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

Transcript: Getting started with Holacracy: Navigating Power and Control Issues, 06.24.2010

Hi folks, I recently did this transcript for myself but I want to share it with the broader community here. Enjoy!

- Dennis

 

KEY TOPICS:

  • To what extent can you prevent these issues from the start?
  • Preparing people up front, coaching relationship with clients
  • Authority comes from governance
  • As lead link I don’t have the authority to autocratically make any decision, but I have to honor governance
  • It just doesn’t sink in – on both sides
  • Accountability is accompanied by the authority to execute it
  • Habit of checking in with the traditional authority before executing
  • Power doesn’t rest with titles or positions
  • It is messing with people’s identifications
  • A pointing-out instruction from the beginning of implementation for the leaders
  • Active approach of preparing people up-front
  • Talking about ego, laying out a mental model up front, can help
  • We’re going to run into this no matter what – it will surface

 

Question: How to cope with these issues, what helps?

  • Ask: Are we making progress for the organization with Holacracy?
  • Are we still delivering as we promise?
  • If yes, what is this tension of yours about?
  • The organization is being held by the process just fine. So it’s not about the organization, it’s about you. So let’s look at these fears and work through it. 
  • How can we help you understand that things are safe in this new system?
  • You have more control to help the organization fulfill its aim because it doesn’t rely only on you for everything. The system is holding so much more complexity than it was able to hold before.
  • Nothing is out of control, more control is being nurtured.
  • Aim: help the organization respond more organizationally instead of responding individually, more heroically, more personally
  • Baking in really good business fundamentals
  • Implementation will trigger a lot of experiences, some are more personal, but this is exactly what we want
  • As a leader those make me nervous, until I see that. I don’t just want to surrender to the system until I trust the system. Holding up that mirror and helping people see it for themselves.
  • This tension is actually about me, about change, what I’m not used to, versus: these are really things that need to be addressed. Hard to tell the difference at first. Scary. Especially if the company owner really cares. They need to see the system working.
  • As change agents help them have that experience and see that is really working. Help them see it’s really about them, without telling them, because sometimes it isn’t.
  • If they have real tensions help them process them through the system because that will give them the confidence that the system works.
  • Help them to see that what people think of as control in a conventional paradigm is really more illusion than real control. Usually they know it even if they would never confess it. Mirroring approach.
  • Illusion of control: centralized power, plans and prediction that we are holding to. It doesn’t give us the control we think it provides.
  • Pointing out things to people
  • First assume it is not about them (even if you suspect it is) and help them try to work the tension throughthe system until it becomes blindingly obvious to them that it doesn’t need to get worked through the system, that it is just something they need to sit with.

 

 

Question: is an extra type of meeting needed besides strategy, governance and tactical meetings to process this?

  • No extra type of meeting for this needed, rather one-on-one coaching to help people understand how to use the system and how to process experiences.
  • A group process can work well, but the danger is to try to do the work that should go into the other meetings.
  • You don’t want to be over-explaining of things that need to be experienced
  • One of the early mistakes: not having individual or group coaching processes in place
  • Interesting for personal development or executive coaching: felt dissonance that is experienced (it is not just cognitive) in this exposed position can drive development
  • Really good fuel for these types of coaching, being a companion through the process, processing these personal tensions parallel but separate from what is going on organizationally
  • Coaching founders: the most challenging of power and control issues
  • All these issues + they own most of the company from an investment standpoint, they built it from scratch, it is their baby
  • Most founders have an intuitive sense that there is a healthy fusion with the founder that is not serving any more at some point.
  • Pitfalls: often being to attached or not being willing to let go, when it’s time to, getting their own stuff wrapped-up in it, it becomes “my company”, a complete identification / fusion, and it feels so right because it was necessary up to some point
  • Holacracy forces the differentiation process from the start

 
Question: People who expect a lot of central control. How will people take part? Hints?

  • It is not a one-way- issue: people need to step up and claim their authority, whereas former leaders need to step back
  • Help them understand: accountabilites also mean authorities. Their area, they own that.
  • When roles are assigned help people understand that these roles are theirs to energize, no one else is going to do it or tell them what to do. Not even the leader has the authority to jump in.
  • I don’t try to involve or engage people in the group process – that will come with time, instead I work through the roles and help them see nobody else is going to do it
  • Tactical meetings: leader should remind folks that they have the authority already to make things happen.
  • You can almost pro-actively give the permission that has already been given on a regular basis until people get it, because in operational meetings you’re talking about the execution of the work anyway
  • “The authority is defined, you fill the role, go make that happen!”
  • The Founder Issue: Even some of the most intelligent, aware, mature individuals, when they’re in the founder role  feell like they have a baby to protect, have a big challenge with the attachment to it, the identification with it, and it quickly turns from protecting to smothering.
  • Holacracy will hold up a mirror and be a challenge for that founder – to view that organization as an own entity and let go of the power, they’re used to holding
  • “my company” starts sounding dirty, once you’re used to Holacracy
  • It’s not that. It’s an organization and has its purpose
  • Parent metaphor: good parent means being fused in the beginning and letting go, but not too early and not too late. In both cases the child is being hurt.

