What is Holacracy?

Holacracy is a method for people to work together.

It provides a shared language and defined work processes – especially processes for running meetings –  that help create clarity on what-is-actually-happening and who-does-what and allows for easy adaptation of an organisation’s structure.

Let’s look into the details:

“Some of Holacracy’s features.” Illustration By Jordan Husney.
  •  “Shared Language” means terminology that helps mutual understanding. In Holacracy, “Tactical Meeting” “Governance Meeting” “Project” “Objection” “Accountability” “Domain” and other terms are well-defined. Collaborators know what it means when somebody speaks of a “tension” (a felt dissonance between what is (current reality) and what could be (purpose)).Compare this with conventional uses of “problem”, “issue”, “meeting”, “challenge”, “project”, “accountability” and so on: What do these words mean in your context? Is this understanding shared between everybody?
  • “Rules” give a fundamental structure for how to work together: who has what permissions?  In Holacracy, the rules for working together are codified in the Holacracy Constitution.What are the rules in your working context? Are they clear? Are they explicit? Do they change? How?
  • “Roles” allow for the differentiation of personal interests and egos from purpose-driven functions. Within a role, I might have a strong conflict with a coworker who is filling another role. The framework of role-based work allows processing this conflict into constructive action.
  • Holacracy offers a defined Process for Change. Any tension that anyone senses from any role can be processed into a meaningful change. Improvements do not stay stuck in politics, fear or inertia.

we humans have an incredible capacity to sense tensions, but we usually don’t have a forum to go to where we can reliably process those tensions into something useful.  So the organization loses one of its most powerful forces for evolution, and we humans are forced to hold the tensions – in our minds and our bodies – where they fester into frustrations and eventually apathy or burnout. (…)

what do people in your organization do with the tensions they sense?  To what extent do they trust that every tension they experience has a place to go, where it will get processed quickly and effectively into organizational evolution? (Brian Robertson – Processing Tensions)

Holacracy also introduces specific ways of working:

The Tactical Meeting is a process to bring a team into sync and transform tensions into new projects or actions. The person sensing the tension drives the process. She engages other roles to get what she needs. If this leads to new tensions, they are processed one-by-one.

The gateway drug to Holacracy is the Tactical Meeting. The Tactical Meeting breezes through team metrics, project updates (no discussion, just changes from the last meeting), and brings a process for breaking down the work of a Circle into a set of assigned actions to carry the team forward. All this happens in under 30 minutes. Gone are ineffective status meetings. (Jordan Husney – What is Holacracy?)

By keeping open Project Lists, there is transparency on what work is currently being done, or why certain work is not being done. (There may be other priorities, a lack of resources, unclarity about the work or the need for a role-reassignment.) It becomes clear what the work is and who is doing it.

What do your team meetings feel like? Do you know who is doing what and why?


For more information on Holacracy, see holacracy.org and our link collection on Holacracy on Tumblr. We also maintain a list of organisations running on Holacracy and a list of upcoming Holacracy events in Europe.

Martina Röll – Partner at Structure & Process – is a Certified Holacracy Practitioner and a Holacracy Agent, permitted to give public Introductory Workshops to Holacracy. (Next one coming up in Hamburg on May 23rd 2014.) Please contact us if you are interested in joining one and we will set one up near you! (In English or German.)

Structure & Process uses Holacracy as its operating system and maintains public governance records.

We facilitate effective work meetings for clients and design events, workshops and other collaborative situations for meaningful conversations, learning and action.

This post was inspired by Jordan Husney’s article “What is Holacracy”, published on Medium.

Holacracy is a registered trademark of HolacracyOne, LLC

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