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

Brainstorming

Noob question:
I'm trying to gradually introduce the Holacracy structure into my staff meetings in preparation for moving to Holacracy in the future. 
I'm accustomed to using staff meetings as a forum to brainstorm projects such as promotional events and sales. I find that discussing projects with the staff really helps me to get unstuck, even if none of their roles are responsible for any aspect of the project while it's in the planning stages. They do usually have to show up, participate,  and explain it to customers, so it's good for them to be in the loop. But, I don't see a place for brainstorming in the tactical meeting. If brainstorming is the next action item on a project, do I need a separate meeting for that? Can I allot brainstorming time during the tactical if that's the only circle meeting I have?

7 Replies
Jean-Michel Gode
04/28/2018

Hi Rachel,

You're right on the spot.

If brainstorming is the next action item on a project, it has to be done in a separate meeting. Tactical meeting is just for organizing the work, not to make it.

Hope that helps,
Jean-Michel

Brian Robertson
04/28/2018

I get asked this question a lot, and I give a different answer than Jean-Michel's.  The tactical meeting is all about getting the tension holder what they need, and  brainstorming is absolutely welcomed during the tactical meeting if that's what they need - it's just a request for help of a certain type (one of the five common requests/pathways on the back of our tactical meeting process card).

However, the time allowed for it is limited; as Facilitator, I mentally calculate how many minutes we have per item on the agenda, and then allow about that many minutes per agenda item.  If the agenda has only a few tensions on it, that may allow space for a longer brainstorm; and if there are a lot of tensions on it, the agenda owner may only have a few minutes.  But within whatever time box they've got, it is the agenda owner that effectively controls how that space is used, not me the Facilitator.

The other issue I'm watching for as Facilitator with a request for brainstorming is why the person wants it; is it to help them get ideas (which is just fine), or is it really to seek buy-in/consensus so "we" can decide something and the agenda owner can duck using their own power/authority autocratically - if I sense it's that, I'm going to coach on the power structure of Holacracy and invite them to reframe their request (to just getting ideas so they can make their autocratic decision in their role that's already empowered to make it).

Rachel Hunt
04/28/2018

[@mention:449693036223847456]

Thanks for clarifying that. 
As a current owner/ manager who has not yet moved to Holacracy, the buy-in thing is an issue for me. Part of the reason I'm interested in Holacracy is that I'm tired of having to make all the decisions by myself. Staff members often seem to have no opinion, just waiting for me to tell them what to do. Or they're full of "ideas" which are usually well meaning, but half baked (and usually rather obvious) suggestions that no one has time to implement.
Brainstorming is both a way to get ideas/ input/ buy in from staff, and a way to take a little bit of pressure off me. Otherwise I end up being responsible to create and implement every single project all by myself, with "helpful" but irritating criticism from the peanut gallery.
The brainstorming gives the idea people somewhere to direct their energy and gives my idea factory a boost when I'm having creativity fatigue. Plus it allows potential problems to be anticipated before final plans are made. 

Yoad Rowner
04/29/2018

If you are a GTD practitioner: I just heard David Allen in one of his podcasts saying that a tactical meeting is an organization's weekly review and, I find, that just like I do brainstorming with myself during a weekly review, I find brainstorming with the team equally useful during tactical meetings to move projects forward.

Jenn
04/30/2018

Rachel,

Building on what Brian shared about owning your decisions your question drew my attention to a conversation I had a few months ago with a colleague about my school using Holacracy and her school's management. She shared that her director loves getting lots of feedback and ideas from everyone but ultimately doing whatever she wants. My colleague said it build a bit of frustration among the staff in that they didn't feel like their ideas were considered or valued particularly when they weren't implemented. I feel like when you own the decision brainstorming is a really tough line to walk. I can hear in your post that you feel isolated too as a leader so much rests on you and so often information silos prevent good ideas from getting to you no matter how hard you try. You're not alone in feeling that!

I've been where you are and I will share that Holacracy will help. Unfortunately that pain won't fully be alleviated until the fundamental power shift happens. Only when staff have the ability to bring forward ideas to directly impact accountability and policy change through governance will you get to see the full power of the change. 

My recommendation is if you're using something like a tactical meeting structure you would use the "Get information" pathway and ask a few pointed questions with the facilitator inviting those who have responses either popcorn or one at a time to answer. That in my experience works really well in replacing the brainstorming in meetings. Also consider what type of out of meetings structures you could use to make your thoughts and projects visible and invite feedback.

Last I will say if you want to, "introduce the Holacracy structure into my staff meetings in preparation for moving to Holacracy in the future" Find a thought partner who is willing to facilitate and challenge you as the leader. One of the big shifts happens when there is not a leader/facilitator combo but a neutral facilitator that holds everyone to the same process. 

Good luck and keep digging in! 

Jenn 

Rachel Hunt
04/30/2018

[@mention:570033054297079035] I like thinking of the tactical meeting as the organization's weekly review. 

Rachel Hunt
04/30/2018

[@mention:493184366878843164]  Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply.
I would dearly love to have someone other than me facilitating the meeting. I wish I had learned about Holacracy years ago when I had a bigger staff. As it is, I'm down to just me, one part time but very dedicated independent contractor, and a customer who volunteers because he wants to be helpful.  That's not even three whole people. I did without staff meetings for several months when I was doing almost all the work myself anyway. But I thought I'd try inviting the contractor and the volunteer to a weekly tactical meeting as an experiment. 
I'm hoping to get a feel of Holacracy before my staff grows again. Right now I'm just trying to define roles, get used to the meeting structure, and get my people to take some ownership of their ideas.
I've decided to try putting the student volunteer into a "maintenance" circle with my other guy as lead link. That way, they can do whatever repairs and improvements they deem necessary without running every detail by me first. 
Aaaand that's probably far more information than anyone needed to know about my business. It's nice to have some encouragement and support.