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

How do you handle generic Circles?

Hi, It's the first time I write here and I will introduce myself.
I'm Giuseppe and I fill the facilitator Role in my Circle.
I'm e developer and "expert" in agile methodologies (Xp and Scrum)

I have a question about Holacracy.
How do you handle interactions between roles in different circles?
For instance: the role "organizer" inside the circle X have to cooperate with the role Communication that is inside the Circle Y but also the role "foo" that is inside the Circle Z have to cooperate with the role Communication.
I don't understand where the tensions can be handled...
And in general how do you handle interection with Generic Circles (ex.: Marketing, Administration ...) ?


5 Replies
Eric Babinet

Hi Giuseppe,

It would depend on the type of tension. If this is an operational tension the Organizer role-filler can of course talk to the Communication role-filler or any other roles in any circle to try and get the tension resolved. If it's a governance tension (e.g. Organizer role-filler wants to add/change an accountability of Communication) then the Organizer role-filler would need to bring the tension to the circle X Rep Link, to process in the parent circle.

Do you have a specific tension in mind?


Eric Babinet

I'm assuming that there are not any cross-links between any of the circles in your example. If there was a cross-link (e.g. from circle X to circle Y) then the Organizer role-filler could route the tension through the cross-link instead of the Rep Link.

Brian Robertson

This is totally off-topic (apologies), but thought I'd share a quick nuanced coaching point here while the opportunity presents:

Eric, I noticed in your post above that you're labeling/categorizing tensions as either a "governance tension" or an "operational tension".  I get the utility in that distinction, though I think it also has a downside, by reinforcing a mental model that tensions are either one or the other, and that it's inherent to the tension itself.  Yet, this isn't true - tensions are not inherently one or the other, they are simply experiences, most of which could be transformed in some way governance and in another way via operations (just differently so).  So, I find it more useful to talk about resolving a tension via governance, and what that achieves and when that's most useful, vs. resolving a tension operationally, and what that achieves and when that's most useful.  In other words, I recommend avoiding applying "governance" or "operational" as a label or descriptor of the tension, and instead talking about them as processes that can transform a tension in different ways.

I know this is very subtle, yet for a more experienced coach like yourself who has the core mechanics down, I think working on this level can take it up yet another notch.  The coach's "subtle language practice" and modeling can make a huge difference in guiding the development of people's mental models and meaning-making around Holacracy, which I've seen can have a pretty sizable impact over time.

Hope that helps!

- Brian

Eric Babinet

Thanks Brian, that is indeed very helpful. I was using "governance tension" as a shorthand for "you sense that the tension may be caused by unclear accountability or authority", but definitely see the potential pitfall of people classifying tensions as either "operational" or "governance" and how that could limit how they think about processing them. Thanks for the feedback!

Brian Robertson

Eric:  I actually wouldn't even say "you sense that the tension may be caused by unclear accountability or authority", because people rarely "sense" that - that's a logical conclusion, not a sensing.  And even the mental model that it is "caused by" unclear accountability/authority becomes limiting, because often the tension isn't "caused by" anything in particular, it's just a current state of the system, with many systemic influences leading to it.  There's no need to collapse down to a single cause, or even to try to logically conclude what "caused" it.  The more useful question is just how (to what extent and in what way) governance will resolve it, vs. how it can be resolved operationally.  You can resolve most tensions to some degree via both methods, so it's not an either/or, but a relative weighing of the most effective channel(s) to use to resolve the tension.