When your colleagues all self-manage, who makes sure everybody adheres to certain rules? Is there some magic that does not require optimal processes to be written down? Are policies an archaic instrument not needed in self-management heaven?

Nope. Probably even the contrary: our self-managed organisation is arguably more documented, more structured and more explicit than your average corporate in a heavily regulated industry.

If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

One of the base rules at Springest is that we write things down, almost always in Asana with some exceptions at circle level (eg. developers make comments on code in Github because that suits the work better)…

This is a copy of our internal Rules of Engagement, updated when our Communication Clarity role updates them internally in our helpdesk system. You can read more about communication, rules, policies and processes in this article.

PS: as a customer, partner, employee, parent, husband, friend, pet or child of a Springeteer, you can not derive rights from these rules ;)

— Updated: 9 April 2019

The rules of the tools

  1. Sputr: Scan (and read what’s interesting ;)) all posts (not replies per se), within 2 business days.
  2. Asana: Read and respond to all inbox items, within 2 business days.
  3. Slack 🔗: Respond to direct messages…

I had no expectations coming to Shanghai to speak on Holacracy, at The First China Organizational Evolution Forum. I was maybe too busy with day to day business, considering my trip something exotic that I just had to experience. Talking to a few dozen Chinese people, I realise I was right, and wrong. Right, because I was open to be surprised and had no judgment. Wrong, because the cliche is true: China is now moving so fast that you should pay close attention.

Important disclaimer: I spoke to maybe 50 people, who represented many diverse companies. From Alibaba-big (60.000 employees)…

At my company Springest, happiness is not a goal in itself. Long term productivity is, and I believe one leads to the other. We do measure happiness on a monthly basis and people often want to know “does Holacracy, or self-management, make people happy?”. It’s quite hard to get statistically relevant (A/B tested) data on this, but with the data we have I would say: yes.

The happiness score at Springest since we started measuring 3,5 years ago.

Above you see the monthly Happiness Trend as measured by Tinypulse. A few things are good to know:

Employee count fluctuated heavily, as we are a fast growing (and sometimes shrinking) startup. …

Strategy is of course a keystone of management, so it’s also important in the organisational operating system Holacracy. Even more so, since teams and people manage themselves, you need very clear strategy to make sure you all go in the same direction. At Springest we adopted the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) method to help roles prioritize work. I’ll explain why and how in a short FAQ and will expand this article when questions come in.

I won’t explain what OKRs are. Christina Wodkte is the best source for that in both her book and blog.

Why we adopted OKRs after trying the “normal” Holacracy strategy

Strategy “may be” defined by the Lead Link, according to the Holacracy constitution.

How you define and…

TL;DR: because you think it’s a solution in itself, while it’s merely a framework for organizations to create them in an efficient and controlled manner.

The headline about Holacracy at HBR.org.

Reading an outsider’s perspective, even from management authorities like Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini on Harvard Business Review, it dawned on me. You don’t understand Holacracy, and other organisational systems, because you fail to recognize them for what they are.

In comparing Holacracy to bureaucracy, it’s neglected that self-organization operating systems (let’s call them SooS, because there can never be enough acronyms!) such as Holacracy and the wealth of current management systems actually live at…

Last week, Andy Doyle from Medium announced they won’t use Holacracy anymore to run their company. It’s great that such a visible company was so open about both adopting and dropping it. Andy cited 3 specific reasons for dropping it, I’d like to reflect on them based on my own experience with Holacracy at Springest in the past 3 years. A few caveats to start off with:

  • I haven’t talked with anyone at Medium about this (would love to!)
  • Medium has raised $82M so far from very high profile VCs, so they might be under different pressure than other companies…

The past months we have invited people from outside our company to join our Holacracy tactical and governance meetings. Those meetings are highly structured according to Holacracy’s process. That’s why they are a nice way to experience what it’s like to run your organisation with Holacracy. I’d like to share the experience with you through a video and quotes from some of the 50 people who were present as observer during one of the meetings.

Roughly, the meeting consists of reviewing a few dozen metrics and projects and processing any “tensions” (agenda items) that arise from that. Next actions are…

How our 20 person startup hacked Asana to support our Holacracy and Getting Things Done methods.

10 years ago, Getting Things Done (GTD) was a hype after David Allen released his book about his quest for a mind like water. I dove right in, together with other Dutch “lifehacking” enthousiasts and productivity nerds. It has very much influenced the way I work. The personal transparency and the constant drive for conscious decisions are things I always looked for when hiring people in my 20-person startup. One question kept nagging though: how can I grow beyond a two pizza team while staying productive and transparent, without management layers or meetings all the time?

The solution for us…

What does it really do for our 32 person startup?

You might have heard of Holacracy (if not, check out About Holacracy on Medium), the “organisational operating system” that’s becoming more popular lately. Springest has formally adopted Holacracy, after a few months of experimenting on small scale with it, in January 2013. It’s quite a big switch from regular ol’ business, and it takes a lot of effort and learning. So why did we take the leap?

1. The promise of control without controlling

Working at a startup is challenging because things constantly spin out of control. Sometimes because things don’t work, but often because you’re growing fast and the people and structure can’t keep up with…

Ruben Timmerman

Founder @Springest. More me at https://ruben.org

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