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

Minimum organization size to adopt Holacracy?

New to Holacracy. Have completed defining roles in our organization (65), inputting all into GlassFrog. Having trouble now deciding who to assign to core roles, and thinking that perhaps our organization is too small to run Holacracy? Only 5 employees, so most everyone is a member in most every circle. Can the facilitator have other roles (and hence tensions) in a circle he's facilitating? Same with the other core roles.

6 Replies
Tom Mulder

Questions to better understand:

  • What do you mean with core roles? The Facilitator role, Secretary and the Rep Link role are done via election process and the Lead Link role will be asssigned by the Super Circle or the Anchor Circle.
  • How many Circles did you create? With the number of people you talk about only a General Company Circle might be enough.


Minimum size is 3 people so 5 will do. Most important thing is that you create clarity on work that needs to be done and organize this into roles. Then you assign the best fit people to these roles.

The Facilitator is only a role that is there for safeguarding the meeting process. This person will have other roles to energize (I hope) and is also allowed during a meeting to react and respond from these roles as well as from the Facilitator role. For more insight see the Constitution article 2.3.1 and 3.3.1


We have the general circle, plus 3 others that really are distinct operational areas of the organization (even though everyone participates in them).

We have pretty good role definitions set up now I think, but one of the problems with a small organization is that if the owner of a role is on vacation, or out sick, or working just part-time, someone else usually has to step in and deal with situations.

Mostly I'm concerned about the Facilitator role. Acting as referee during meetings, he/she has to control the process. I see that as being difficult if that same facilitator is the one owning the tension, or affected by the proposed resolution to someone else's tension. Especially since we haven't officially implemented Holacracy, when we hold our first governance meetings they are going to be very clumsy, with the facilitator constantly blowing the whistle and explaining the rules.


Tom Mulder

Off course it is hard to be both Facilitator and Circle Member at the same time. This requires learning and time. That is why I recommend to start with an outside Coach or Facilitator that helps you to understand the rules of the game and helps you play the game. 

Question? What is the knowledge level of Holacracy in your organization. Has anyone attended the Practioner Training or did you start with DYI based on the book and the references on Holacracy.org.

Chris Cowan

New to Holacracy. Welcome! You came to the right place to ask questions, so you're off to a great start. : ) 

Have completed defining roles in our organization (65), inputting all into GlassFrog. That seems like a high number for only 5 people to just be starting. Could be fine. But one thing to watch out for here (and use your own best judgment), is that there is sometimes too much psychological investment in the initial structure, which makes it less likely you'll change it. So, our general recommendation is to craft the initial structure to cover the basics, and then let the governance process start doing its thing (which is filling in any gaps). Again, could be fine in your case. 

Having trouble now deciding who to assign to core roles, The good news here is that you only need to assign Lead Links. The other 3 core roles (Secretary, Facilitator, and Rep Link) are all elected. Meaning, just let anyone start as Secretary and Facilitator (usually the person with the most experience), and their first job will be to schedule a governance meeting and hold elections (respectively)! 

and thinking that perhaps our organization is too small to run Holacracy? Only 5 employees, I'd say 2 people is the minimum number of people needed, so you have plenty at 5. 

...so most everyone is a member in mostevery circle. Yep, that is not a problem. In fact, it's a good indication that the circle/role structure may be particularly helpful for allowing everyone to make fast, authoritative decisions without needing everyone to be involved. 

Can the facilitator have other roles (and hence tensions) in a circle he's facilitating? Same with the other core roles. Yes, absolutely! That's kinda the point. What I mean is, the whole point of having roles as a distinct thing from the people, is that each person can (and likely would) have many different roles. 

The big shift here is that you can't make as many assumptions about what someone does, just by knowing who they are. At any point throughout the day, a person will be shifting in and out of energizing different roles, which means you'll use some new language patterns. 

For example, in a tactical meeting of the Marketing Circle with these 5 people, you would need to make some new distinctions...and of course these are just made up examples to illustrate the point...

  • "Hey Bill, can I engage you in your Copy Editor role?" 
  • "I'd like to share some information with the group...this is coming from my Webmaster role..." 
  • "As Marketing Lead Link, can you take a project to find out how much money we have available to us as a circle?" 

So, it's an adjustment, but not difficult. This is what it looks like in practice. You have many roles in the organization, people have a constellation of roles themselves, so the use that structure to help focus and route tensions to the appropriate decision makers.  

I hope that helps! 

Brian Robertson
The only thing I'd add to what Chris said, and to echo one of Tom's points, is that in a company of 5, start with one circle. I have never seen a good case for doing otherwise - it just adds complexity and extra meetings to schedule and hold to do otherwise, and will get in the way of your Holacracy practice in a major way. Too many circles is among the biggest pitfalls I see for small orgs adopting Holacracy DIY; scrap those circles (and likely a bunch of those roles), and you'll be far more likely to make and sustain the shift to Holacracy. Hope that helps!

- Brian

> On Oct 23, 2017, at 4:23 AM, HolacracyOne <alerts@hoop.la> wrote:

Wow, some solid advice. Okay well it's back to the white board with a big eraser, see if we can't simplify things before we get started. Thanks, All.