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

Tips for finding tension


We are starting to implement holacracy. And we have the initial structure setup. I understand that based on the getting started guide, the next step would be to hold our first governance meeting. Our plan is to go with these roles for a month or so while gathering tensions. It has been two weeks since then, but when I asked whether there is have any tension, everyone said they don't have one. 

Do you have any tips, or exercise we can do to find our tensions?

Thank you

6 Replies
Tom Mulder



Starting groups often have this problem, so no worries. People often feel a tension as being something heavy/drastic. In Holacracy a tension is a felt sense between current reality and a sensed potential. In other words something that you see now and that could be better/different.


To help the people, as a Facilitator, you can ask questions like: “what can be improved?” or “Is there something missing in our structure?”. Also lead by example and have the Lead Link work with you to show the team how it works.


Totally agree with [@mention:456308404149183518] . Sometimes an organizations' members feeling comfortable with identifying tensions, takes a very long time.

I think one key thing is champions in organization who "get it" -- the real meaning of tensions and importance in resolving --  to regularly bring them. Once you see what can be accomplished through the discipline of the meeting structure to protect the space of the tension-holder, and that the tension is resolved when the tension-holder says it is, it can be recognized as a very powerful tool for anyone in the company, and a great avenue to getting new and innovative ideas couriered forward. 


Frederik Fleischmann

Hi Fajar,

at the beginning of the meeting (before you enter the rigid rules of the Governance Meeting) you could integrate a short "Tension Harvesting" session.

This works as follows:

1. Simply ask the participants "What is a tension?". Let them name one or two Tensions out loud and maybe engage them into a very brief discussion what they could do with this tension (bring it to a Governance Meeting, bring it to a Tactical Meeting, etc.).

2. Now that everyone has a basic understanding of Tensions, take 5 minutes of silent work, where everyone collects tensions for themselves.

3. You can then add 5 minutes, where everyone finds a partner and discusses the tensions they harvested with the partner ("what can I do with this? Where can I best process my Tension")

4. Then start the Governance Meeting and trust the process


Additional remark: If you are familiar with the concept of the 4 spaces (Governance, Operational, Tribe, Individual) then you can integrate this perfectly into the flow above by explaining it between step 1 and 2 and discussing it with the actual tensions between step 2 and 3.

Frederik Fleischmann

PS: You write: "We are starting to implement holacracy. And we have the initial structure setup. I understand that based on the getting started guide, the next step would be to hold our first governance meeting." If you are very new to Holacracy it might make sense to look for a seasoned Holacracy veteran who supports you with the big change that you are trying to bring to the company. Moving from a conventional structure to Holacracy is a big leap and from the little information I have, it sounds to me like it would make sense to set up a proper change management process. E.g. educate and train the people of your organization on what is happening, why it is happening and what they can influence and expect for the future. Maybe you have all this in place, but I just wanted to point out, that it is a big endeavour that you are undertaking and I recommend that you get some help or at least partake in one of the Practitioner trainings if you haven't already.

I'm not putting in an application, just trying to give some peer support from first hand experience

Dien Kwik

Hi, Fajar:

I found that, initially, except for a few outspoken individuals, most  people are either afraid to say the wrong things and look "dumb" or genuinely do not think they have the authority to make a change or do not think it's polite to propose changes directly, bypassing their former "manager". They choose to stay quiet. 

I have also found that this continues to be the main barriers, even after several years of implementation and that the change in this area happens slowly. Most governances are done by the same people over and over while a lot of people never bring up tensions. (This may be a cultural issue and we just have to be a little flexible, accept, and adapt as best as we can)

Several things that can help:

1. If you haven't completed the role coverage for your team, then you could just setup one role for each team member, and let the rest of the other roles be submitted through governance by each team member themselves. This is what we did in the beginning, so everyone at least have their own roles to submit in the next several governances, and practice bringing up tension, proposing, and processing the proposals.

2. Ask your facilitator to be extra vigilant in your tactical meetings and sense when there is the slightest confusion about what role is supposed to decide, or when people try to get a consensus on decisions, and guide people to add actions to bring those tensions to governance themselves. Don't let them delegate this to anyone .

3. If you're the former manager, if someone brings issues to be decided to you that you sense is a governance issue, keep asking them what they think should happen, without giving them your version of the answer, don't criticize whatever they propose, and just simply say "Good.  Now bring this tension and proposal to the next governance". Ofcourse you can then react and object in governance itself. 

4. Keep coaching people, if you're the "Holacracy coach" (and I assume you are. If not, create this role in governance and assign yourself to this role") that whenever they gossip and complain amongst themselves that things should be done a certain way, that it is a strong indication of tensions, either tactical or governance and just bring it to whatever next meeting they have if they are unsure. I normally add "if you decide not to bring this tension to a circle Meeting, then you should stop complaining". This is probably not the best advice, but I do it

5. Keep coaching people that they really don't need to have a proposal going into a governance meeting. All they need is a tension, and it doesn't matter what meeting they bring it to, just bring it to one. Proposals can be built in the meeting itself and others in the circle can help.  This helps alleviate some of the concerns of looking "dumb", because most people fear that their proposal is dumb, but not so much about their tensions.

Even after doing all this, expect a slow process, so that you don't get too frustrated.  It will get better, but it takes some time for people to feel comfortable with this new way. Some people will pick it up immediately. Consider this progress. The others will take a lot more time, and this is ok.

Viktor Vi

Create a doc - where every employee can every month give suggestions how to improve something. Make it as a competition -  where you give out price for best ideas every single month (100$ for best idea for example). This will solve the problem.