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Process Time-Outs: How Many is Too Many?

I am implementing Holacracy at my small organization and other than attending the Practitioner and Coaching Workshops and making sure the whole team has appropriate printed materials, budget is compelling us to go it without as much support as I'd like.

I serve as Lead Link, Holacracy Coach and non-elected facilitator per the Constitution and we take a lot, and I mean a lot, of process time-outs during meetings. They are lessening a little in tactical meetings as we are about 6 meetings in and the process makes a lot of sense to the team now but I think we may have spent about 25% of our last Governance meeting in process time-outs so we could go over mechanics and possible pathways to action. One question sparks others and I struggle to balance celebrating my teams interest and desire to "get it right" with wanting to make sure they see enough of the fluid process. I try to keep answers very short and to the point in the meeting but sometimes the "what ifs" show up and I have to beat them back with a (metaphorical very compassionate, kind and Holocratic verbal) stick.

Is this normal and healthy?

Is there a good rule of thumb for time-outs?

Am I doing my organization more harm than good?

Has anyone else experienced this?

4 Replies
Brian Robertson

Sounds very normal and expected for the early stage Rebecca, and I think allowing those time outs is a good move (although also being cautious about too many what-ifs is good - though some are fine).  Sounds like you're balancing it well, and 25% of governance time in time-outs feels about right...


- Brian


Christel Hofman

Hi Rebeca,

My experience is that it helps in the beginning to use tima outs, so the members can learn the Holacracy  "rules". However after a few meetings it can get anoying. We decided after 3-4 meetings to use the check out for feedback on the process. This brings the meeting in a more natural flow and gives opportunity for the members the follow the facilitator.




Rebecca Brover

Thank you both!

Brian, that feeling was indeed what I was looking for as our current process time outs feel useful but I want to wean us eventually.

Christel, I like very much the idea of using check out for feedback however since there is no cross talk during check out. I think I will try to encourage observations during check out.


Christel Hofman

Hi Rebecca,


What I also do is half a hour Q&A time after the meetings. Maybe that can helpyou as well.