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

Should we go back to dictator mode on time of crisis?

I am interested to hear your comment regarding this question. Can holacracy withstand critical moment? or would it be too slow to react? (waiting for governance meeting) etc.

My take on this question is that, since each role has it's own purpose and accountability, we can trust the filler to best energize the role and respond to such crisis. And we also have individual action, in case we can't wait for a partner to make a decision / do some actions.

5 Replies
Dien Kwik

Hi, Fajar:

Quick thoughts on this one:

In my opinion the implementation of Holacracy should never slow us down operationally/tactically.  If our version of implementation makes it slower, then we should change it. (Although, I have to admit that a lot of times things do slow down, not because of Holacracy, but because of people’s confusion about Holacracy and how to do things, including always waiting for governance first before acting, even though immediate actions are needed, or waiting for tactical meeting to solve operational problems)

Roles already have authority to take any action to achieve the role’s purpose as long as it is not explicitly forbidden, so the same thing applies in a crisis situation.  The relevant role makes the decisions and take the actions immediately, no waiting.

If a governance change is critical and needed quickly, then an ad-Hoc governance can always be called, and all the circle members are to prioritize this meeting ahead all other tasks, so that the change can be made immediately.

In times of crisis, If any one needs to “veto” a decision or action, my understanding is that this is also part of Individual Action, so this can be done quickly. No waiting. Any governance changes will happen afterwards when appropriate.


Hi Fajar

My view is that "Individual Action" is enough here - but other people in my company have also felt this tension, and for them Individual Action has not been enough. We therefore have a dictator policy exactly as you suggest. (Our Anchor Circle is called the Board.)

Best wishes, Andrew 

Holacracy Suspension Policy

In rare circumstances that are not clear to the author(s) of this policy, it may be necessary to quickly and temporarily suspend Holacracy to ensure the survival of the company.

In a suspension, all Partners are still expected to operate by the rules of Holacracy but a Temporary Dictator with a fixed term is nominated with the explicit authority to bypass any existing policies, strategies, role definitions, and any other feature of Holacracy, for the specific purpose of resolving a problem that threatens the survival of the company. The Temporary Dictator may instruct other Partners to also bypass existing policies, strategies, role definitions, and other Holacracy features.

This process may only be initiated by the current Acting Lead Link of the Board, and must follow the following steps, to be conducted jointly by the Facilitator and the Secretary:
- All shareholders must be notified of the intent to suspend Holacracy, the duration of the suspension, the Temporary Dictator nominee, and the reasons for it, in writing (as well as verbally).
- Shareholders must be given a chance to vote via email response.
- If a shareholder is not responding, there must be diligent attempts to contact them via phone, Facebook, email and any other means apparent to the Secretary.
- Shareholders may request up to 24 hours to make up their mind as to their response.
- At least 50% of the voting shares must support the suspension in order for it to be valid.
- The vote is only concluded when all shareholders have had a chance to vote or 24 hours have elapsed.

This process is deliberately difficult to activate, requiring the Acting Lead Link, the Facilitator and the Secretary to act together and collect votes from the shareholders. The hope and expectation is that this policy will never be needed.

If a Temporary Dictator is elected, then at the earliest convenience after normal company operations are resumed (i.e. the fixed term has ended), the Secretary will schedule one or more enquiry meetings to debrief the process, to be facilitated by the Facilitator, to review whether this policy was invoked for a good reason or whether this could have been avoided. The Facilitator is encouraged to consider inviting people external to GrantTree (e.g. Holacracy coaches we have a relationship with) to provide an external perspective on whether and how this could have been avoided. The proceedings of this meeting must be minuted and published to the whole company as soon as it is legally practical to do so and no longer than 3 months after the end of the enquiry process.


Fajar Firdaus

Thank you [@mention:450819477777465353], [@mention:544274267239861666].

Based on study of 6 styles of leadership, https://intenseminimalism.com/...yles-of-leadership/, one should use different style like a tool based on the situation. I understand that in holacracy each LL can choose this style but some style (assertive/dictator) will violate Constitution. 


Dien Kwik

Hi, [@mention:544274267239861666]:

Temporary Dictator sounds menacing, but it provides an escape clause for those worried about not being able to save the company in crisis.

It’d be interesting to see if it will ever be invoked, knowing that people can take individual actions already




Tyler Danke

The Temporary Dictator situation is already handled by the ability temporarily repeal the constitution and also by individual action. also there are so many ways to process tensions that no situation is really considered a crisis. I have had a situation where I said I was willing to repeal the adoption of Holacracy to make a firing decision because I was not getting what I needed. that was fun...