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

Adding Policies to roles (sections 1.4 and 2.1.3)

There's been some confusion about policies. Governance was used to create a policy on a role held by another circle member. Question is: Is another circle member allowed to use governance to create a policy on a role's domain?

The role holder doesn't agree with the policy and wasn't there during the governance where it was created.

It seems like governance can be used to create policies on a circle. But policies on a role are defined by the holder of that role and outside of governance. Is this correct? There are two parts of the constitution that say different things about this:

1.4 Authority over domains

As a Partner assigned to a Role, you have the authority to control and regulate each Domain of your Role. You may do this on a case-by-case basis when others request permission to impact one of your Domains, by considering the request and allowing or withholding permission.

You may also define “Policies” for your Domains, which are either grants of authority that allow others to control or cause a material impact within a Domain, or limits on how others may do so when otherwise authorized. Before a Policy is valid, you must first publish it in a forum convenient to all Partners who may be impacted.

2.1.3: Delegation of control

When a Circle defines a Domain upon one of its Roles, the Circle’s authority to impact, control, and regulate that Domain is instead delegated to that Role and removed from the Circle.

However, the Circle retains the right to amend or remove that Domain delegation, or to define or modify Policies that further grant or constrain the Role’s authority within the Domain.


Does this last part mean any circle member can define or modify a role's policy during governance? Or how should I interpret this?



13 Replies
Andrei Miron

Yes your interpretation is correct any core circle member can propose a Policy in a governance meeting. If the Role which holds the domain was absent then according to the section 3.3.2 it is considering he did had any objections.

If he has a tension with the new Policy he can change it in the next governance meeting.

Dien Kwik

Hi, [@mention:549059653898032589]:

I have a slightly different take on it.  

Any circle members can further grant or constrain the Role's Authority within the domain

Let's say in circle "X", there is a role "A" that has been delegated the "D" Domain.  Role "A" has published a policy "P" on that domain.

Now, I've always interpreted the above line of the constitution to mean that members of circle "X" can modify the scope of delegation of domain "D" to role "A", but not  directly modify the policy "P" that role "A" has made for domain "D".

Circle Member of Circle "X" can say, create a policy "Q" (in circle X) that limits the usage of Domain "D" by role "A" to only certain situations, or that disallows access to certain roles no matter what.  In this case, the Circle Members do not modify Policy "P" directly.  This is to be done by role "A" after policy "Q" has been consented. If Policy "P" violates the new policy "Q", then role "A" needs to update policy "P" to be inline with policy "Q".  

Now, it could be said that by making policy "Q", circle members are effectively forcing a modification on policy "P".  This may be true, but at least it is clear that circle members can not directly modify policies on domains that have been delegated to roles, thus respecting the sovereignty of each role/circle.

This is somewhat similar to accountabilities put on a circle.  The super circle can modify accountabilities on the sub-circle, but not how the sub-circle distribute the accountabilities within the sub-circle.  When the super circle changes the accountabilities on a sub-circle, it is up to the sub-circle to propagate the change to the roles within it. The super circle can not directly put accountabilities on roles within the sub-circle.

Hope I'm not confusing you more with all my alphabets Couldn't find another way to describe it.

This is my interpretation. Curious if most others interpret it this way as well.

Kevin Bombino

My interpretation has been consistent with Dien's above, but I'd imagine this is a case where the specifics matter a little more than the structure and it's hard to answer the question so abstractly.

In either case, I think he can simply state his tension at the next governance meeting and try to get the new policy changed or removed.

Olivier Compagne

I interpret it similarly to [@mention:450819477777465353]. 

A concrete example that may or may not speak to you: 

At HolacracyOne, I fill the Website Strategy role with a domain on "The holacracy.org and the glassfrog.com public-facing (non-app) websites"

Based on this domain alone, my role seems to control the entire websites so I can do whatever I want with them. However, some GCC policies add some constraints, such as this policy: 

Visual representations of the brands must follow the official Graphic Style Guide:
Any role releasing products and materials that graphically represent the Holacracy or HolacracyOne brands must align with the Graphic Style Guide defined by Brand Visual Design.

