Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Recently, HolacracyOne posted on Facebook:

There is a lot of buzz about "Leadership Development". Enlightened leaders are indeed needed to make up for the lack of organizational capacity to digest whatever comes from the environment. Holacracy precisely helps building this organizational capacity, making leadership development much less necessary.

This comes at a time when I have just finished the book "The End of Leadership" which talks about the Leadership industry. The book and Holacracy tend to agree that the current offerings of Leadership development are not what they should be. The book says that the leadership industry is failing us and is a self perpetuation sham. The book contains many pages of real world example. Holacracy says that leadership is not need to the level that our organizations think that it is needed. Both seem to me to shed good light on the issue, but I have a slightly different view.

My knowledge about the material taught in the current leadership training is about how a single person leads and motivates groups of small to very large people to do what the leader wants.

From the examples in the book, even with current organizations this has not worked very well but since it is very attractive to leaders in organizations, it really strokes their egos to think that everything revolves around the leader, leadership consultants teach what brings in the money. And it is a lot of money, to the tune of $50 billion a year.

Holacracy proposes a radically different distributed power system from conventional organizations in which this leader centric training has very little value.  There is still leadership, it is just radically different.

My proposition is that leadership training is very important, but not the leadership training that is currently being promoted by the industry today. 

With current organizations the leaders at the top are usually very autocratic. They give the orders and everyone below marches always looking over their shoulders in case the leader does not like the way they are marching.  Holacracy turns this on its head.  Purpose flows down from the top, but how each marches is determined autocratically by the person doing the marching.

As everyone in the organization is an autocrat over their own identified scope, they do need leadership training on how to lead that scope effectively.  As I indicated before, this leadership is fundamentally different.  Instead of learning how to get others to do what you want, you must learn how to get yourself motivated, how to stay organized and focused to do what is needed by the purpose guiding that scope.  Self-leadership is also need to effectively act a organizational sensors, to know how to recognize the tensions, how and when to speak-up to the organization, and how not to be personally attached to your idea as to how to resolve the tensions that you sense.

I see many people working in a conventional organization that will do nothing unless directly motivated and directed by the leader.  This approach will not work in Holacracy.  If a person executes a role with this do nothing unless externally directed approach, nothing will get done and after a while the holacratic organization will eject them as not being suitable for the role.

This failure is not a fundamental human weakness.  All humans are capable of working is such a system. Instead, it is a weakness in training and socialization of the person. Most of the skill are not taught at all or even worse suppressed by the more effective conventional leaders. It is a positive feedback loop, the more effective the conventional leader, the more repressed and dependent the follower.

These self leadership skills are the skills needed in leadership training for the future.  Even more, most people will need this training and refresher courses throughout their lives.  This new direction would seem to be a larger industry than the current leadership industry, providing more revenue if teachers and consultants can get past the sunk cost put into the existing models and experience. Further more, the new direction would meet the real needs of organizations instead of simply massaging the egos of the leaders and repressing the lead.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spreading a Practice

Holacracy is the most useful organizational practice that I have seen in my over 50 years in organizations.  If you are not familiar with it, head over to holacracy.org and explore the links on the slide show. 

As Holacracy is often on my mind, I have been thinking about how to spread it. This post is a brain dump to get the ideas out of my head to free up space for other things. Many of the ideas here have been action-ed by H1 and others in the community to some extent.  This just allows me to get it out of my head and down on paper at overview level of the landscape.  Each paragraph could be expanded into a much larger discussion, but this is enough for now. Hopefully, this describes a reasonable structure to the issue.

Most of our modern organizations are structured in a hierarchy with most of the power and control at or near the top. Holacracy is a true distributed power and control system.  Thus, to move an organization towards a distributed system like Holacracy, you need to introduce it, either, when the organization is small before it grows and becomes fixed with power and control at the top of a larger structure or introduce it from the top down starting with the current power holders of the organization driving the transition.  These are the two focal points to effectively spread Holacracy, such that implementations happen.  Strictly informational opportunities would not be very helpful unless they influence the two identified focal points.

 With fledgling or small organizations the keys are to identify and educate founders while providing a low enough cost of entry that these organizations can afford to adopt the well documented Holacracy practice instead of the normal an ad-hoc, seat of the pants, keep everything in your head approach most start-ups or small organizations use.

First we need to identify these small organization founders.  If you want to hunt ducks, you go to a duck pond.  For small business, one great place is small business expos.  The cost seems reasonable to setup a booth, handout pamphlets, and engage face to face. Face to face time often has the most effect in infuencing a person and any opportunity to engage a person when they are in the correct frame of mind should be taken.

Keeping the costs in line for the available budget of a small organization has some challenges.  The cost of bringing in a consultant can be beyond the means for many, so this leads to a predominately self help approach.  Sending one person from the organization to the Holacracy Practitioners training can infuse a lot of knowledge to a small group at a reasonable cost.  Joining the Holacracy community of practice opens up more resources and a place to ask questions.  One possibly to consider is creating an identified Holacracy Hotline either manned or voice mail that gets responded to on a daily basis.

