Figuring out all the roles and how we would work with them was lot of work to define and incredibly tedious to figure out - but ultimately well worth it. It provided some valuable insights into what our team was actually doing - an unanticipated side benefit!
We started out by describing what each of us actually did. Most of us learned that we were doing lots of things we shouldn’t be doing. Such as the coach who spent 70% of his time coding or the programme manager spending a lot of time doing first level support. So, we could stop doing that.
We managed to make the roles small and granular which helped us job-craft the ideal/best possible job for everyone.
With Holacracy the role holder knows who to get input from and then decides. Having clear roles sped up a lot of decisions for us.
One thing to watch out for is that people still act if something needs to be done and don’t wait for the person whose role it is to do it.
Having nested circles worked really well. Especially because we could have a hierarchy of purpose and not of people. People said the circles’ accountabilities and purpose were incredibly useful to stop worrying about something being done or not done.
They also made it clear who was responsible for something. This can be a conversation that people often avoid in flat organisations.
Many people including The CEO said it felt much lighter because he did not have to be that much in the detail and didn’t have to worry because he knew which circle had something covered.
It was also good that people sometimes had roles in more than one circle which gave us information flow across circles. That was actually something we had been struggling with in the past.
One thing to watch out for is in the transition period where people get quite worried about the new responsibility they have to carry. I think everyone had an “oh shit” moment which was basically “oh-my-god-I-am-really-responsible-for-this”. For example a finance person who realised that if she did not do her job the company would not get paid. So it’s important to support people through that transition.
This is an unfortunate word with negative connotations - but in Holacracy it’s actually an opportunity for improvement. It took us a while to make sure everyone understood that surfacing a tension was a positive thing. Finding tensions is really useful because they are what helps everyone improve, whether it is within a circle or a role.
We actually found it really good to have a formal mechanism that helped us make sure we brought things up and didn’t ignore them.
One thing to be aware of is not to wait until one of the meetings where tensions are being processed to bring things up. It’s similar to there being no reason to wait until the next retrospective. If it makes sense to deal with something right now just do it. We had to have conversations around that and it took people a while to get this.
Make sure to read the first part of the Holacracy Trilogy: My conclusion. Next week I'll be writing about things we struggled with.
Categories: Business Agility.