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

Changing Holacracy® Objection Test Question #3 - Looking for Experimenters!

Hey all, 

I have a change for the backside (objection-test) of the governance card I want to throw out to the community because, while I think the change makes sense, I don't have many opportunities to test it myself. So, I wanted to share the change here and see if anyone would be willing to experiment with it. Specifically, I want to change the current version of test question #3 from this:

Do you know this impact will occur...OR...are you anticipating the impact will likely occur?

To this: 

Would the proposal necessarily create the harm if adopted…OR...are you anticipating the harm could happen?

Now, if you want to know why I think this change is needed you can read about that here. As for why I chose these specific words, here are my reasons for each change. 

1. I took out the word, "impact" from the old version because there were just too many synonyms on the old card overall (harm, concern, impact, issue, etc.). Now it just uses "concern."

2. I removed the phrasing, “…will likely occur?” from the second half of the question because the criteria isn’t about the objector’s sense of the likelihood of the harm. In other words, the old choices don’t account for concerns which may be unlikely but still dramatically impactful (e.g. “There’s a small chance this could happen, but if it did, we’d be bankrupt.”) So, really the important thing is that the old version needs to be retired immediately. 

3. I also added the word, “could,” to the second half because objectors usually make their anticipation transparent by using words like, “could, “maybe,” or “might,” and "could" just felt like the right one. 

4. I started the question with, "Would the proposal...” because I wanted to establish that any concern the objector has, is based on a proposed change. Too often an objector will say something like, “This will create a problem because…” and facilitators hear the word, “will,” and immediately (and probably unconsciously) assume the objector is anticipating. But again, since all objections are based on a proposed change, all objections are anticipatory. And that’s not what this criterion is really about.

5. I also added, “if adopted" to further clarify (for both the objector and facilitator) that any concern is automatically based on a proposed change, therefore it’s perfectly appropriate for an objector to use future tense words like, “will.”

6. Finally, the most controversial bit: "...necessarily cause.” To understand my reasoning, you have to understand something about what governance actually is. Governance is a map. So, the facilitator is asking essentially, how does changing this map create harm? And since governance is only roles, domains, or policies, you have to understand what those constructs do (as defined by the constitution) to determine whether the proposal would necessarily create the issue.

So, let’s look at a test case. Imagine a new accountability is proposed on one of the objector’s roles, “Translating documents into all foreign languages.” The objector states, “That will take too much time.” Now, it would be easy to dismiss this objection because it’s about resources, but in fact, even with infinite time it probably doesn’t make sense to translate docs into ”all” foreign languages. And that’s the point of using the word “necessarily.” Because having an accountability like this doesn’t leave much room for interpretation; i.e. it necessarily creates the issue.

I also considered, "automatically," instead of "necessarily," but "automatically" seems too colloquial and is used in too many different contexts to be effective for inquiry, and I think "necessarily," conveys it's really about one's reasoning (i.e. the data used).  


So, that's it. Happy to receive and respond to questions or feedback of course. Any takers willing to try it out with some new people?

5 Replies

Il like this change, thanks Chris !

When I'll have the opportunity, I'll try it. That sounds to me quite a clearer sentence.

Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Chris,

Smart and subtle improvement.


Tom Mulder

Hi Chris, like the focus on the harm. Question: why do you choose to keep "issue" in the first part instead of "harm"? Why not:  Would the proposal necessarily create the harm if adopted…OR...are you anticipating the harm could happen? This way all in the question is focused on the harm and by that resonates with the question: Do you see any reason why adopting this proposal causes harm or moves us backwards.

Will start to test the question. Keep you posted.

Chris Cowan

[@mention:523162737680436711] Good catch! I actually did change it to "harm," on the card but mistakenly wrote, "issue" when I was rewriting it for this post. The intended version will say, " Would you proposal necessarily cause the harm if adopted....or..." : ) I'll try to edit the OP. 

Paul Walker

I like seeing the constant updates, [@mention:455886150941203371]!

I'm sure this verbiage wouldn't work well officially on the card/constitution, but I personally just go with something akin to, "Do you know [objection] will happen?" It's more personalized and easily comprehended, and their answer/explanation always reveals if it's a harmless assumption or a viable risk.