And this one:

Messaging Standards for the Holacracy Brand:

... (a) All prominent mentions of the brand must include a "®" symbol next to it. ...

(b) All printed or digital documents marketing the brand should include the following statement somewhere in the copy, typically at the bottom of the page or the footer of the webpage: "Holacracy is a trademark of HolacracyOne, LLC."

(c) The name "Holacracy" should be used consistently without spelling deviation: use it capitalized, don't use a translation (e.g. Holacratie, Holakratie), don't transform it into an adjective (e.g. holacratic).  ...

So I can change the website however makes sense for my role, but within the constraints of these policies. 

Now, proposing a circle policy limiting a delegated domain is valid governance, however it might be a bad idea and someone might have an objection (it would not be a "Not valid governance" objection, but it could be another objection - depending on the specifics) 

Sandy Li

Very helpful , thanks to all !

Tom Mulder

[@mention:449411339497350002]. In your example the restrictions come from other Policies that are not directly related (Branding) to the Domain Website Strategy. Looking at the last paragraph of your post it is valid Governance to set a Circle Policy that impacts the Domain.

For example a Circle Policy: "All relevant roles may add new people biography to the assigned team pages on the website" would be OK.

This Policy would then trump a Policy from the Domain holder on this and the Domain holder should bring his Policies in line with this Circle Policy.

Is this the correct interpretation of your post?


Anne Nynke

Quite some responses indicating there's quite some different interpretations of the constitution related to policies! Nice to see so much input, thank you all!

Thank you for your example [@mention:449411339497350002]! I understand that adding policies on circle level is allowed (in super circle's governance if I'm not mistaken?) But what happened in our case is that a policy was added to a role. I'll continue using your case as an example. 

Imagine in the same circle as Website Strategy role there's also a Web Support role that, during governance, proposes to add a policy to the Website Strategy role's domain on the Website: 

Policy: Web Support role is allowed to add, edit or remove content of website as long as this is communicated with the circle

This is sort of what happened in our case.

From my understanding you can use governance to add a policy to a (sub) circle.
But my question remains: Is a circle member also allowed to use governance to add a policy to another role's domain?

My interpretation is consistent with the example illustrated by [@mention:450819477777465353]. (Thank you for your reply!) Which means IMO it would not be allowed to use governance to add a policy to a role, only to a circle. What would you say [@mention:449411339497350002]?

Anne Nynke

Side note is that in our case the person proposing to add the policy on this role is also holding the secretary role, which means their interpretation trumps another's.

Olivier Compagne

[@mention:549059653898032589] It's also my interpretation of article 2.1.3.

[@mention:523162737680436711] Yes it's what I meant

Andrei Miron

So [@mention:449411339497350002] you are saying that as soon as a Domain it is delegated to a Role no one can get access through a Policy made in the Governance meeting? The only way is to get that Policy from the Role which holds the Domain?

I mean in the example above, taking into consideration the website is a Domain for a role, the Policy "Web Support role is allowed to add, edit or remove content of website as long as this is communicated with the circle." it is valid only if it is made it by the holder of the Domain website?

Olivier Compagne

[@mention:544274267266420910] No, my interpretation is that if the Website Strategy role has a Domain over "the website", then the Web Support role only has two ways to get a policy allowing him/her to impact that Domain:

  • Asking the Website Strategy role to create a role policy outside of a governance meeting
  • Proposing in governance a policy on the circle (not on Website Strategy) allowing him/her to impact the Domain. 

With option #2, it would essentially mean that Website Strategy controls the Domain, with the exception of the circle policy that allows Web Support to impact it in the ways specified by the policy. Makes sense?

Andrei Miron

[@mention:449411339497350002] so the second policy it will have (proposed by the  Website Support in governance meeting) will have the Domain affected "All Functions&Activities within the Circle" and not the "Website"? Also this is the way to find out if the Policy is made by the Role who owns the Domain and not someone else (of course in the Governance meeting)?

Olivier Compagne

Yes (unless the circle is a subcircle and had "the website" domain delegated from the broader circle), and yes