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

A Better Way of Facilitating Governance Meetings - Encourage Objections

Hello Everyone! 

I finally got around to posting a follow-up about the importance of encouraging objections during governance that I shared earlier this year during the Holacracy Forum. 

I did a full walk-through (including short video explanations) with specific examples of how this whole "encourage objections" energy shows up in each step. With the intent of helping people "get" the idea, so you can come up with your own unique ways of expressing it. 

Please let me know what you think. I'm curious to hear any feedback or questions. 

You can read/watch it here: A Better Way to Facilitate Holacracy® Governance Meetings. 

12 Replies
Andrew Scott

Hi Chris,

Really appreciate the point you make that the process is about Presenting the Proposal and the Objection Round and clarification and reaction supporting these.

As a new practitioner who ran their first governance meeting (for real) on Monday, I gave too much energy to clarification and reaction.


Great videos! Thanks for sharing your experience! You put words and explanations on things that we sensed as facilitators but could not to explain!

Chris Cowan

Thanks Andrea! I appreciate the feedback! 

Dennis Wittrock

I think it is a great learning resource. Very concise and clear. Helpful to avoid common pitfalls in facilitation. Thanks for putting it out, Chris. 

Fajar Firdaus

[@mention:455886150941203371], by encouraging objection, do you mean any objection or tested one? (the one that will go through integration) should we also be more lax when testing an objection?

Chris Cowan


I mean encouraging raising any objection, because I don't want participants thinking its an expectation on them to filter out valid from invalid ones in their head...that's what the testing is for. So, bring up any old thing...and as Facilitator, I'll work with you to figure out if it meets the criteria. That's the idea. 

As for being more lax with testing...no. I wouldn't say that as general guidance (though I don't know how they are currently being tested in your circle, so it's possible I might actually say yes).  

Here are some rules of thumb that will help ensure you're dealing with objection testing with the appropriate amount of rigor:

  • Encourage people to raise objections (i.e. to "try" them)
  • Keep in mind the distinction between an "objection" which is any argument (valid or not) and a "valid objection," in other words, in this context, an "objection" isn't a reason something causes harm...it's just a reason. Don't convey people should pre-filter. 
  • If you don't know if it's valid or invalid, don't stress too much about figuring it out...just chart it and integrate it (you can always retest in integration, and sometimes it's easier to think if you aren't on the spot and everyone else is talking). 
  • Let the objector define his/her own objection (write down what they say), and allow them as many arguments or variations of an argument (i.e. objections) as they want. 
  • You could almost assume every objection was valid and integrate it, and you would do little harm other than slowing things down. Keep that in mind. 
Fajar Firdaus


> If you don't know if it's valid or invalid, don't stress too much about figuring it out...just chart it and integrate it 

What is "chart it"? Do you mean pass the validation test? 

Chris Cowan

[@mention:456308404149183518] Ah, yes, I can see why that would be confusing. 

"Chart it," is my way of saying, "Let's take this into integration" (i.e. I think it passes all of the criteria). I don't ever say the words "valid objection," because I may have to retest it in integration.

Version 4.1 of the Consitution says, "take all valid objections..." but I've pitched for the next version to say, "Don't take any invalid objections," because there is a slight but important difference. 

I also usually write down an objection before testing it, so saying "chart it" could be confusing. But in practice, with the objection already written, if I say, "Let's chart that...any other objections?" it works well enough because I erase any once it's clear they're invalid.  

Gerald Mitterer

Thanks [@mention:455886150941203371] for making the underlying attitude explicit - very helpful!! It's often really just nuances that make a big difference.

I would love to see an addition on how to "coach" during facilitation. I recognized and received plenty of client feedback that there is a huge difference in coaching the mechanics vs. coaching to surface / highlight / even intervene into group or cultural dynamics at play and providing the insight WHY and HOW the process is designed to stop or break such patterns at play. It helps people to surrender to the process. 

Small example: stop ofter testing an objection and ask: Why was this an invalid objection now, although your perspective seems very reasonable and worth considering? What could you do now? (to better understand the difference between valid objection vs. valid tension or help them out of a felt "winner-loser-dynamic" - "I lost the battle" - which is very common in the beginning in my experience no matter how you frame it.)

anyone similar experiences?

- Gerald

Chris Cowan

Hey [@mention:456449141666682690] 

Yes, I agree about the difference between coaching and facilitating, and I briefly mentioned that the two approaches I highlighted ("Option 1" and "Option 2") are almost like the distinction between "Facilitating Mechanics" and "Coaching," so I consider the videos to as much (if not more) about coaching as facilitation. 

The challenge is that contexts are different and "coaching," if I can say anything categorical about it, is always about context. So, some specific examples can help, like yours about stopping after an objection is invalid, although there are also situations with new groups in which I might not do that.

Instead, I wanted to convey the general "coaching" energy or stance through some more generic principles like "grease the wheels" in addition to some concrete examples, so that people could then generate coaching interventions in their own unique way. 

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that one helpful coaching distinction I failed to share would be, "Beware of learning for learning sake," meaning don't explain more than necessary (i.e. "throwing answers like stones at heads who have not yet asked the question"), don't ask objection test questions you don't need to (because "I want to help them learn the questions"), and don't keep explaining something (or other options) if the person got what they needed to move on ("once you've sold, stop selling"). 

That seems to be a big part of effective coaching in my opinion.  


Pam H

Thanks Chris.

I think that article of yours on Medium with the 8 videos might be what I needed to get a particular leader I know to consider that Holacracy could offer benefits to her Organization that Sociocracy often doesn't offer.

I find that Sociocracy people mistakenly either think the 2 governance styles are "the same thing" or that seeking consent is great and why would they want to do otherwise. I feel that your article and its videos showed how Holacracy really does "protect" every single little individual in the Organization to sense and express their Tensions, and to not be allowed to be squashed by an assertive charismatic person or "group-think".

Chris Cowan


Thanks for the feedback Pam! I don't know much about Sociocracy, but I know enough to agree with and deeply appreciate your comments. : )  thanks for sharing.