 
· Question:“What’s the ultimate trump-card in Holacracy?”

  • The founder believes he has ultimate control and use it in a benevolent way
  • “I let you do what you want until it is outside my own limits of tolerance and then I pull the ultimate trump-card.”
  • Sometime it is even worse: It is not a direct rejection but they still say “Yes, we’re going to do it” while at the same time they undermine the process. They ignore the established governance, they act as if it’s not there and as if they’ve complete control and they’re even doing it unconsciously.
  • It happens a lot and it is really difficult to address.
  • For any organization to outlive its founder this differentiation has to happen, even in conventional companies. The founder issue is ubiquitous.
  • Holacracy helps facilite it
  • The board ultimately holds a lot of control at its level of scale
  • Governance is where ultimate authority resides. It is the ultimate authority vehicle for the organization
  • A relieve: “this is not my authority” - I can let go of the rest. I am not going to suck it all up because of my position. I am going to be a good follower of the authority of other roles.
  • We separate investment from power. A subtle way in which Holacracy shifts the notion of power and control.
  • Just because you’re an investor or an equity stakeholder in an organization doesn’t convey power.
  • Authority is defined in governance. Governance occurs at every level of scale from the board down.
  • The board is the control point through its practice of governance. It’s the board that is surfacing the aim, filling the lead-link to carry that aim forward in the executive body of the organization. The board, through integrative decisionmaking, decides and has that ultimate control for the organization. That is quite different from shareholders.
  • A friend, founder of a company, implemented Holacracy, ran into a trap: fear came up and she grabbed back one of the distributed authorities from one role and said: “It’s my money at stake! I can’t let that happen.” Really challenging. Because of that she held to the control, thereby not letting another role do their job, which was the very thing that was endangering her money.
  • Blurred boundaries: an investor is showing up in your actual company meeting operationally, which ishorribly dysfunctional.
  • People can be both investors and show up in an operational role: but not show up as investors in circle meetings in the company.
  • That was an ultimate trump-card: nobody can argue with that. It is true and reflects a real pain, but it is hurting the organization.
  • Holacray makes it very clear that this is a boundary violation, even though it is commonly thought of as normal behavior. It doesn’t solve the problem, but makes it more visible.
  • Holacracy bakes in clarity in the form of a self similar system from bottom to top.
  • Lead-Link is a fairly small role that doesn’t take very much time. Tom does less than 2% of his time filling his lead-link role. Most of it goes to other roles he fills.
  • Confusion of “Lead-Link” with “Leader” (in a conventional sense)
  • In HolacracyOne the “CEO role” was created in the beginning but it didn’t make sense. There wasn’t any actual ongoing activity in the CEO role as we defined it.
  • Lead-link is mainly about resource allocation and prioritization, the work-load on a lead-link is miniscule.
  • In the case of the investor now you can at least say “What role are you speaking from? That is not a role in the circle, that has nothing to do with it.” It is easier to point out the boundaries.
  • There’s just communication between equal roles, not between boss and subordinate.
  • Holacracy gives you the tools to highlight the difference, to point to it, reminding people of governance as the ultimate framework for authority.
  • The founder in the example was for the first time ever able to see why this was dysfunctional, why she needed to not show up like that. It was actually disempowering people from helping this organization from being everything it could be. It was all bottlenecking back to her.
  • A Lean principle: eliminating any waste, eliminating anything that is not actually helping the organization achieve its aim or purpose, or deliver on that.
  • In Holacracy the question “Who’s the boss?” doesn’t really have a good answer – other than “the process of governance decides and carries the authority.” There is no boss in Holacracy. There may be roles that coordinate work and service delivery that coordinate with other roles to get that done. But it is about role-relationships, not about the boss.
  • It is pushing on those self-limiting concepts we have. “Boss” is such a vague, abstract term. What does that mean? Holacracy breaks that down and tells us exactly what roles there are and which authorities and accountabilities they have.
  • Prepare for “ego-shock” when Holacracy is started.
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