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Holacracy empowers fluid, networked teams

28 déc. 2022

Digital transformation and the accelerated move to cloud communications has thrown the spotlight on traditional office hierarchies, how offices are constructed and the ways in which productivity is maximised. The office first came about because workers needed to be near their paperwork and their production centres but now remote working and cloud collaboration are enabling a greater number of options, including the replacement of inflexible, linear management structures.

One approach gaining significant traction is holacracy which involves creation of a role-based organisation within which every role has a purpose and accountabilities. This helps foster ownership and entrepreneurship in people and the distributed structure of holacracy relies on the continuous discussion of the content of work and the organisation of work.  Holacratic organisations meet in teams whenever necessary to engage in the tensions that exist in terms of how work needs to be done. This enables constructive and positive approaches to challenges to be shared.

“A tension is a difference between where you are and where you would like to be so, if you focus your meeting agenda around tensions you are continuously looking for progress and new ideas,” explains Anita Klaver, the Head of group Human Resources at Enreach. “That results in a continuous learning effort that you do together and that is a really essential aspect of holacracy. In every meeting employees are invited to put forward tensions and proposals.   A proposal can be an action, a project or a proposal for a role. In this way you always make progress together.

Technology is often seen as the means by which the experience of work is being transformed but technology alone can’t tie together the varying drivers that create a business. Attention needs to be devoted to ensuring workers can learn, that the business needs are communicated effectively and that workers feel part of the organisation. The traditional office structure doesn’t work when team members are working from home, when a merger happens and new team members join the business or if new innovation leads to new working practices.

“Shared leadership, fluidity of work and network-based working versus the hierarchy present a changed operating model that brings a lot of agility,” adds Klaver, pointing out that Enreach is practicing what it preaches in regard to holacracy. “In the last three or four years we have made 17 acquisitions growing from 200 to 1,200 people and these happened during the Covid time when we were not able to meet each other physically. Holacracy helps us tremendously not only because of the fluidity it brings but because of transparancy of business information, which is essential for self-organisation. We have a tool, which captures all our roles across the whole organisation, their purpose and accountabilities, alongside business information, projects, actions and metrics. Everything is visible and accessible for evereybody.” Also the meeting scripts, which go with Holacracy have helps enormously in the forming of new integrated teams.

The vision is that teams become self-organising in pursuit of their goals.This requires substantial change management across a vast landscape of business processes. “You have to align all your HR practices to whatever concept you adopt,” confirms Klaver. “With holacracy you are building a more lateral organisation where people work in a peer-to-peer fashion so you can’t work with HR processes that come from a hierarchical mindset. That means for example that we do not weigh functions, but reward the behavior of our people.  My conviction is that the implementation of Holacracy can only be successful, when this go hand in hand with aligned HR practises to support self-organizing behavior. ‘

Implementing  holacracy involves substantial change and takes sustained commitment over many years but the journey towards it is already underway at companies such as Enreach. This cloud communications company is convinced: the future of work will be more fluid and collaborative and less hierarchical.