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

Questions about Governance Facilitation

Hello, folks! I'm preparing myself to the Holacracy Certified Facilitator/Coach test and I would like to ask some questions about governance facilitation. Here they go:

1) I often remember the purpose and state some premises before starting governance meetings with inexperienced circles. For example, I say that the meeting is going to be very different from what they are used to. I also say that the governance process encourages experimentation and is not like a brainstorming session. My question is: should I do this introduction before the check-in round or in the administrative concerns?

2) Can I interrupt if the check-in, reaction or final reflection (closing round) of a specific circle member is taking too long?

3) I know that, as a Facilitator, I can validate a proposal anytime (not just during the "Present Proposal" step), but I usually ask a lot of questions in the first step of the IDM process to understand better the proposal. These questions include:

  1. What is the tension?
  2. What do you propose?
  3. OR
    1. AND
      1. Can you provide an example about a past or present situation in which the proposal would resolve or reduce the tension?
      2. OR
        1. How specifically this proposal helps you express the purpose of one of your roles?
        2. How this proposal helps the circle express the purpose of roles that you are authorized to represent?
    2. Are you claiming that this proposal helps evolve the Circle’s Governance in order to more clearly reflect some activity that is already happening? Do you have an example?

Is this a good facilitation pattern? Or should I let the other circle members raise these questions?


6 Replies
Gerald Mitterer

Hi Davi,

find my thoughts and experiences below.

ad 1) I do use some time to frame the session right at the very beginning even before entering into check-in. for early-practice circles that seems very helpful in my impression. for me it is also about building a connection and helping people to feel in a "safe container". 

ad 2) No

ad 3) all of the stated questions might help. However, one concern or recommendation: make sure you don't trigger a "justification energy" right at the beginning. the most helpful attitude for a facilitator is a neutral stance trusting the process. for me it is not best practice as facilitator to validate a tension/proposal and let the person prove that this is a valid even before entering into the process. That's rather called "heroic facilitation" which is a trap in the beginning in my experience ;-). You might ask some questions like you proposed, if a circle member requests that. But just as standard pattern it creates a weird judgemental setting. Instead, use and trust the process to do its job. Use clarifying questions and reaction round (in-process-coaching) to help the person find out, what it is about...

hope that helps.

- Gerald

Davi Gabriel da Silva

Hi, gerald, and thanks for the answer!

1) and 2) Nice!

3) I understand... But the Constitution says that the proposer must be able to answer some of these questions in order to satisfy the criteria for a valid proposal. Are you saying that I should let other Circle Members ask some of these questions in the Clarifying Questions step? Or maybe I should only ask the questions that I think the Proposer might not have a clear answer?

Thank you!

Gerald Mitterer

Hi Davi,

3) yes, your questions are "constitutionally correct". I just mean that there is a nuance to how you make use of that questions as Facilitator. Especially in early stages, my experience is, we want to encourage people to bring their tensions and process them. If they feel "in front of the court" at their very first try it often results in frustration and stepping back from processing own tensions. And what I meant with the other thing was: as facilitator you can be asked by circle members to check the validity of the proposal and then I would raise those questions (also already at the beginning).

re "trusting the process": I have seen many IDM-processes where the a proposal not grounded in reality even if not tested in the beginning clearly reveals itself at some point in the process, e.g. during clarifying questions or seeking integration for example. 

- Gerald

Dennis Ross

Hi Davi,

I offer the following:

Point 1) - Generally speaking, and this may vary depending  how far along the circle is on their journey, you want to stay neutral and follow the process steps.... checkin - get present, call out distractions, etc  - get through administrative concerns and guide the team to build their agenda.  For a new circle, you may want to spend some time explaining the purpose of Governance, but generally speaking, i prefer to jump right in to Governance.

Point 2) - No... let them ramble on... then model best behaviors during your checkin.  They will figure it out over time and will likely fall into the normal meeting cadance.  

Point 3) - Gerald summed this up nicely.  I prefer to give the tension-holder plenty of room to share their tension trust the process to sort out proposals that may no be rooted in a tension.

I hope this helps.


Fred Magovern

@Dennis + @Gerald: I'm so glad you wrote about this, as it's definitely a mistake I'm making as Facilitator. Other than another circle member requesting it, under what circumstances would you still test a tension/proposal from the outset?

Gerald Mitterer

Hey Fred,

glad it helped.

I could envision the following situation: since I am also a Circle Member filling other roles apart from acting as Facilitator I might have the feeling that the proposal is not grounded in reality and I don't understand the underlying tension. Then I could imagine to act as if another role of the circle has asked me as Facilitator to check the tension behind the proposal. Has never happened to me though...

- Gerald