Why we’re adopting Holacracy as our organisational operating system at Springest

What does it really do for our 32 person startup?

Ruben Timmerman


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 the changing environment. I was only half joking when I said “I want to be sitting on an island sipping a cocktail, without worrying if Springest is running well” when I was asked what my goal was for adopting Holacracy. As a startup founder you’re used to changing a lot, but also to doing a lot of things yourself. In my case that also means controlling a lot of things and “making sure” they’ll go as I want. I always had the ambition to learn letting go, but I also have the ambition to do the right things right. Holacracy’s big promise is that it enables people to have more authority, but without the organisation spinning into uncontrollable chaos.

The reward of learning together

I think personal and professional growth through learning are the second most important things in life, just after Health. Of course, Springest itself is all about learning. I really appreciate the fact that our employees are learning together and from each other, myself included. You really don’t just “implement” Holacracy, much in the same way it takes years to master a sport or GTD for that matter. Actually, it’s often said by experienced practitioners of all of these things, that learning all the rules and how to apply them is actually just the beginning. Mastering the game is something different from learning the rules, and learning the rules together can be very rewarding. We’ve had so many AHA moments together… And of course we also had our frustrating moments.

The ambition to create a better type of organisation

We get a lot of compliments and jealous comments about adopting Holacracy. I think they are justified and I’m proud of them. We really want to build a better organisation, not just for getting better results, but also for it’s own sake. I personally love tweaking and optimizing, that’s why we always worked with GTD and use over 100 different apps. We test and tweak a lot, sometimes maybe even too much. But I’m okay with that, we really want to build an organisation that is more efficient and self-governing than any other. Holacracy is not that organisation. Holacracy gives us the tools to try and evolve into that organisation.

The wish to be a more rewarding place to work at

I sometimes joke that we have Holacracy, a pingpong and foosball table, regular SpringFests, an amazing office, great organic lunches and a chef, and the best desks and chairs, just so we can pay lower salaries. We actually do pay less than most corporates, although we do tend to keep up with other startups ;) But we firmly believe that money is only a negative motivator: if you get too little, you will be unhappy. But if you get more than you need, you will not become proportionally happier. Of course there is a ton of scientific evidence on that, and I hope people really love working here. Holacracy is a way for us to try to give people more space for their own development and to actually use their full potential.

I hope this gives some insight into our motivation. Leave a comment or tweet any questions you have about our Holacracy implementation!



Ruben Timmerman

🌤 Accelerating systemic change by helping people, teams and organisations grow