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

How do you handle targets for metrics in Holacracy?

I've been thinking about how to handle targets/goals for metrics in Holacracy. In my organization, we have a tactical meeting (nothing to do with Holacracy) that is already held. In this meetings, the managers from each department share their metrics and how close they are to the previously specified targets (sometimes specified by themselves). On the other side, there is no such a moment for sharing or talking about targets for the metrics in Holacracy's tactical meetings. 


How do you set and handle targets in your companies? In a self-management world, I imagine that people can set the targets for their own metrics (if necessary). And how about metrics assigned to Circles? Is it a Lead Link's accountability to set targets for the metrics?

8 Replies
Chris Cowan

My short answer is, "yes," you are correct that by default the Lead Link defines the metrics for their Circle. A role within the circle could suggest a new metric to the Lead Link, but officially the Lead Link owns the decision for which metrics are reported.


Metrics assigned to a sub-circle are defined by the super-circle's Lead Link, because a sub-circle is treated just like any other role from the super-circle's perspective. So, it's really the same answer as above.


Does that answer your question?  



Davi Gabriel da Silva

It is clear to me that the LL assigns metrics. A metric is just an information, like "Average Session Time". My doubt is about targets. Is the Lead Link also responsible for setting a target, like "our target for the Average Session Time metric is 20 minutes". If not, how do you handle targets (and target expectations) in a Holacracy-powered organization? 

Dennis Ross

I see no reason why the LL would not include targets in the circle metrics.  The metrics allow the circle/organization to understand how the circle/role is achieving its given purpose and stated accountabilities.  


Reviewing metrics during the preamble of the tactical meeting should highlight tensions that can be addressed during the meeting.  The LL or other role fillers will likely sense the tension (gap between what is and what could/should be) during the metric review and dig deeper by adding an item to the agenda in the tactical meeting.


In the case that role fillers are best suited to understand the targets for a given metric, they can share their ideas with the LL, who will most likely adjust the metric target.


I hope this helps.

Koen Veltman

Hi Davi,


typically I would suggest not to include targets. as targets are a relatively static way of thinking of evolution. you sort of force your view on the future and targets take attention away from what is actually happening.


a "middle way" answer could be to introduce a metric that is "difference with ambition". eg if you have a certain market share target of say 10% you could introduce the metric "current market share difference to 10% ambition". So how much market share increase does a role need to achieve to reach this ambition. In this way you keep a metric as just showing information, and makes it more relevant to your specific context without introducing "fixed targets"

Chris Cowan

Hey Davi,


Yeah I kinda sensed that you were asking about targets, but it's a nuanced answer, so I decided to wait and see. The Holacracy constitution says nothing about targets, so I'll reference the general paradigm of self-organization. A few quotes from Frederic Laloux's book Reinventing Organizations may help here. 


In short, setting targets works great if they are self-selected and held lightly, but become problematic when people become too attached to achieving a target that they ignore the emerging reality in front of them....or simply cut corners to make the numbers. 


"Research shows that when people pursue a meaningful purpose , and when they have the decision-making power and resources to work towards that purpose, they don't need pep talks or stretch targets." (pg123) 


"Yet in the world of business, doing away with individual incentives is still rather revolutionary -- sales people without sales targets and sales incentives? This process is what all the companies in this research have opted for. CEOs without bonuses and stock options? All but one of the organization have done away with them. " pg. 132


"In self-managing organizations, people can choose to set themselves targets when they find it useful -- rather like a hobby runner who spurs herself on by extending her goals....But even with self-set targets, we need to be careful not to focus too narrowly on the target only. We need to stay open to the unexpected, the new, the signs that a different future might want to unfold that we hadn't imagined when we set the target. Targets, well understood, are like maps that guide toward one possible future. They become problematic when we cling to the road we had set out on even after circumstances have changes and a new roald seems more promising." Pg. 212. 


"Let's look at target-setting as an example: abolishing targets (in the way that Teal organizations do) will raise red flags all around the organization. But you can amend the target setting process in ways that stay within acceptable bounds. Instead of top-down targets, you can ask individuals or teams working "under" you to define their own targets. If, once summed up, the self-set targets fall short of expectations from above, you don't need to be the one raising  the targets. Ask team members to get together and determine, in a peer-based process, which targets could be raised. If the team functions well, you don't even need to be a part of the meeting. Let them come up with the best solution on their own -- after all, the targets will be theirs. Creating a healthy version of the existing, dominant paradigm, like in this example, has a much higher chance of succeeding, and the example could easily spread from your unit to the entire organization." Pg. 239. 


I hope this helps.  



Davi Gabriel da Silva

That was exactly what I was looking for. I knew that there was a new way of looking into targets in the teal paradigm. Thank you very much, @Chris!

Ruben @ Springest

Haven't read the entire thread, but to answer your question from our perspective; we use OKRs to define our strategies. The Lead Link does that, for her own circle (not for roles or sub circles), but usually with input from the rest of the circle and of course based on the strategy of the super circle.


For us, OKRs filled the gap we felt that the "lack of targets" that Holacracy has, which I think is a good thing just like the lack of deadlines. Christina Wodtke wrote some great articles about how (not) to do OKRs, but for us the gist of the difference between them and old-school targets is that they are simply something to strive for (like strategy), not something to be judged by. But we prefer them over formatting strategy in proze because it allows us to quantify success and give context to metrics which often change based on the OKRs.

Christel Hofman

We also use OKR's. We use it to set inspiring goals/puroses and to define projects. Not jet for metrics. But I will think about that :-)


For those who want to learn more about OKR: