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

Is Holacracy a kind of democracy

I was asked this question "ultimately holacracy a kind of democracy?", and the person was sounding more like expecting a consensus organisation when they heard about holacracy.  my answer was that its a no. does any think like i said or different and i would like to hear more thoughts on this. 

9 Replies
Tom Mulder
08/19/2018

Hi Shammi,

If we look at the pillars of Democracy then parts can be seen in Holacracy

  • the right for initiative: everybody can make proposals
  • the right to speak: everybody has equal opportunity to speak
  • equality: all roles have the same weight 
  • but..... in Holacracy we do not use that the majority vote rules. We use the consent model. If you see no objection then you agree. 

Hope this shine some light on the subject.

Brian Robertson
08/20/2018

I sure wouldn't say Holacracy uses "consent" as a model.  The only place I see Holacracy using what I would call "consent" is in the relationship contract between the human and the organization (i.e. the employment contract and any basic behavioral agreements that go with it, or the equivalent): in defining that relationship, both sides must consent to the relationship.  Once in that relationship however, the governance process of the organization itself uses a different standard/threshold, and calling that one "consent" seems likely misleading to most, as the person is not asked to consent or not as a person, and nor does "no objection" mean "I agree" or imply the person's consent - they simply aren't given a personal voice at all, no more than I am in my neighbor's decisions of how to run their household, so their consent is irrelevant.  And there are plenty of governance changes I've seen where I see no objections, but definitely wouldn't say "I agree" to anything.  All that to say: Holacracy does use/require consent in one way (relationship definition), but not in governance decision-making; thinking of that as consent-based seems like a mental model that's likely to lead to misunderstanding of Holacracy and perhaps working against the paradigm it's actually going for.

Tom Mulder
08/20/2018

[@mention:449693036223847456]. Thanks for this clear nuance and explanation. 

shammi nanda
08/20/2018

Thanks for your response Brian. I asked this as i was sharing about holacracy to a group of studtents from school of social enterpreneurship and some one was constantly comparing holacracy to democracy and was seeing it either as a control and command system or was expecting it to be a 'democaracy'. for me holacracy is neither of those and i had to tell him that holacracy is not democracy, which was disappointing for him to hear and in some ways difficult for me also to say it as i sounded like i am saying 'we are not as good as 'democracy'. Thought the word democracy itself is a big interpretation and it means different to different people, but thats another conversation . I say its not democracy as the lead link does have the power to assign roles and in my understanding even if some one wishes to be in a role and act and if the lead link doesnot think that role needs to be energised they may either not have the person wanting to go there in it to take the role or even if some one has the rile the lead link could say that dont do actions in that role as its not a strategy to work on that or act in that role in that moment given the purpose or the lead link may not see the person wanting the role to even be fit to take it. So there is power to act and some how people see democracy more as consensus than even consent. 

At the same time i was thinking that the person is in the circle and can object to a policy in the circle they are part of, while as brian points out that too is not a kind of 'consent' as if its not impacting their role they dont have a say. so its a nuanced thing. i see it as a self organised way to deliver or actualise the purpose of any organisation/business/group. Its like heart cant tell the stomach to do some thing, it can only share its feedback. However if there is cholestrol getting deposited because of the kind of food some one is eating, the heart is impacted to function by the choices of the stomach or the mind which makes it eat that but heart doesnot have the power to stop it and the person can go on eating food which is harmful to the heart and the whole organism. i would say holacracy has more feedback mechanism or power to object when the role is impacted. 

some how it will be better to not give people a sense that its about 'equivalence' as mentioned in sociocracy or a better democracy, its rather a whole system which is self organised with feedback and response. Often we want to see the world in duality so its comfortable to be democratic or dictatorship while i sense holacracy is neither and it does not make sense to compare with the two. 

I would say so called occupy movements  are like consesnus, sociocracy is consent where any one in the circlee can object to a decision even at policy level and the org will not move on till every one is satisfied or at least there is no objection, while  holacracy is distributed authority where there is authority and clear domains and people work in them to meet the purpose and make sure when one persons role impacts other they engage to resolve it. 

 

Brian Robertson
08/20/2018

I think you've got it Shammi - it's definitely not democracy, and I'm grateful for that; I would never want to work in a democratic company, seems like it'd be a huge leap backwards from what I'm used to and value now.

shammi nanda
08/20/2018

I am enjoying this "I would never want to work in a democratic company, seems like it'd be a huge leap backwards from what I'm used to and value now." and its making me laugh. democracy is some thing most confused term and most wanted state. yes, i got it. thanks for the clarity and for taking your vision in the world. 

Francesco Lomonaco
08/21/2018

I believe this should be said more and more (maybe during training, but also on HolacracyOne online material) because there is a lot of misunderstanding about it that generates wrong expectations and deceiving experiences. If you know what you have you can expect the right thing from it.

Bernard Marie Chiquet
08/21/2018
Brian Robertson posted:

I sure wouldn't say Holacracy uses "consent" as a model.  The only place I see Holacracy using what I would call "consent" is in the relationship contract between the human and the organization (i.e. the employment contract and any basic behavioral agreements that go with it, or the equivalent): in defining that relationship, both sides must consent to the relationship.  

[@mention:449693036223847456] Interesting! You say "...Holacracy is using consent only in the relationship contract between human and the organization". I think this should be explicit in the constitution. As for now, it is not. Again I sense something is missing re relationship contract.

shammi nanda
08/21/2018

@francescolomonaco, yes there could be an impression that Holacracy is some kind of consent decsion making system. i am glad i am clear and also i see value in not making it a consent decision making system. I see that the leadlink taking the purpose of the organisation further, while the rep bring the tensions from below and that too the objection has to fulfill certain conditions to be valid, and most importantly is it impacting your role. so the blindspots come from the processing of tensions while the purpose is taken care by the strategising and the accountability of assinging roles. Thats how Holacracy navigates the tension between purposeful action and collaboration. 

Here is one more question, can we say Holacracy is a collaborative process, it seems yes to me by my definition of collaboration(working together) but may be there are other perspectives.