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

Processing Tensions between the General and Anchor Circles

I've been practicing Holacracy in my organisation where I'm Lead Link (and for the time being Facilitator - I know, I know) of the General Circle for just over a month now.

I created the initial set of defined roles and accountabilities which were needed to bootstrap the organisation into a holarchy.

So far I've experienced much improved efficiency from adopting weekly Tactical Meetings and my other colleagues who've not had practitioner training are quickly getting the hang of governance versus tactical tensions and working though the Holacracy Habits program.

Something interesting happened in our tactical meeting yesterday and I'm looking for insights from more experienced practitioners.

It's about processing the tension between the General Circle and the Anchor Circle.

We triaged an issue and the output was a governance tension.

However, it became clear to me as we processed the tactical issue raised and created a Governance Tension output that beyond processing it in due course, it's likely to need a strategy conversation and a purpose conversation at Board level (we have a General Circle that has a Board anchor circle).

Without getting into much detail, but to put some flesh on the bones...

The organisation produces video content for adult learners for subscription sale. There are four relevant roles: Content Maker, Recipe Maker (the recipe informs the content), Market Maker and Business Model Maker. I fulfil these last two roles. Within these roles I am accountable for defining our market positioning, market messaging, marketing etc.

All fine at General Circle level apart from the tensions expressed by me in these roles, plus the two people holding the Content and Recipe Making roles during yesterday's Tactical Meeting.

At Board level, we have an investor who has entrepreneurial flair and a network useful to the business. He's not willing to carry a role within the General Circle and holds strong views about market positioning, market messaging and how the recipe is expressed in the video content. Those of us with the General Circle roles listed above also hold equity and can easily out vote him at the Board level, but are reluctant to do so because we value his input - he thinks differently from the rest of the Board and we're good friends with him.

What's the Holacracy way of processing General and Anchor level tensions? Convention dictates putting it to the vote based on shareholding. Is there a better way?

Just to say our beloved Board member is resistant to adopting Holacracy too, but for me it's golden - it flushed out the issue that he wasn't prepared to "do" only to advise/offer his opinion on what "we" should do!

3 Replies
Stephen Starkey

The Holacracy way is integrative decision-making. Full stop.

Interestingly, the HolacracyOne operating agreement, which I borrowed and repurposed, has a provision to allow for votes to replace IDM at the anchor circle Level, but only for elections and only when the number of members participating in elections is greater than a certain threshold. My view: you shouldn't use shares to decide whose ideas are better. Number of shares is not correlated at all to quality of thinking. So use IDM the way Brian intended.. :-P

Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Andrew,

Sounds your tension is mostly related to "souls" instead of roles...

A few milestones:

  • From the Anchor Circle perspective, the GCC is a black box. If you need to process a tension in the Anchor Circle, process it through the GCC Rep Link to the Anchor Circle.
  • As GCC Lead Link, your accountability is to define the strategy of the circle. In you LL role, if you appreciate your "friend" advices, just take them as "friend advices" - without any power shadow - and use it as inputs to make sovereign decisions in your LL role.
  • Chapter 5 of the Holacracy Constitution clarifies how works the Anchor Circle

Question: who ratified the Holacracy Constitution in your Organization?

Hope that helps.

Andrew Scott

Thank you Jean-Michel and Stephen for giving your time and attention to my topic. It makes things much clearer for me.