Big organizations can be a big challenge.  While the resources can be sufficient for a well supported implementation using consultants, getting the attention of those in power can be very difficult. It is almost impossible to get face to face time with an executive unless you already know them or they are seeking you out. Past history indicates that the most productive entry is through organizational consultants all ready in a relationship with the leaders of an organization.  The key here is to identify and educate organizational consultants and entice them to propagate Holacracy through their organization contacts.

Again where to catch the organizational consultants attention? There are a number of organizational forums and conventions where Holacracy can be presented.  Also, there are a number of periodicals which may accept Holacracy articles.  We also need to think carefully how to entice them to add/change to Holacracy in their offerings. Looking at the problems in the world today, mainstream approaches to leadership and organizational consulting are not working.  The problem is how to get the consultants with years of vested interest in these systems to see, accept and embrace a new way. Most people with a vested interest turn a blind eye to anything contrary to the vested interest.

We also need to explore the various sets of motivations organizations have for adopting Holacracy. 

The traditional areas of efficiency, productivity, profitability are motivators for some leaders.  This is a strength of Holacracy that plays well with managers and leaders once you get their attention.

Emerging is areas of work-life balance, employee engagement, employee satisfaction, employee acquisition and retention.This is being driven from the bottom up, mostly from the younger employees.   More younger workers are using some of these non-monetary attributes as a filter for positions.  Just as the Arab Spring movement towards democracy was driven by the 20 somethings through social media.  The principles that are an advantage of Holacracy needs to be spread to the 20 somethings through social media.  If the kids coming out of college start asking for these things in their job interviews, companies will have to adapt to get the brightest and best employees.  What better motivation can we have to entice the top of an organization to adopt Holacracy.  Over time those that do will out perform those that don't.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Being Happy

I saw a quote: "The secret to being happy is realizing that everything is already perfect."  About the same time a friend on mine said something along the lines of "Stop seeking what you want, It will find you."  So for the past few months I have tried to follow these two nuggets of advice.  You may have noticed that I have not posted in this blog for a while as most of my posting was about how to make things better.  But, if everything is already perfect, I don't need to post anymore. And if I should stop seeking, well what then?

I feel that it has been a partial success. But I find myself constantly stopping myself.

I see someone doing something in a way that I think could be done better. I start to speak, but bite my tongue and don't say anything.  Maybe the way I thought was better is not better.  Maybe what they were doing was good enough.  If everything is perfect, then their actions are also perfect. Maybe they needed to do it that way to learn an important life lesson and if I interfered they would not learn it and get into bigger trouble later. Cool, no stress in trying to explain myself, no resentment from correcting someone, the task gets done and maybe they learned what they needed to learn.

I see something that I would really like to do but I am not in the position to pursue it.  My natural instinct is to do everything I can to seek a path to be able to do it.  So I stop myself, put it on my someday list and move on.  If I had put in all the extra effort to seek the path, what would have been the cost.  Maybe I would be exhausted all the time and get sick.  Concentrating on that unattainable path would take all my concentration such that I would miss other opportunities that would have been just as interesting and useful without the pain.  Some other natural paths that would lead to where I wanted to go may be missed.

However, there is a temptation to take these two quotes and start doing nothing, navel gazing if you will.  After a bit of doing nothing, I get very unsatisfied.  Is my purpose in this world to do nothing? (This the dark side of stop seeking.)  If everything is already perfect I need not do anything.  (This is the dark side of always seeing perfection.) Well, what now?  How do I resolve this.

For the quotes above there others in the opposite direction just as valuable.  I am sure you could come up with many, but some that I like are:  "God helps those who help themselves" and "Every journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step. 

If everything is perfect, then why do you need to help yourself?  If you have stopped seeking, where are you going on the journey.  Are we to just wander aimlessly in our life's journey and simply enjoy all the perfection we see?  Well kinda but not really. 

How wishy-washy can I be!  There is a point in here somewhere!

We miss the point when we do as humans are most tempted to do and simplify everything to black and white.  What we miss the the infinite shades of gray (and of course the colors.)  We miss that there is stuff in the middle.  We miss that the tension between the extremes generates an entire universe where everything is perfect, we don't need to sacrifice everything to seek a path, we get what we need (often more)  and we have a purposeful journey with many accomplishments along the way.   It is not that there is a fixed middle way.  The middle way is a dynamic tension created by all the extremes pulling on each other.  The middle way is flexible, ever shifting and always playful. It is like surfing, riding the ever changing wave without flipping out into the sky or falling under the water. The exhilaration of maintaining the present moment to stay in tune with the wave is what makes it playful and fun.

For myself, I am looking to be happy riding that wave again after some time off.  What wave are you riding.