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

Absences Part 1: Responsibility/Authority Coverage

Holacrats - 

The constitution provides clarity about absences regarding filling the responsibilities of elected roles (2.5.4) and to some extent lead link and role holders during tactical (4.2.4).

What about other planned or unplanned absences?

If a role-holder is out for illness or vacation, is the role considered temporarily unfilled and so becomes the responsibility of lead link (2.2.1)?

What if that individual lacks the specific skills necessary to meet a need - do we then consider someone stepping in as taking Individual Action (4.3)?

Your input kindly requested

3 Replies
Juliane Martina Röll

Hi Keith! What comes to my mind is:

  1. You can always go to the Lead Link and ask them to temporarily assign the Role to you or someone else competent - this should create safety and clarity, and avoids needing to use Individual Action, working in the realm of the absent person's Role.
  2. Individual Action is always possible. Do what you need to do. :-)

What do you think? What do others think?

Keith Jarvis

I'm thinking of much greater coordination & planning than just waiting until it occurs and asking for temporary assignment.



I'm not sure that we all understand your tension but I'm going to give it a go. One thing I will say before I go into more details on some ways we handle coordination and planning is that so many worries I had never came to light so sometimes there is lingering anxiety from past experiences but when given autonomy partners step up to be responsible and those tensions never came to light from my worries. 

Perhaps you work in an organization where there is a lot more time focus as there is for us in a preschool program. We need a specific number of teachers in classrooms based on the number of children in the room, so if someone is absent someone else needs to step into that role. We have handled that a few ways.

We have a role for back up (role name) and interim (role name) for a few different roles that need that.

- So our licensing dictates that there is an administrator on site and the back up role steps in if necessary to represent us if needed.

- The interim role we established is like a substitute list, possible role fillers whose accountability is filling the (role name) accountabilities in their absence. Only those who are on-boarded to the role would hold the interim role.

One other thing we have done is have a scheduler role whose purpose is organized and clear schedules for all. That role does a lot of coordination especially when schedules change.

Lastly we have a policy for scheduled and unscheduled absences communication. So we have a decision tree for authorization of vacation time and a slack schedule channel for communication about absences. 

Our governance is not perfect but that's not the point. Develop things and move towards achieving your purpose. I think if you ground into the tension and sense if the tension is because of some old anxieties or something sensed in the current structure. You can process it and develop governance around your organizations needs. Hope it helps!