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

policy clarification

Somewhere in my reading/training, I believe I learned that policies "...cannot set expectations or demand actions."  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it documented anywhere.  Did I dream this?  Is it accurate?  If so, is it documented somewhere?

4 Replies
Olivier Compagne

Hi Geoff, 

The Constitution defines Policy in article 1.4 in the following way:

"... “Policies” ... are either grants of authority that allow others to control or cause a material impact within a Domain, or limits on how others may do so when otherwise authorized."

You can also see this page for further explanation: http://wiki.holacracy.org/index.php?title=Policy

Angela Spaxman

Hi Geoff,

We got deeply into this topic on another current thread if you would like to read that. It was very enlightening for me. 


Chris Cowan


You remembered correct (well, mostly correct)! Policies can set expectations for impacting domains, but can't set expectations for ongoing action.

Adding to what Olivier said, one of the reasons why we say "policies can't require action," is because it's just a common misunderstanding of what policies do (if you want an ongoing action, then you want an accountability instead).  

If a policy does requires action, then it's invalid ("Yes, objection. NVGO, because that does not meet the definition of a policy.")

I shared this in the other thread that Angela linked... 

An invalid policy would be something like, "Everyone must review timesheets." Literally, that is requiring action.  

"Policies can't require action" is a nuanced rule-of-thumb. Yes, a policy can't require action in vacuum. But many policies require some action either before or after the domain is impacted (e.g. "Anyone using the company car must fill it with fuel after use" or "No one may use the company car without first signing it out on the property ledger").


Thanks [@mention:449411339497350002], [@mention:455886150941203371], and [@mention:499377108816417086].  This was very helpful.