During the Swiss Web Festival, Laurent Prodon and I hold a workshop about the way we are internally structured. We focused on what it changes in our daily life.
Report of the conference.
Find the slides (FR only) Présentation SWF.
What does it change to be working in an enterprise organized according to a non-hierarchical framework?
Laurent and I went through our usual type of brainstorming in order to prepare this conference: we wrote on the walls and used sticky notes. We were divided about how much we should explain what Holacracy is and how much we should tell about how it feels. As we are both passionate personalities, we went through a great deal of debate! However, we settled on what we consider the main differences between a hierarchical management system and a system based on Holacracy.
Organise the work not the people
A classic hierarchical system would be organized according to the people and their position in the enterprise.
The credo of Holacracy is ‘organise the work, not the people’. It means that we focus on the work to be done, not the people or their position in the enterprise. We think in terms of purposes and the accountabilities they imply.
One person and many role
This is the most important difference for Laurent. The years passing by, he started doing a lot of different things, essential but not necessarily related to his ‘official’ title of Scrum Master. He is supporting the recruitment of new Liipers for example, which is usually related to the HR. He is also doing some Business Development.
Today, thanks to Holacracy, we defined these many roles. What Laurent does is now clear, for him and for others. Today, we know what we can and can’t expect from him.
With a system such as Holacracy, one person can grasp opportunities to develop his or her potential where it is most needed in the enterprise. No one is stopped by a contract or a statement of work. There is room for evolution. In other words, the employee can work where s/he can help fulfill tasks.
A dynamic organisation
The structure is in a direct connection with the teams and the work to be done. The organisation is subject to change any time. A role can be created, modified or cancelled any time that it feels necessary to its purpose. Furthermore, a role does not intend to fit the whole enterprise, but only to provide a solution to a given difficulty.
As a result, the structure of the organisation is constantly evolving and fits at the closest to the needs of the employees and the work to be fulfilled. The organisation chart always represents the reality, what people are actually doing.
For example, some day, a developer in Lausanne meant that it would be useful to have someone doing some Communication work for the project achieved here. In no-time, the role was created, first embodied internally, and eventually someone – me :) – was hired.
That is the most important difference for me. A common issue in hierarchical enterprises is the fact that decision, once taken at the top, have to be applied and mirrored in each department. Often the top management will decide something, and the lower levels of management will undergo the decision in their department. As a specialist, you then end up with a project or a task you do not believe into.
In a system like Holacracy, each person is to take relevant decision in order to fulfill his/her roles’ purpose. In other words, each person decides which objectives, KPIs and task is relevant for his/her role(s). There is no decision taken ‘in theory’ with no knowledge of work field.
To conclude: the challenges and the joys
We are just humans. There is sometimes a great deal of scepticism; changing how one thinks or one’s habits is a difficult thing. It happens that I even hear trolls at my lunch breaks. However, in the end, we realize that we are part of something really innovative. This is exciting! And the advantages of the system are far greater: we can evolve and develop with our entreprise. Our workplace suits our needs, not the other way around!
Pictures at the Swiss Web Festival by Sarah Jaquemet
Tags: hierarchy, holacracy, management, non-hierarchy, teal, teal management