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

Is a Person's "Time" a resource, and if so, allocatable?

Is a Person's "Time" a resource, and if so, can lead links allocate a person's time between roles?  i.e. 50% for role X and 50% for role Y.  It is a debate in our company whether it is so.

I can't see it explicitly stated in the constitution.  However it would seem so, if I piece together definitions and authorities or accountabilities from various places.

15 Replies
Eric Babinet

I would say a person's time is not a resource as it is not property owned by the organization.

Per 2.2.2 in the constitution, A Circle’s Lead Link may define relative priorities for the Circle. In addition, the Lead Link may define a more general “Strategy” for the Circle, or multiple Strategies, which are heuristics that guide the Circle’s Roles in self-identifying priorities on an ongoing basis.

I suppose you could argue that "50% for role X and 50% for role Y" is a kind of strategy to guide priorities, however, keep in mind that this does not actually require a role-filler to allocate their time this way. It is still up to each individual role filler to decide how they are going to allocate their time across all the next actions and projects of all their roles.


Scott Kushner

Hi Eric - On what basis are you determining that a person's time is not a resource?

In section 4.1.3.C under prioritizing duties, it states time as a type of resource - "when assessing how to deploy your time, attention, and other resources to your work within the Circle."

Eric Babinet

It is on the basis that it is not something owned by the organization. 

I can see how the phrasing of that sentence could imply that time is a resource, however, I believe that is unintended.

If you look throughout the rest of the constitution, the reference is usually to "attention or resources" or "attention and resources", with attention defined in 1.2.5 as "time available to act".

Jeff Kreh


In our context, the regulatory agency requires that we have 5 full-time faculty and that each spends at least the majority of their time in instructional related activities. They have, therefore, defined time as a resource that the college is purchasing from the employee. So, since federal laws define full-time as "30 hours per week or 130 hours per month," 16 hours per week or 66 hours per month must be allocated to duties related to the faculty role. It would seem, then, that in our case at least this amount of time is a resource and is to be directed. The remaining time is to be spent either in the faculty role or other available roles as needed.

I'm not sure if this helps or if it is in anyway applicable to your question. Still, its the line that we must walk with our regulatory requirements here at Likewise. If you see it differently, I am more than happy to entertain a different interpretation!

Al Venus

Shouldn't a person's time allocation be tension driven?

Andrea Faré

Interesting topic!

To address  Jeffrey's requirement I wonder what would prevent the governance process to produce a policy that says: " Regulatory compliance requires at least 5 hours a day to be spent on role x by its role fillers" 

This is not the same as saying : "as a Partner you have to spend 3 hours a day doing this, 4 hours doing  that and, 1 doing this other thing" 

Standard prioritization mechanisms (both at the personal and at the Lead Link/Delegated authority level)  would then apply to the rest of the time available to the Role filler.

Ruben @ Springest

I don't have a "definitive" answer if there is one. I don't think it's in the spirit of Holacracy to let a LL say:

"Hey you! Spend 20% time on role A and 80% on role B".

Most importantly because that would be predicting and controlling and why would you want to do that? 

However, it's encouraged (constitution quotation needed ) that LL's discuss whenever roles have trouble defining priorities because of resource issues and the roles can't fix it themselves. This process has the same outcome as "do 20% this, 80% that", but has a different feel / route to it, IMHO.

In practice, we have had LL's say things like "don't spend more than X % of your time on Role A". IMO this is OK to do especially if the LL thinks that this in effect is about role fit. Eg. "if you spend more than 1 day a week doing this role, you're doing it wrong".

Christel Hofman

How do you prevent that the leadlink isn't changing this 20% - 80% any time he / she wants to. By using the policy mentioned by Andrea?

Scott Kushner

Hi Everyone - Thanks for replying.

Eric - Appreciate your comments very much.  I am struggling with your reply on a number of levels:

  1. Regarding your belief in intent - My take on holacracy is a system based on explicitness, and to use the argument of intent is quite a slippery slope, that could be applied to way too many things.  Regarding the grammar in section 4.1.3.C, it seems very explicit, rather than implying.  That is, when writing "this 1, this 2, and other items", all this's are classified by the "other items"  i.e. "BMWs, Fords, poodles and other cars" wouldn't make sense.
  2. In the section 1.2.5, I do see the title "Attention & Resources", I see your point that both in a title would indicate they are different, but it's not titled "Time & Resources" and doesn't explicitly define the relationship between time & resources.  In that regard, I could interpret that Attention is a "use" of time, and time meaning "available human resource".

