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

Mentioning roles that exist in a sibling circle as part of a role's accountabilities

Circle A-1 contains a role with accountabilities that mention roles that exist in circle A-2. For example: +WidgetQA in circle A-1's accountability reads "Answering inbound emails while looping in +WidgetDesign" where +WidgetDesign exists in circle A-2.

I'm unclear if it is acceptable to do this. Should the two circles have an acute understanding of each other's internal roles, such that they appear in accountabilities? If not, what can be done to fix this accountability?

6 Replies

Hum.. curious about the tension behind. Why would someone within your Circle A-1 add an accountability for “Answering inbound emails while looping in +WidgetDesign”. What role IN THE CIRCLE fills the tension? Is it an accountability on the circle that the Lead Link is breaking down?

If it is the second, it means that in the Super-Circle they choose to refer to the role within the circle. It is not NVGO (Non Valid Governance Output). Sometimes it makes sense. Usually, we would rather respect the circle membranes and refer to the circle names only because they are like black boxes, we can't see inside.

I recommend respecting the black boxes.


Hi Ray - we do this all the time and it doesn't seem to cause us any issues! Does it cause a problem for you to have this cross-circle reference in your governance?

EG I could say "liaising with Sales [a circle]" - but when there is actually a specific role in Sales, why not be more specific? And also GlassFrog doesn't @ link to circles, only to roles - so it makes governance records easier to use.

Ray Nicholus

Thanks for the input everyone.

Xavier Boëmare

Ray, AWO,

If you do not respect the black boxes as explained by Margaux, and have a LOT of cross accountabilities, might be worth at some point to step back and ask yourself if the "membrane" is at the right place. In other words, why role having strong interactions are not part of the same circle ?

Again, don't bother if it's only here and there. But to me it's getting questionable when it's becoming a rule.


For me it depends on: what is the purpose of governance? Is it to make things clearer and smoother? If cross-circle role references reduce more tensions then they cause, I would tend to favour it.

Although I do like your point Xavier, because I think allowing the team structure that needs to be to evolve is a great feature of Holacracy.

This makes me think of Large Scale Scrum and the concept of Communities of Practice.

So, we have a Finance circle. There's a whole load of work that happens around finance, and so there are a whole load of roles.

Is it "better" for these roles to be distributed around more so that Circles become more like totally self-sufficient wholes? Which then opens up a space for the various finance roles to meet as a more informal community of practice?

Xavier Boëmare

Tension driven :-) I'm not sure there's a "better" way : it has to fit your needs/challenges. Holacracy gives you a framework, but not the recipe that would work with all.

But I would say : why not both ? You could have some "finance" roles scattered in the organisation, and also a Finance Circle. Could be the same partners as well. But different roles, different purposes.