this and being a part of the Energized.org mission that I truly believe in, I’m sure that my energy and time is better placed than ever before.
To be continued!
I know that this is just the very beginning. I know that things tend to be shining gold when one starts them and we discover more and more scratches as we go. I stay open-minded, ready to embrace what comes, and I promise to keep you up-to-date with my personal insights into the Holacratic practice.
Feeling like digging deeper? I recommend checking out the articles written by these long-term practitioners: @diederickjanse @h1brian @Energized, or visit www.holacracy.org (in English) or www.energized.org (in Dutch).