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

Role Names as Domains?

Okay so we had our first major restructure of the anchor circle and other key roles (mentioned in part in the post about 'elevation vs demotion' reactions) and now am ready to pose question about some governance cleanup.

In part a result of expediting the intent of the proposal, created by someone not exceptionally fluid in Holacracy, the proposal included some weirdnesses that I did not feel objection-worthy at the time. Those weirdnesses are

  1. Role Names as Domains and
  2. an Accountability about Accountabilities.  


So - not sure why the proposer felt the need, there's a fair amount of misunderstanding about Domain - but when creating the new sub-circle and assigning 5 roles to that circle in the proposal, the proposer included the names of the roles in the new circle's role definition.

So our new Operations Circle (I'm not going to discuss the title having the word circle in it, but believe I will begin adding 'Human' at the end of my name from now on) has the roles Administration, Finance, Global Assistance, Information Technology, Partner Relations (and a couple others) and also DOMAINS called Administration, Finance, Global Assistance, Information Technology and Partner Relations.

See a screenshot here.

I heard Brian say at the Coach Training that a Role's Title, Purpose or Accountability implied the authority necessary to take action - as long as there was not already an existing limitation to authority on the topic/resource.

So - are the Domains noted above necessary? Harmful?

Similarly the new circle's sole Accountability is - wait for it - "Fulfilling the Accountabilities in Finance, IT, Admin, Partner Relations and Global Assistance Roles."  This is also visible in the screenshot provided.

Um. I'm thinking again that would be implied by the simple existence of those roles within the circle - and - that it does not help differentiate the discrete purpose of the newly created circle.

So - is the Accountability noted above necessary? Harmful?

Thanks very much for your response, opinion, input, feedback, etc.

Keith Jarvis Human

5 Replies
Dien Kwik

Hi, Keith:

The role names sound like they are job positions which can and should be broken down to multiple smaller roles.  I guess starting with those 5 roles is not bad.  When the time comes, anyone in the circle can break them down further when needed.

I would do a little coaching here as well to make sure that they don't fall back to treating roles as job positions with all the implicit expectations.

This brings me to the accountability portion of your question.  If I were in the circle, I would raise an objection based on lack of clarity and implicit expectations.    The accountability of finance, IT, etc need to be spelled out for clarity sake.  What you think a finance should do may differ from what I think a finance should do.

As for the domain, again, there is lack of clarity here.  What exactly is the finance, IT, Admin domains.  What I think is their domains may differ completely from what others think.  To make it clear, the exact domains need to be spelled out.

Again, a little more coaching on achieving clarity, and not relying on implicit expectations is needed.  In fact, it sort of violates the following clause in the Holacracy Constitution, though not directly.  By saying the domain is IT (or finance, or whatever), and the accountability is the accountabilities of IT (or finance, or whatever), it is completely relying on implicit expectations from former job positions.


4.1.5 Implicit Expectations Hold No Weight

All of your responsibilities and constraints as a Partner of the Organization are defined in this Constitution, and in the Governance that results from it. No former or implicit expectations or constraints carry any weight or authority, unless a Circle’s Governance explicitly empowers them, or they come from a basic obligation or contractual agreement you personally have to or with the Organization.



Chris Cowan

Hey Keith, an interesting case! 

Yeah, I agree with Dien about an assumption about traditional job descriptions and that getting in the way. 

As a Coach, I would have probably started with testing the proposal. Find out the concrete case that requires these domains. With that information, it would be easier to figure out the best pathway forward. 

I'm also surprised that no one else objected to those domains. They seem too vague to be meaningful. 

I would have objected to the accountability as a Facilitator as NVGO. I'd probably cite something like section 2.1, that a circle has a right to define its own contained roles.  

In addition, this is making this circle/role accountable for the accountabilities of its contained circle/roles. Which basically means that the circle could create its own accountabilities without going through governance. I might cite section 3.2 to make that objection (because core circle members of the super-circle would not be given the chance to object to that governance change on its sub-circle). 

Now, to fix this, the Rep Link of that new sub-circle might propose removing that accountability because it constrains how the circle organizes itself. 

In addition, other roles at the super-circle could propose removing those domains.

In either case, bringing a new proposal to remove/modify the domains or accountability will give everyone another chance to revisit the proposer's original tension. 

Hope that helps! 

Keith Jarvis

Thanks Dien and Chris - I have some kick-ass material to give to the Rep Link, I have really been working on this using all the stuff from coach training and before. I'll share the results after it gets considered.

Re: my ability to object/not at the time< i admit my own desire to get some sort of accomplishment in the right direction, a finite human ability to manage multiple roles and altitudes simultaneously, and a participant voicing dissatisfaction with the governance process during process timeout (why can't I ask clarifying questions after an amendment as long as I don't share reaction?) outweighed my ability to consider what might be NVGO in the space.

Chris Cowan

I totally understand Keith. I have the same experience. Often the clarity only comes after.

Keith Jarvis

Has a renewed opportunity for clarifying questions been tested, hold the reaction, if/when the proposer amends proposal?