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

Policy Adherence

We currently have an issue of rampant ignorance of, or lack of adherence to, existing policies. Some at high levels. Today in Governance I proposed a "Policy Adherence" policy, and the creation of a "Policy Adherence" role to implement the policy. It feels overly authoritarian, but I'm not quite sure how else to address it.

Essentially the policy spells out that if someone feels someone else is ignoring or not following a policy, they should first make them aware of it. If that doesn't work they can involve @Policy_Adherence to intervene... which implements a "3 strikes" sort of approach involving notification of non-adherence and eventually action by the Lead Link up to and including removal from role (as necessary). It doesn't dictate the action, just spells out what could happen.

As I mentioned in the meeting - every bit of this is already possible in current Governance and within the constitution, except the more explicit disciplinary "steps." I'm mildly uncomfortable with it (and I said that) but I don't know how else to call out lack of adherence to the policies we've enacted that govern how we work... or what to do about it when it's chronic.

Anyone have suggestions? Anything you're doing to address in your orgs?

8 Replies

"I can't keep track of all the policies" is I thing I hear regularly. Ignorance of the law is no defence, they say, but my attitude tends to be this:

Governance does nothing to change how things are. It just frames conversations.

If the policy says "when we do X, we do Y" and people are doing X but in a non-Y way - anyone who spots that should say "hey, I notice you doing X but not Y - but we have an agreement as a business via our governance to do X in a Y way - what's going on there?". That kind of thing.

You can set all the governance you want, but until people give each other feedback ("I was expecting you to do X and you didn't") - will anything change?

Good luck!

Olivier Compagne

[@mention:491073019777409299] I agree with [@mention:544274267239861666]. In addition, you might consider using the rules of Individual Action, especially the ones related to "Restoration" (article 4.3.2). It puts the burden on them to resolve any tension created by taking individual action, which might encourage them to be more careful. 

Andrea Faré

Hi [@mention:491073019777409299] , Einstein once said: ""No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" , and I think this applies very well to the problem you are referring to. A policy to fix adherence to policies runs the risk to go ignored as the others and spread an even stronger hate for policies which would fire back on your whole practice...On the other hand even as it is spelled (regardlessly of its validity) it's basically simply channelling advices to actions which one could simply expect from any good role filler. Anybody can talk to the LeadLink or to the policy breaker, they can even propose that the accountability role assignment/removal is removed from the Lead Link accountabilities if that's needed and put somewhere else with more precise rules.

Did you try to dig deeper on the reason why people don't adhere to policies?

Could it be a problem with the number of them? Or with the way they are structured? Has the organization tried to use policies as a mean to have some old power scheme  sneak into the practice, because using role accountabilities felt too "light" and "not controlling enough"?

In my experience policies that create problems are those that 

1) Are badly named (policy requires you to read the whole thing before you can even understand if it would ever apply to you)

2) Don't  start with a clear condition of applicability and/or try to generate  chains of corrective actions for those to whom the condition doesn't even apply.... 





Paul Walker

Hello, [@mention:491073019777409299]!

We have had this issue for a long time as well, and we tried many approaches to try to convince people to adhere. Alas, between the sheer number of Policies in place (partially because we are a large company) and some Lead Links simply not caring if a Circle Member adheres to a rule that doesn't affect their Circle, there was little enforcement on any Policies.

So, what we've since done is to start adding consequences into the Policy that gives whoever is most affected by it the authority to enforce it. For example, if our Finance department is having Tensions with people not reporting their spending, they can propose a Policy at the GCC that says something like:

"If company money is spent, an expense report must be filed within one month. If this Policy is violated, @Finance has the authority to adjust that Circle's budget accordingly and/or hold the violating Circle Member accountable in the same way(s) as their own Lead Link could."

Hopefully that helps!

Andrea Faré

hi [@mention:451241754031062437]  very interesting, do any accountability/domain on Finance then somehow reflect the increased power/expectation that this policy implies or is the policy considered to be "self consistent" ? 

Paul Walker

Yo, [@mention:452086181438015612]!

Nothing extra is typically added because it so far hasn't been necessary. The reason for that is because the people creating the Policy are the ones that want and need it enforced, so there doesn't necessarily need to be an expectation to enforce it.

So, the LL of Finance is directly impacting by others not doing expense reports. The aforementioned Policy gives them the ability to enforce that Policy as if it was their own Circle. Nobody else really cares if Finance enforces it, so an expectation wouldn't solve anyone's Tensions. It is Finance themselves feeling it so they just give themselves the ability to enforce it and they will do so as much as benefits them.

Does that answer your question?

Andrea Faré

[@mention:451241754031062437] yes cool, I understand the assumption and the way it tries to handle the  involved trade-offs


Thanks everyone for the responses. Great questions and thoughts. If I'm honest I think the root is somewhat endemic and sits with lack of understanding/accountability in certain key roles. People are hesitant to take individual action [@mention:449411339497350002] because they think they'll get "in trouble." I do like the addition/imposition of consequences within the policy [@mention:451241754031062437], as that clarifies what "individual action" might be necessary/justified in the event the policy is not followed. And I completely agree (and even said, in governance) that such a policy doesn't really do anything except make explicit the structure or actions that are already available to everyone. I think our challenge is (a) better empowering people to take action that in previous organizations might have got them "in trouble," and then (b) not reinforce that behavior by better calling out when negative reactions to individual action are motivated by old or hierarchical thinking and ultimate (unexamined) resistance to some of the basic tenets of Holacracy.

This has been/continues to be very helpful. thanks.