I’m Done with Micromanaging. How about You?

Micromanaging stifles growth and is a reason why so many employees are unhappy. Learn how Holacracy® is helping to change that.

Margaret Ryan
Aug 14, 2014 · 4 min read

It would be so refreshing, and a lot more productive, to get away from the idea of keeping the boss happy, playing politics, and protecting power positions by avoiding risk, responsibility, and authenticity.

Organizations such as Zappos, Dev Bootcamp, Maestro Conference, Pantheon Enterprises, Kahler Financial Group, Colman Knight Advisory Group, and yes Medium as well, just to name a few, have all implemented a revolutionary model called Holacracy®. This is an organizational operating system and structure, which amongst many benefits, also inspires you to tap into your better self, and just maybe fire your micromanager.

At WonderWorks we implemented Holacracy into our own organization before adding it as one of our core client offerings. Yes we put it through its paces so I personally know how good it is, especially speaking as a reforming micromanager!

What is Holacracy? Well it is a social technology for distributed authority within an organization — a new set of “rules of the game” — with empowerment at the core. Unlike top-down or bottom-up approaches, it integrates the benefits of both without relying on all-powerful heroic or bully leaders. Everyone becomes a leader of their own Roles and a follower of others, processing Tensions (gaps between “what is” and “what could be”) with real authority and real responsibility.

In Holacracy, a company organizes itself around the work that needs to get done, and not around the static job titles of the people who do the work. All of this happens without dependence on traditional managers.

So what does that look like?

Everyone Plays by the Same Rules – Even the Boss

In Holacracy, everyone gets to practice ownership and responsibility in their individual Roles – no matter where in the organizational structure they might find themselves. That means yo-yo management disappears; no more giving power one minute only to snatch it back arbitrarily the next. Everyone has to honor the same transparent set of agreed-upon rules of the game at all times (referred to as “The Constitution”). This provides a clear process for creating, amending, deleting, and assigning Roles, and Accountabilities and the decision-making authority that goes with them.

Implementing this kind of structure requires commitment and practice. A leader who operates from an old hierarchy structure will feel uncomfortable at first especially as they pass on autonomy to their employees, who now will have the ability to make their own decisions and take full responsibility for their results. At first you may feel the impulse to micromanage to ensure positive outcomes. That’s just a clear signal to deepen into your practice of distributing real power and allow yourself to focus on your own Roles and Accountabilities. Once you learn to let go of unhealthy power you will enjoy experiencing less fear in your life. I did!

Strong Checks And Balances

Holacracy has strong checks and balances integrated into the system, including what we like to call “Metrics that Matter.” Weekly operations meetings include all employees in their working units (known as “Circles”). Together they face and answer the question, “Are we achieving the Purpose of our Circle?”

We have found that most organizations do not actually have powerful measurements to accurately show whether they are making significant progress. In Holacracy, those Metrics that Matter are refined over time through an iterative process. One measure of a successful metric is the answer to the question, “Does this number change the way I behave regularly?” If the answer is no, then the numbers are simply interesting data, versus vital metrics to review.

In Holacracy, “Tactical Meetings” are separated from “Governance Meetings.” The latter are designed to determine what Role is accountable for what chunk of work and reflects the Role’s decision-making power to match. As a self-governing Circle, all employees (referred to as “Partners”) identify governance tensions and process those by email and in Governance Meetings. The process to resolve each tension integrates all Circle members’ perspectives — while never getting bogged down in consensus style decision-making.

Micromanaging starts to disappear from the system and fulfillment increases as Partners start to trust the process, take 100% responsibility for their Roles, and focus on their Circle’s metrics instead of their old way of doing business.

Lead Links Are Not Managers

Holacracy does away with traditional managers and supervisors. The role of “Overseer” is no longer required! Any vital work from this old Overseer role is captured in governance and segmented into new Holacratic Roles and distributed along with all other work. For example:

1) Every circle has a “Lead Link,” who is accountable for the following in their Circle:

· Assessing and defining priorities and strategies

· Allocating the Circle’s available resources

· Assigning Partners to Roles and monitoring “Fit for Role”

· Defining and assigning metrics

2) Other management duties, such as reviewing performance, mentoring, coaching, and training, are segmented into Roles and assigned to the person who is the best fit to perform that work. In this environment, Roles are easily shifted from one person to another and Partners can work toward “being in their genius” (doing what they are uniquely talented at) more and more of the time.

By implementing Holacracy at your organization, or in your department or workgroup, you can begin to move beyond the pitfalls of micromanagement. You can start to gain traction, improve your efficiency, and deliver on your organization’s purpose. You can sustainably scale what you most want and put a stop to the things that are driving away your top talent, like micromanagers.

August 12th 2014. Margaret Ryan, Co Founder WonderWorks Consulting Contact Info: Margaret@yWonderWorks.com

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