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

Can a Policy demand action?

From 1.4 Authority over Domains

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.

My current interpretation of this is that a Policy can't demand action. If it demands action, that can introduce a prioritization conflict between Policy demanded actions vs. all other operational priorities.

Example 1

"Anyone attending a tactical meeting must report on specific Holacracy habits defined by @Holacracy Lead." 

Chris Cowan explained that

The policy is not demanding action because no one is forced to attend tactical meetings. The policy is simply stating IF you want to attend tactical meetings, THEN you must report on the habit checklist items.

An invalid version would say something like, "Everyone must attend tactical meetings..." or "Everyone must report on checklist items defined by @Holacracy Lead."

Example 2

In the Circle's Tactical Meetings, an additional step is added after between the Check In Round and Checklist Review, which is called "Mission Statement Reflection". During this step, the Secretary reads the Circle's Purpose. The Facilitator then allows each participant in turn to share any thoughts relevant to the Purpose of the Circle.


I can read this as "You may only do a Tactical meeting if you take this additional step after Check In Round".

Again, this looks fine.

Example 3

At least once per month, each circle member must review their roles and the policies that impact their roles using the questions below. If the answer to any of the questions is "no", then that circle member has a responsibility to address that through a proposal at the next governance meeting.


This demands action and sets priority (once per month), thus this policy is void.

Example 4

If you use the company card to buy something, you must get an invoice and forward it to the Bookkeeper

I'm starting to be confused. It demands an action after I did something

Example 5

If you use the company card to buy something, you must get an invoice and forward it to the Bookkeeper within 3 days of the purchase

Now it even sets priorities! So is this still valid?

Example 6

That can be stretched to demand action, even outcomes with deadlines.

If you work in the Office, you must make sure it's clean every day.

Which demands the "Office is clean" outcome with a daily recurring deadline from people/roles who choose to work in the office.

I think I'm missing something, these don't seem to come together. The explanation from Chris Cowan (IF - THEN is valid in a policy) seems to be contradicting what I remember (might be wrong) learning from Brian on a Coach training:

A policy can prescribe a process for taking an action (You may only do X in the domain Y if you first do Z). But it can't demand that you have to do X after you have done Z.

Please help me sort this out


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