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

Taking Questions

We have observed what we believe to be a dysfunction in our holacracy during Tactical agenda processing.  There are some participants that want to basically do an extensive "presentation" and then end it with, "I'll take questions."

My perspective is that the person has "shared information" which is a valid pathway, but the generic "I'll take questions" is not seeking any specific information.  I'm inclined to shut that down by saying that it isn't a valid pathway (i.e., "taking questions").  If it generates concerns for others, they are free to add items to the agenda.  Seem reasonable?

The process is often criticized by participants as being to rigid, so I don't want to introduce counter-productive rigidity.

3 Replies
Karilen Mays

Geoff,  a few thoughts, since tactical meetings should feel open enough and like easy wins often, then I am glad you are inquiring into approaches here, to not unnecessarily /unproductively shut things down...if the person wants to take questions, then it sounds like an invitation for questions or an offer to share more information. This can be really practical in some cases. I see it a lot too. I often check, when someone wants to ask, did you want to field the questions, sometimes the person says no.

As facilitator, I don't think I would not shut it down if that is what the agenda item owner wants. Some of us process information in a way that happens better with questions, and sometimes we say we got what we need, when in reality, we want to know if anyone has questions, so don't be fooled by the person saying they want to share and then inviting questions. I appreciate your instinct to get clear on what is happening and who needs it, though I am not sure what constitutionally would mean that is not a valid use of a tactical meeting to field questions. Certainly if others have questions and the agenda item owner is complete, that is a good time to direct others to the agenda, like you are mentioning.

However, if someone is doing a presentation and it seems like they are looking for consensus or are unclear about the authorities, that could be a good opportunity for putting on more of a coach hat and highlight the authority structure, especially for new people or those out of practice or habituated to doing a lot of presentations for buy in.

I also wonder how extensive the presentations are. Presentations are a big part of a lot of teams, so it can be hard to know when to stop and what is relevant for everyone. Perhaps you can set a time box up front occasionally to help, like we have 4 minutes per item, so be mindful if you want to field questions, that there are only a few minutes per item...then when two minutes left, interrupt presenter, time check of about two minutes to let them know they have only a little time left, and align on possible next actions for those that may have follow ups.

Also talk about this pattern in a more open format if there are regular spaces to reflect on experience or learning, so people can have insights about it being okay to not do presentations and take questions, and let others process their own tensions.

Hope that helps.

shammi nanda

Hey Karilen, I am sensing you are also talking of people process things in diverse ways, for some asking questions works. 

Can you elaborate on this - "so don't be fooled by the person saying they want to share and then inviting questions.". 

Keith Jarvis

I, too, think clarity is useful here - and I don't have to feel like I'm being rude or shuting someone down as Facilitator, either. A balanced approach is readily available.

Circle member 'shares information' then trails off with 'and I'm complete for now unless someone has a question or comment'. As Facilitator a simple 'are you specifically seeking feedback or do you wish to move on?' can get that person to own their power to ask for what they want. It's also a good model for other circle members to increase their specificity in what they want.

Nobody has been harmed or 'shut down' through a little redirect like this, and it can easily result in a feedback request or moving on. If we move on and another member has a pressing need on the topic, they can add it to the agenda and we'll give them the space to seek what they want.