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

Can anyone comment on this article about Zappos?

Hello everyone!

I've found this article recently, and I would like to know what's really going on there. If this article about some real issue, then the community definitely needs to learn about it.


Can anyone please comment on this? Would be especially good if you will comment from your own experience.

8 Replies
Dennis Ross

I would be interested in learning more about the plan that the author offered to share.  Organizational evolution is not only supported in Holacracy, it is encouraged. 

"I offered a plan to empower teams, and included direct feedback that Zappos employees had given me about the move to Teal and Holacracy."


I would rather suggest reading this article Alexey: http://www.inc.com/ilan-mochar...archy-structure.html

Ruben @ Springest

I also have the experience that it is hard to implement and to change / unlearn / learn new behavior, but also very rewarding. It took my 15-30 people company a year to get good at it, and after 3,5 years we're still learning every day.

I expect it to remain a constant learning journey. I expect society to take 50+ years to make a real change in the way we organize. Just like we've had 100+ years of optimizing top down management in all it's nuances. And I think it's super hard to change an existing org so dramatically, as Zappos is trying.

Try to find the articles that are not written from the outside, if you're looking for some confirmation or demystification. But to me it's not really clear what you're looking for, actually

Brian Robertson

Bud wouldn't be the first person to e-mail Tony to tell him everything he's doing wrong around Holacracy and what to do to fix it (which usually involves using that person's system or consulting services instead)...  Zappos and Holacracy are convenient targets for anyone interested in tearing something down to build up their own thing (or for journalists more interested in click-throughs on sensationalized headlines than, say, doing actual journalism).

Zappos seems to be doing great as far as I can tell, and it looks to me like they're artfully navigating the many challenges that come with a massive transformation and paradigm shift (from my own first-hand experience of them plus lots of conversations with people who work there).  Per Ruben's point, if you want to know what's really going on in Zappos (or anywhere), check for first-hand accounts, and be wary of press and management-consultant bloggers...

Here's two more relevant articles with first-hand accounts (the one Margaux linked to is great as well, especially for a commentary... except the reference to Buffer trying Holacracy - that's a total press fabrication):



Fred Magovern

It felt rant-y, not a careful critique (which I'd be very interested in learning from!). It also relies on the implicit premise that once you have an established company/culture, you should only do things which reinforce it, and never consider adjusting/changing direction. The company is changing, and people now have an opportunity to see if it's still a good fit. NBD

Karilen Mays

I was dismayed to get this article in my inbox because I am inferring someone spent a lot of time and was very intentional about it. However, I wonder about the motivations and the judgments at play.

I have visited Zappos twice since last April. And I have been in touch with both Tony and others who are leading the Holacracy effort, and a smaller amount with other individuals within Zappos. I too would be curious to know what specific plan this author put forth, though with the kind of judgments in the article I would have a hard time finding them credible. At Zappos, they have been heads down, working on teal practices and their compensation system, and other aspects of running a business that have always been needed. They work on conflict management, and launching and removing circles, and helping colleagues learn how to own their authority. So the work continues. And I know I don't have the whole picture.

They are still in the difficult place of shifting paradigms and doing the hard work of evolving their organization. I admire them and do think it is brave what they are doing. And I don't think Holacracy is too difficult for the average worker to adopt, though it is a challenge. That is to be expected. This is part of the reason I am almost the anti sales person when organizations want to adopt Holacracy; I want them to go in with their eyes open to the continued journey Ruben is speaking to.

Finally, Holacracy simply wasn't born out of theory and I would guess that authors who think so are trying to articulate something valuable, but I don't think they really get the paradigm shift with this kind of commentary. Not sure if that is the kind of discourse you are looking for Alexey. Let me know.

Alexey Ilyichev

Karilen, that helps a lot! Thanks!

Dien Kwik

Hi, all:

For those interested, there is a response from Tony Hsieh and Fred Mossler regarding this: