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

Going Without A Lead Link

Yo, friends!

At Zappos, the Holacracy Circle has evolved to the point that we currently do not have a Lead Link and have distributed all authorities across the Circle to all Circle Members. We are the only Circle in the company thus far to do it because it is not easy, so we do not even recommend it to anyone else, especially since we are testing this out and learning as we go.

I wanted to reach out to the community to see if anyone else has done away with the Lead Link of your Circle in any other companies. I have not heard of anyone else doing this yet, but if you have, I would love to chat and share perspectives, challenges, etc.

Thanks!

27 Replies
Bernard Marie Chiquet
03/20/2016

Hey Paul,

Interesting, I'm looking forward to getting the lessons you're going to learn as you go.

One of our client has tried that but not fully - just getting out of LL some authorities like assigning partners, allocating ressources and defining priorities/strategies.

 

Ruben @ Springest
03/21/2016

Interesting! Does "distributed all authorities across the Circle to all Circle Members" mean that you've governed all accountabilities that the LL normally has, to other (or all??) circle roles? Could you clarify, maybe by showing those accountabilities and the roles that currently hold them?

Also, what kind of tensions made this happen? I don't see a "problem" with the LL role, although we have added policies around it to make things more specific.

Serge Beaumont
03/21/2016

FYI (For your Inspiration :-) ):

For the Lead Link I see two accountabilities as the most important ones:

  1. prioritization of circle-wide priorities (generally coming in from outside),
  2. and the assignment of "souls to roles".

On 1:

Since I am an Agile consultant I see the prioritization responsibility for the whole circle as the equivalent of the Product Owner role for an Agile team, and that is a crucial role to have, if only to keep prioritization politics of the containing circle outside your circle. If there would be any single responsibility I would keep in the LL role, it would be this one.

On 2:

In Sociocracy, on which Holacracy is partly inspired, all authorities are decided by consent decision making by default. I've looked it up for you: the Dutch sociocracy site has more information, but this is the best I could find on short notice.

http://thesociocracygroup.com/...nciples/#toggle-id-4

On the Dutch site there is also a brochure (in Dutch) that goes into the principles more deeply. It states:

"Voor elke functie en taak wordt naar de meest passende persoon gezocht. Daartoe is een open gesprek over ieders mogelijkheden en belangen onontbeerlijk. Als alle kringleden consent geven aan de verkiezing van een bepaalde persoon, wordt hem de taak of functie toegewezen, uiteraard na consent van de persoon zelf."

Translated:

"For each function and task we look for the best fitting person. For this an open conversation about everyone's possibilities and interests (concerns) is essential. If all circle members give consent to the election of a specific person, then that task or function is assigned to her, of course after the consent of that person herself."

The conclusion of this is: in sociocracy the Operational Lead (equivalent of Lead Link) does prioritize, but does not assign people.

Maybe that viewpoint helps you in your choices.

Karilen Mays
03/21/2016

Paul, I am so glad you posted this here! First thought is that I love the experimentation. As long as you all continue to process tensions, then I would think you can weather the disruption of the experiment.

Second thought is that I am really unsure how this is constitutional.  Here is why: all circles require a LL, and a circle doesn't have the authority to remove it completely. http://www.holacracy.org/constitution#art22

Have you all passed a constitutional amendment to allow the above?

From the rest of the organization I believe your circle still has a LL, even if not "technically filled" according to the above and: http://www.holacracy.org/constitution#art223

According to 223 you can delegate all the functions, but not actually remove the role completely. I believe that LL is still a needed function and that a single point is needed to catch things that fall between the cracks, EVEN if you explicitly delegate each function to some process. That way, the circle is held accountable to the broader org for the purpose, etc and there is someone paying attention to -- for example -- the structure as needs change over time. (If everyone is accountable, no one is accountable, and We is a terrible worker, etc...)

I figure you all have likely thought this through...and normally I would not be quoting the constitution, but since you are Paul, I thought you would appreciate the clarity and likely have some thoughts for me about why this makes sense. 

As terrible as it may feel to have a single point of failure as LL, and centralized starting point for those functions, then I haven't seen anything (yet!) worthy of a better starting point.

One common thing I have seen are delegating some functions -- so role assignments, or budgeting, or prioritization for a type of work, or metrics, to clear processes. We have some examples in HolacracyOne like that. Never have I seen or heard of delegating all LL functions; not sure how one would effectively go about that, so I am curious!

I would love to have a call with you Zappos Hola coaches to explore how we can iterate on this with you. Thanks again for sharing!

Karilen Mays
03/21/2016

To Serge's point - in our GlassFrog team for example, the Product Manager role sets development priorities, not the LL...it could stay on LL or be defined on a more appropriate role, perhaps depending on fit for role, clarity of process, maturity of team, etc. 

Karilen Mays
03/21/2016

One other thought -- if you've literally delegated all functions to every role in the circle then each role has the autocratic authority to act like Lead Link in my view, so wonder how that would work in your circle, Paul... thoughts? So I can simply assign someone to a role, as if I were LL, or set a priority as if I were LL, etc, unless a clear process saying different has been defined.

Dennis Ross
03/22/2016

Paul,

In addition to sharing the Governance that was enacted to support the experiment, I would be interested in hearing how the Holacracy Circle is represented in the broader Circle.  To Karilen's point, the LL is the catch-all for any and all work that has yet to be defined in a role within the Circle.

Also, if you set up a call with Karilen and the Hola coaches, I'd love to join in the discussion.

Thanks for sharing,

- Dennis

Paul Walker
03/22/2016

Thank you so much for the interest, feedback, suggestions, and everything else. It is awesome to see so much intrigue about our adventure! I created an Evernote document that details the entire process and all the Q&As we have gotten. This should address every question I have seen so far.

https://www.evernote.com/shard...e6cfe2c2ee8d8210eb88

Karilen, most of the Constitutional things you pointed out were already taken care of by the way we did it (as we didn't remove the LL). You did point out one thing we hadn't thought of, that technically the LL Role will always be filled automatically, so I just proposed something new in the Super-Circle to fix that and added those details in the Evernote as well.

Since there is so much interest, I may set up an open office hours thing that anyone can join in on if they are interested in asking questions, providing feedback, etc.

Margaux
03/23/2016

Hi Paul,

 

This is an awesome experiment, thank you for sharing!

What tension led you to such experiment? I'd be curious to know the “why” behind the solution.

 

Thanks,

Bernard Marie Chiquet
03/23/2016

Bis on Margaux's question - would like to get the "Why" 

Paul Walker
03/23/2016

The "Why" was mostly addressed under the "Why are you trying this out in the first place? Did the standard Lead Link / Rep Link configuration fail the Circle?" question. However, it is jumbled in the middle with everything else and should be one of the first things you see, so I shall adjust that! To sum it up:

We rarely had any need of our Lead Link anyway. Other than Role assignment (which was always just done at our own request anyway), there was not much that ever needed to be done as a Lead Link, because we quickly and efficiently took care of whatever was needed as a team. Once our Lead Link resigned, we chatted and realized we might be able to do it in a way that is more efficient than having a Lead Link. Thus, it is half experimentation, half self-actualization (in the Hierarchy of Role Needs).

Hopefully that mostly addresses it, but if you still have questions, please do not hesitate to ask!

Serge Beaumont
03/23/2016

Paul,

It seems you are making a Role vs. Soul mistake? In your answer you describe your Lead Link as a person ("when our Lead Link resigned", "not much needed to be done as a LL"...). You also mentioned "do it in a way" which is about the way in which the role is energized. That's not governance, that's tactical, methinks.

Paul Walker
03/23/2016

Yo, Serge.

I am a bit confused by what you are trying to say as the difference between this being governance or tactical, to be honest. You could argue that "doing the work" is often a tactical thing, but no Tension is explicitly one or the other. If the work is always being done in a certain way or has no need to be done at all, should you not update your governance to accurately reflect that?

It has nothing to do with WHO our LL was. Based on our experience when we did have a LL, we realized that there was practically no reason for that work to exist in the way it did. The Role itself was basically obsolete and we determined a much better way for our Circle to energize the functions that were previously done by the LL.

Hopefully that clears it up a bit, but if not, please do let me know. I am eager to get as much feedback on this as possible and poke any holes in our system.

Dennis Ross
03/23/2016

Paul,

How is the circle represented in the broader circle?

Thanks,

- Dennis

Paul Walker
03/23/2016

Yo, Dennis!

Our Rep Link still represents the Circle as they normally would.

Karilen Mays
03/23/2016

Question, as anyone questioned the existence of the circle itself? If there is really no need for LL-ing, then why have an additional circle? Making a proposal to dissolve the circle or re-shape it with the current context in mind could be a good way to get data about that. Distributing LL authority is one thing and possible; removing (not constitutional anyway) or not needing sounds like a symptom of something else needing to be processed.

Can't wait to read your Evernote doc Paul.

Paul Walker
03/23/2016

Thus far, nobody has questioned the existence of the Circle at all. The Circle has a lot of full-time people doing a TON of very valuable work. My question, based on many of the responses we get on this topic, is why everyone thinks the Lead Link is so necessary? Obviously, they are built in for a very important reason, they are typically the person that holds it all together, and in most cases, they are needed.

However, if the work is getting done either way and everyone on the team knows what is happening and is aligned on the direction the Circle needs to go, is the Lead Link really necessary? So far, we are proving that to not be the case. Of course, if it fails miserably, we'll find out together!

Karilen Mays
03/23/2016

Paul, I wasn't questioning the need for the work or the roles; just the circle in its current configuration. Circle boundaries can dramatically be reshaped over time based on new contexts...and if there is no need for a LL between the roles in the circle, then I question the circle (not the roles).

Still can't imagine how this is constitutional, so when I review your Evernote doc I will see what else I can learn!

Margaux
03/24/2016

Thank you Paul for clarifying the “why”. Bernard Marie and I are very “why” focused so it was indeed a bit odd for us not to see it on top of your document

I love your experiment and of course, I am a bit doubtful because it is new but I am very open-minded to see how it goes and maybe it will be a great value to catalyze the PowerShift in companies practicing Holacracy (which is, by the way, our purpose so we are very interested by your experiment).

One thought I have here is what we've described in our comic book when talking about the Lead Link role (http://igipartners.com/en/read...ok-free#page-152-153): the two links (up->down and bottom->up) allows to have two different focuses/directions: the Rep Link seizes the tension from the Sub-Circle and bring it up to the Super-Circle and the Lead Link brings tensions from the Super-Circle to the Sub-Circle to differentiate the work. If the Rep Link does both, we might lose a perspective and it might create a schizophrenia if only one person has to deal with both perspectives (the Super-Circle and the Sub-Circle one). Again, this is pure speculation based on what the manager was doing and didn't work. Though in your Holacracy Circle I bet you didn't have a manager before so t might be easier.

Please keep me posted on the evolution of this!

Margaux
03/24/2016

I have another question (I can't stop thinking about that topic ^^): if everyone is a Lead Link, does that mean everyone can object to anything proposed in governance even if it doesn't fall in their roles / same for proposing something in governance of the circle?

Paul Walker
03/24/2016

Sorry for the misunderstanding, Karilen. I look forward to your feedback once you read it!

Margaux, definitely a good call-out for the Rep Link going insane by having to go both up and down with the information. So far there have not been any issues, but as with any other part of this crazy experiment, as soon as issues start up, we shall address it in some way or another.

"If everyone is a Lead Link, does that mean everyone can object to anything proposed in governance even if it doesn't fall in their roles / same for proposing something in governance of the circle?"

Correct! That is why alignment across the entire team is so incredibly important, but it also means we can all protect the Circle more efficiently than normal, so it has pros and cons.

Margaux
04/02/2016

I guess you didn't fix that Lead Link problem afterall #zapposceo

https://youtu.be/3zieP6NUWL8

Andrea Faré
04/04/2016

Hi Paul,

very interesting, I have a comment to make about the approach you followed:

If I get it right your Collective Responsibility policy defines additions to the scope of "governance validity", I am not sure it is valid governance to say that a policy can add to the definition of "valid governance".

Isn't it in practice somehow cloning 5.2.2 by extending it to any Circle (besides anchor), by means of an ad-hoc policy?

Andrea.

 

 

 

Paul Walker
04/04/2016

FYI - We recently drastically changed the Policy in our Circle and how it operates. The Evernote document was already updated with the changes.

Margaux posted:

I guess you didn't fix that Lead Link problem afterall #zapposceo

https://youtu.be/3zieP6NUWL8

Haha. Touche, Margaux!

Andrea Faré posted:

Hi Paul,

very interesting, I have a comment to make about the approach you followed:

If I get it right your Collective Responsibility policy defines additions to the scope of "governance validity", I am not sure it is valid governance to say that a policy can add to the definition of "valid governance".

Isn't it in practice somehow cloning 5.2.2 by extending it to any Circle (besides anchor), by means of an ad-hoc policy?

Andrea.

Yo, Andrea! Thank you for the great questions and pointing that stuff out. I had not considered it previously. Here are some of my thoughts.

1) It is indeed copying 5.2.2. It was a far more simple and efficient way of doing things the way we have been doing it, and has all the checks-and-balances needed for when issues pop up.

2) Definitely makes sense that you can't add stuff to the scope of Governance. However, not only does 5.2.2 do just that, but there is also 3.3.7. The way I read it, we are simply using the same facilitated process within our Governance meeting to make those operational decisions. None of it is actually being captured in GlassFrog by the Secretary, so it does not contradict with that piece, we are just using the process to make a decision. Really, this Policy just distributes the LL authority in a way that anyone can make LL decisions, so long as they use the Integrative Decision-Making Process.

http://www.holacracy.org/constitution#art337

I would love to get your thoughts (and anyone else's) on the matter. Currently, nobody outside our Circle and the Super-Circle has questioned the validity of anything, and both of those Secretaries agree that it is all valid thus far. However, I will keep updating our document as questions come up!

Brian Robertson
04/04/2016

Hi Paul,

I know I’m a bit late to this party, but wanted to offer some of my own perspectives here.

First, I love the spirit of experimentation, and using the governance process to create new organizational forms and processes to test.  At the same time, there are some things you probably don’t want to experiment with (say, home-made nuclear reactors).  I think this falls into the latter category - I’d suggest letting this particular experiment go, as well as celebrating the spirit that led to it and all the learning you’ve gleaned from it.

There are many reasons I say that, and here are a few:

1)  I’d definitely interpret the policies you’ve got in place around this as unconstitutional, and if there’s any circle you want to be a role-model of unquestionable constitutional alignment, it’s your key Holacracy implementation/support circle.  I’m happy to share more about why I’d say they’re unconstitutional if you’d like.  Though even if you or others reach different conclusions, I think the case is more weighted to invalid than valid, and that’s enough that you don’t even want the question surfacing.  I also don’t think there’s a way to resolve the constitutionality problems with any possible changes you could make, short of a constitutional amendment.

2)  Because of the above, I’d say any broader circle Facilitator, all the way up the holarchy, could easily declare a Process Breakdown in whatever immediate sub-circle ultimately holds the circle trying to operate with no lead link.  And again, if there’s one circle you don’t want any chance of someone declaring a Process Breakdown for, it’s this one.

3)  There are some reasons that Lead Links are constitutionally required that I don’t think you’ve replaced the need for with your policies, which risks hurting the tension processing capacity of the organization (one key reason for sticking to the constitution is so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally hurting that and not realizing it).  For example, you’ve delegated lead link authorities, but have nothing to cover some of the accountabilities and key functions of a lead link behind why they have those authorities in the first place.  A few examples: the lead link acting as a catch-all for anything that falls through the cracks between other roles; holding the overall circle structure & purpose and looking for what’s missing or off; acting as a single representative of the circle to those outside the circle and connecting people and tensions into the circle; etc.  Done well, the lead link shouldn’t be a role with “more power” than other roles, but just another function - and a needed one.

4)  This really looks a lot like an experiment that came from an idea (vs. specific tensions grounded in examples of roles trying to get work done and solving concrete business challenges in the way).  If you’re going to delegate lead link authority, I’d recommend doing it one authority at a time, and only when a role trying to do its main business function hits a specific obstacle that a very specific delegation would resolve.  That will keep your experimentation much more grounded and much more focused - more surgical than shotgun.

5)  Overall, I think this last part of your note sums up some of the danger here:

To make this system of not having a Lead Link work, everyone needs to be on the same page. If someone is not, the best solution may be to get them off the bus, not because they are not liked as a person, but because the whole machine will fail if a single cog is not turning the same way as the rest ...

That’s exactly what Holacracy’s rules are designed to prevent the need for, because that cog turning a different way is often the low-voltage light for your circle or organization.

 

All that said, note there's actually a feature under development in v5.0 specifically to allow lead link less circles - so you're definitely sensing an opportunity for a new kind of process that's in the general direction of where Holacracy is headed... though it'll come with a lot of other requirements and default accountabilities as well, to address all the issues above and keep it "safe enough to try" (and, of course, it'll be constitutional once the constitution allows it!).

Hope that's helpful; happy to chat about this further real-time with you or anyone else over on your team there...

- Brian

Paul Walker
04/14/2016

Yo, Brian!

Thank you very much for the feedback. As with all the other feedback thus far, we have already made a lot of changes and started up several conversations because of this, so everything helps! We'll be chatting tomorrow about the Constitutional aspects of it, but my feedback on the rest of your points is linked below.

https://www.evernote.com/shard...606eda5f935c7fb6ec3e

Thank you again! Please do not hesitate to let me know if any other questions/comments/concerns arise from the response.

Brian Robertson
04/14/2016

Hey Paul - I read your responses; I have many thoughts, though I'm not clear what you're looking for here at this point, if anything?  I'm sensing that my challenging or debating your conclusions is probably not what you're after, and probably unlikely to add much value.  If there is something that you're looking for from me or would find valuable, in order for me to serve you best, I'd recommend that you balance more inquiry into your always-excellent advocacy.  That will give me more openings where I can share insights appropriately, and allow me to focus my coaching so it's more aligned with what you're looking for and serves Zappos most effectively.