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

Self-management vs Occupational Safety

Occupational safety in most of the companies relay on management in traditional meaning (pressure from top to down, to work according rules + penalties + control etc.).

Our company is producing molten metal (700 degree C), so occupational safety is a critical issue for us.

I have a question to all of you: do you have any experience how it works in self-managed companies? Does any of you have any data how self-management effected the safety in some company?


3 Replies
Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Mikolaj,

As a brief answer, occupational safety sounds to be a sensitive issue within your organization.

Just address this topic using Tactical and Governance meetings by processing tensions related to grounded safety issues, in order to:
• Defining the needed roles and circles
• Defining accountabilities related to safety 
• Adopting the requested policies
• Developing the needed apps
• Working on to projects toward occupational safety improvement

Holacracy doesn't change the content of the work and the way to do it; it only changes the way to take decisions about it...

As a first approach, just describe through Holacracy the way you work already; then make it evolve through Tac and Gov decisions.

Hope that helps.

Dien Kwik

Hi, Mikolaj:

We are in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods Industry, specifically food, and we have our food manufacturing and food safety side.

I assume that your question stems from the doubt that people who have worked well only under very tight supervision and carrots and sticks environment can all of a sudden work well in a self managed organization.

In our company we do it really2 gradually.  There is almost no difference in the actual day to day operations.

The difference is in the process of deciding what role should do what, and what policy needs to be put in place, which is through governance where the workers have to have no objection also to a proposal, and they can also propose changes directly in governance.

More than likely you'll have their former supervisor as the Lead Link of the circle and he will be participating in the same governance meetings. At the very early stages, if you're worried that the workers will then propose things that are dangerous, you'll have the supervisor to object to the proposal and go to integration. Thus, danger avoided

in my experience, though, the workers are so used to the old paradigm that they just have no proposals and never objected at the very early implementation stage.

We, however, never pushed the manufacturing circle to adopt Holacracy immediately. It's whenever they are ready, after seeing the other circles implement it.

Even, when they did implement Holacracy in their groups, it was not 100% compliant  I hope this is not a bad advice..  In practice, their supervisor still acted somewhat like a supervisor, but at least they had started going through governance and can propose clarification of roles if they need to. We just hoped that through the modeling of other circles and constant reminder and training whenever we can that they will gradually move towards more of full Holacracy/Self Managed implementation.

Oh, we also adopted the advocacy app, where each person now has at least three advocates, one is their Lead, and the two others are of theor choice. These advocates have to vote to make changes to salary or to terminate theor advocatee.  This is meant to reduce the use of compensation or termination threat from the former supervisors.  We hoped that this will make it safer for the workers to propose and object when they are ready.

We still have policies for "dishing out" penalties when there is violations, but the penalties are given by the advocates, again after a period of investigation and depends on the majority vote of the advocates. 

I guess it boils down to "take it slow" when you are unsure, and adopt gradually.

Again, this is just our approach, and may conflict completely with other people's advice











Thank you Dien - it is very helpful!