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

Definition of "tension"


In the Constitution definition of "Tension" is pretty clear:

(...) You are responsible for monitoring how your Role’s Purpose and
Accountabilities are expressed, and comparing that to your vision of their
ideal potential expression, to identify gaps between the current reality and
a potential you sense (each gap is a “Tension”). (...)

But as far as I understand the word "to express" - this tension relates to the the "governance tensions" - is that correct? - If you check how it is "expressed" meaning "described" then you discuss about your Role description?

How about so called "tactical tensions" - I understand them, we use them, but I don't think they are really described in the Constitution?

Any comments?


3 Replies
Tom Mulder

Mikolaj, every gap between the current reality and a potential you sense is a Tension. In the Tactical meeting (art 4.2.3(e)) you see that we triage the Tensions that are on the agenda that has been build.

You can express a Tension that is Tactical that comes from an Accountability of one of your roles (Governance).

For example: in my role "Speechmaker", where I have the Accountability to represent the organization and talk about Holacracy,  I have the Tension that often their is no good sound installation on the venue's where I come. Therefore I want a Next action from the Role "Stuff we Need" to buy a portable speaker set for me.

So in both Tactical as Governance we process Tensions but also outside of these meetings you can express and process Tensions with other Roles.

Hope this helps.


I have posted this question few months ago, then I thought it was clear, but now it is again unclear for me

We do the study of Constitution in our organisation and we had a huge discussion about defnition of "Tension".

As far as I undestand in Constitution there is no "definition of tension" - in 1.2.1 is described the situation when your role descritption is not as good as it could be and then it is mentioned that this situation is a "Tension"

In other words - "that is an example of a Tension" - but this is not definition - am I correct? (In 4.2.3(e) word "tension" is used, but again it is not defined)

It is not mentioned anywere else that any difference between actual and ideal is a tension - it looks like we take word that was used in discussion about role description and we use it for any "un-ideal" situation.

That is my understanding - any comment that can make it clearer?

Tom Mulder

Mikolaj, what 1.2.1 states is the definition of a Tension: A gap between current reality and a potential you sense, and where each gap is a Tension.

Maybe the Holacracy Wiki helps you with the definitions: http://wiki.holacracy.org/index.php?title=Tension