Holacracy: Hogwash Or Hot New Thing?

Throughout my years in business, I’ve tried to make it a habit to keep up with the latest trends while not getting sucked into whatever the current flavor of the month management fad is.

There’ve certainly been some doozies in that department over the decades! I’ve watched with some amusement as companies in my niche pinned all their hopes on switching systems to whatever new-fangled methodology was riding high in the New York Times business bestseller list that year. The majority of these attempts tended to end in frustration and managerial gridlock.

At the various companies I’ve worked closely with, we’ve mostly stuck with the tried and true, concentrating on good old-fashioned, easy to understand concepts such as resources, processes and priorities. It’s hasn’t always been easy but I’m happy to say that we’ve had more good days than bad overall.

One recent movement that’s caught my eye though is Holacracy. I’d heard vague mutterings about it from various sources but what made me sit up and take notice was a recent article in Fast Company citing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ultimatum to his 4000 strong workforce: get on board with holacracy or start shipping out.

Digging a little deeper, I saw that David Allen – author of one of my all-time favorite productivity books – also seemed to be on board. Maybe there might be something here?

It’s a deeply radical idea. From what I can make of it, Holacracy essentially involves abandoning traditional hierarchies and meetings in a firm and moving to a much flatter structure where small groups of people more or less organize themselves.

There seem to be several different flavors of implementation but the basic premise involves putting the standard company Org chart in the trash and letting people get on with defining their own workflows.

I’ve got a lot of respect for the way Tony Hsieh has led Zappos over the last number of years so when I see him commit to any idea with this kind of ferocity, it makes me deeply curious to find out more.

What about you? Does anyone out there have any direct experience with seeing Holacracy implemented in an organization they work for? I’m curious to hear first-hand reports.




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