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

Is there such a thing as a "valid" tension ?

Hi there community,

I often hear - in our practice of Holacracy - people asking proposers to state in what role they feel a tension. Is that an actual criteria for a "valid" tension? and are there such criteria for a tension to be valid?

I see from the constitution that point 3.3.2 requests to link proposals to a role, but have not find anywhere such a requirement for the validity of a tension.

As tensions are felt by people, it somehow feels strange to me that we would try to categorize / analyze its origin, or somhow test them. Isn't any tension good to start?

Thanks in advance for your insights!

7 Replies
Tom Mulder

As a tension is sensed by a person and this person senses a difference between current reality and how it could be. As we can not judge this feeling all tensions are deemed to be valid. Does that mean that all Tensions result in valid proposals? Guess not.

Imagine the following tension: I want all people, who have an company car, to drive an electric car. If you have the role Lease Wizard and the Purpose of the organization is about contributing to a better environment, well it sounds like a great proposal. But if I have the roll ICT and I care about the environment then none of my roles care about this from a company perspective. What I can do is pitch to Lease Wizard that this would be a great idea, in line with the company Purpose.

So, my perspective is that their are no invalid tensions. I trust the process to help me sort out if the tension results in a valid proposal (in Governance) or via Triage (Tactical)  will be directed to the roll that has the authority to decide on this. 

Like the question as there is nothing in the "Constitution" on Tensions beside the definition in 1.2.1.

Chris Cowan

[@mention:462501715201240916] I agree with Tom's comments above and will just add my own clarification, which is that "valid tension" is only meant in the context of "valid to be processed through Holacracy-specific pathways." So, "invalid tension," really means, "invalid tension to be processed in this space," whatever space that is. 

Like if I wanted to talk to my wife about an upcoming trip, and she started talking about remodeling our kitchen. I probably wouldn't actually say, "THAT'S AN INVALID TENSION!" I would hopefully find a more appropriate way to clarify the intended purpose and scope of the conversation. That's all that means. 

Jeff Kreh

[@mention:455886150941203371], it'd be fun to be a fly on the wall when you tell your wife, "that's not a valid tension." It probably falls more in the realm of Marriage 101 than Holacracy 101

Chris Cowan

[@mention:477139080146610445] Yeah, exactly! Clarifications need to be made, but there are better and worse ways to do it. : ) 

Jorg Leute

Can I add a follow up question to this: I totally share [@mention:462501715201240916] concern about valid tensions. See, the problem I encountered is that some people use tensions (in a governance context) to shape the organization. This means they don't have an actual problem with something but just like the world to be like they imagine it. This leads to new circles/roles that servce no other purpose than to reflect the inner world of one person.

I perceive that as an issue  because modelling an organization according to a personal inner image is something pretty different than encountering a real problem that has to be fixed. What to you guys think?



Tom Mulder

[@mention:581575276097090831] . Your example is why we have criteria for valid proposals (art. 3.2.2 and 3.2.3) .

So their tension about modelling an organization based on their personal image is great. But the question remains if this will result into a Valid Proposal. Like in my example it is great that I want to change the world for the better but non of my role cares so I can not come up with a Valid Proposal.

Jorg Leute

[@mention:523162737680436711] I agree, my problem in the past was that it has been kind of hard to understand if the role(s) care or not. A rep link can do lots of things....