But that is just wrangling with the legalese of the constitution.  I guess for me, most importantly, is that I'm struggling with the logic that:

  1. If Money is a resource, and 
  2. If a lead link allocates money for a role to purchase external services, the external services are a resource (even rented services such as a building lease).
  3. But the moment a Lead Link allocates money to pay for an "internal human resource" whether as a partner/employee, their available time is no longer a resource.
Al Venus

Isn't this a backdoor approach to bring "old-style" management to Holacracy?

Scott Kushner

On what basis do you consider it "old-style" management management.  Allocating resources is an explicit account for Lead Links.  Why are labor expenses treated differently than other expense?:

"Allocating the Circle’s resources across its various Projects and/or Roles"

Eric Babinet

Scott,  here's my take on this. If you are purchasing labor from outside the pool of Partners then it seems reasonable to view that as a resource. If you are purchasing that labor in units of time, then it also seems reasonable to view that time as a resource.

However, labor allocation inside the Partner pool  works differently and consists of 2 key elements: 1) Lead Links look at all the available Partners and decide who can best fill the roles in their Circle; 2) Partners look at all the roles they are filling and decide how to prioritize their time/attention across all the Accountabilities and Projects of those roles. While doing so, they align to any Strategies that have been defined by the Lead Link(s) of the circle(s) in which their role(s) exist.

If necessary, you could define policies through governance on this "labor allocation" process, as Andrea was suggesting. But this has to be done through governance so it is not something the Lead Link can do alone, and it would also need to be done in a circle that has authority over this process. Given that labor allocation spans all circles, this would need to be done at the GCC level, unless the domain had been delegated.

Interestingly I just noticed that HolacracyOne has defined such a policy in their GCC, the Attention Point System, in which they actually have defined a resource called Attention Points. It seems rather complicated, but apparently there was a need, and I would be very interested to hear how well that is working.




Brian Robertson

I don't believe there's anything in the Constitution that would empower a lead link to say "spend no more than half your time in this role" and expect that to be a hard limit that someone absolutely must adhere to, in the same way the lead link could if they had a budget to allocate and said "spend no more than $x in this role".

That's because "disposing of assets" (e.g. spending money) is limited by §2.1.3, which applies a hard and clear limit - and even Individual Action has to honor it, per §4.3.1.  I wouldn't interpret allocating time/attention to a role as "disposing of assets", so there is no inherent restriction around it in the same way there is around spending cash or getting rid of organizational property.

However, the lead link can specify priorities and expect people will use their judgment on how to reasonably integrate them, per the duty of all circle members in §4.1.3(c).  So the lead link could say "prioritize these two roles equally" and expect the person to integrate that prioritization and put a roughly similar amount of time into each role, at least on average.  But that doesn't necessarily mean they won't at times put one role ahead of the other, or go beyond 50% to one role for awhile, because it's still up to the person to figure out how to incorporate that prioritization given their own local knowledge of their local context.

So, this is still a tool a Lead Link can use to achieve some intended balancing of time between roles: clarify the priorities, and expect people to figure out how to integrate them.  But that's a different level of "hard and clear limit" than applies in the case of spending money (or disposing of assets of any kind), where it's not left to best judgment on how to integrate in a local context - it's simply a hard limit.  (Though, you can always create a policy that enacts a hard limit for time allocation, if that's useful/needed to address tensions.)

Hope that helps!

- Brian

Christel Hofman

The distinction between "hard and clear" and "best judgement in a local context" helps! Thank you. 

When you put "hard and clear" over "the best judgement of a partner filling a role" you risk to go back to the old management style like Al mentioned. Because of the wholeness of the human being and because we are working with tensions we have to be very carefull that a partner doesn't feel dependent of the leadlinks personal feelings and preferences. A good strategy is a great help in this, but not all organizatiosn have good strategies. What I try to say is that partners, like employees, can feel dependent of the leadlink when the leadlink interferes in prioritizing the work to many times. The old feeling of ranking (hierarchy) we are so used of can come back and the partner it will become harder for the partner using his / her wholeness to bring information into the system.

I hope you'll give me some reactions on my thoughts.


Sandy Li

On the topic of resources, if a person want to attend workshops to improve his/her capacity to assume roles, for example Holacracy workshops. Is it counted as the person's own accountability ?

Appreciate guidance from anyone,