Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Hi Paul,

I know I’m a bit late to this party, but wanted to offer some of my own perspectives here.

First, I love the spirit of experimentation, and using the governance process to create new organizational forms and processes to test.  At the same time, there are some things you probably don’t want to experiment with (say, home-made nuclear reactors).  I think this falls into the latter category - I’d suggest letting this particular experiment go, as well as celebrating the spirit that led to it and all the learning you’ve gleaned from it.

There are many reasons I say that, and here are a few:

1)  I’d definitely interpret the policies you’ve got in place around this as unconstitutional, and if there’s any circle you want to be a role-model of unquestionable constitutional alignment, it’s your key Holacracy implementation/support circle.  I’m happy to share more about why I’d say they’re unconstitutional if you’d like.  Though even if you or others reach different conclusions, I think the case is more weighted to invalid than valid, and that’s enough that you don’t even want the question surfacing.  I also don’t think there’s a way to resolve the constitutionality problems with any possible changes you could make, short of a constitutional amendment.

2)  Because of the above, I’d say any broader circle Facilitator, all the way up the holarchy, could easily declare a Process Breakdown in whatever immediate sub-circle ultimately holds the circle trying to operate with no lead link.  And again, if there’s one circle you don’t want any chance of someone declaring a Process Breakdown for, it’s this one.

3)  There are some reasons that Lead Links are constitutionally required that I don’t think you’ve replaced the need for with your policies, which risks hurting the tension processing capacity of the organization (one key reason for sticking to the constitution is so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally hurting that and not realizing it).  For example, you’ve delegated lead link authorities, but have nothing to cover some of the accountabilities and key functions of a lead link behind why they have those authorities in the first place.  A few examples: the lead link acting as a catch-all for anything that falls through the cracks between other roles; holding the overall circle structure & purpose and looking for what’s missing or off; acting as a single representative of the circle to those outside the circle and connecting people and tensions into the circle; etc.  Done well, the lead link shouldn’t be a role with “more power” than other roles, but just another function - and a needed one.

4)  This really looks a lot like an experiment that came from an idea (vs. specific tensions grounded in examples of roles trying to get work done and solving concrete business challenges in the way).  If you’re going to delegate lead link authority, I’d recommend doing it one authority at a time, and only when a role trying to do its main business function hits a specific obstacle that a very specific delegation would resolve.  That will keep your experimentation much more grounded and much more focused - more surgical than shotgun.

5)  Overall, I think this last part of your note sums up some of the danger here:

To make this system of not having a Lead Link work, everyone needs to be on the same page. If someone is not, the best solution may be to get them off the bus, not because they are not liked as a person, but because the whole machine will fail if a single cog is not turning the same way as the rest ...

That’s exactly what Holacracy’s rules are designed to prevent the need for, because that cog turning a different way is often the low-voltage light for your circle or organization.


All that said, note there's actually a feature under development in v5.0 specifically to allow lead link less circles - so you're definitely sensing an opportunity for a new kind of process that's in the general direction of where Holacracy is headed... though it'll come with a lot of other requirements and default accountabilities as well, to address all the issues above and keep it "safe enough to try" (and, of course, it'll be constitutional once the constitution allows it!).

Hope that's helpful; happy to chat about this further real-time with you or anyone else over on your team there...

- Brian