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

Translation of Holacracy for Non-holacractic Members

In our (large) non-holacratic organisation our unit has proudly made the step in Holacracy and is experiencing successfully so far. But working with the rest of the organisation raises tensions like "we don't understand your terminology", "you are too complex for us", "we don't know who does what in your unit", "we never know when we are allowed to speak in your meetings", etc.

How can we improve the matching between both kind of organisations and reduce the frictions (without bringing all the rest of the organisation in Holacracy ;-) )?

Is there already a kind of summary of the best practices for (non-holacractic) People working with holacractic organisations ? and is there already a kind of checklist for Holacracy-members who work with non-holacracy People?

Thank you for your suggestions

8 Replies
Bernard Marie Chiquet

Hey Philippe, there is a lot to say here... as iGi Partners has accompanied many cases like yours, being a (small) part within a (very) large organizations. I have not enough energy/time now to dig into that very interesting subject, but one key is communication - explaining and making it clear what is going on in such unit having decided to implement Holacracy. When people begin to practice Holacracy, they will use new words, be more precise, get into new mental models and the others will witness such change and could be afraid... and wondering what's going on.

Dien Kwik

Hi, Philippe:

One way that we bridge this is to not use Holacracy terms at all when communicating with those who are not familiar with Holacracy. We also don't run Holacracy style meetings with them.

I use the word issue/problem in place of tension, team/group for circle, etc. 

I sometime suggest that a meeting be run by a facilitator so the meeting can run effectively. I would also suggest that when we need to decide something and we are deadlocked, let's try to uncover the reasons behind our positions and to have both sides consider the other side's reason and try to come up with solutions for each other. This is basically a lighter version of IDM when it's needed. Most of the time it's not needed.






Isabelle Rappart

Hi Philippe,

The key factors are transparency and communication.

Some things you can do :

  • organize workshops open to everybody to explain what it is all about and share the OKRs and nice stories of the roll out
  • create a glassfrog account for "guests" to let them discover the governance, roles, politics... You can suggest them to follow any circle they want
  • invite observers to meetings to discover the reality of the practice
  • organize a survey in the Holacratic part of the organization (after a few months of Holacracy practice) and share widely the results and/or verbatim

Last thing coming to my mind : I think humility is key too. Don't try to convince, just show them the results !

Hope that helps



When an area of the organization isn't as willing to adopt Holacracy,  issues requiring group discussion still surface through day to day work and usually the group needs some help as well, with communication. I serve a role in our organization that helps facilitate through these situations. I build a meeting from the tensions I've heard though I'm not going to call them tensions. I build an agenda and entitle meeting/section of the meeting "Opportunities for Improvement" to avoid the "tensions" word.

In meeting, to drill for proposals from the group, I ask "does anyone have any ideas on how we could we go about addressing/improving this?"

I find that when areas of the organization don't want to adopt Holacracy, there still needs to be a facilitation of discussions to get to the heart of the concern (root cause analysis). The root cause analysis needing to be performed, has so much parallel with Holacracy's tension processing methodology. 

Hope this helps!



Hi Bernard Marie, Dien, Isabelle and Tracey,

Thank you for your inspiring suggestions ! Great, it helps.

As many of them address similar points I think HolacracyOne has here a nice opportunity to consolidate these ideas and offer a standardized set of best practices. I still miss a kind of summary of "what you should know working with an Holacracy-Organisation" for (non-holacractic) People.  Work in progress...

Karilen Mays

Philipe, Are you looking for best practices for those in the Holacracy implementation, within a broader non practicing organization?

Individuals in this situation are torn between two worlds, two languages...this is typically an unsustainable state so to speak. 

So the guide would be for them, right?

And do you also want a sort of "What you should know about working with our Holacracy powered team...for non Holacracy colleagues"?

The individual who is a ratifier needs to be a big champion, and the work of managing that boundary is an extra cost for organizations, and for people, so it is important to anticipate, set this up, and respond with an "agile" implementation plan. Knowing this is difficult, and the more "cross over" there is from the practicing team to the non practicing, the more difficult it will be.

Hence, before we even get to best practices, we would want to look at the boundary, the set up, and help introduce the team to orient them to this challenge up front. 



Hi Karileen, You have perfectly understood our challenge :-) The cross over is quite intensive as our organisation is leading several projects which have impact in the whole non-practicising organisation.  We know that we have a translation job to do and we don't want to have all the burden on the shoulders of the ratifier. Rather than an orientation about the challenge we need simple methods to make our role structure clear to the non-practicioners so that they can get easily what they need from the right person/role, if possible without having to confront them with glassfrog/holaspirit. best, philippe

Paul Walker

Yo, Philippe!

What we do is very similar to Dien's approach - Using non-Holacracy verbiage that is more easily understood. Everyone knows what a "problem" is so it's easy to understand (even if Tensions aren't always problems). Everyone knows what a "team" is, etc. We have successfully run meetings with people that have never seen Holacracy participating because it just seemed like a solution-oriented conversation rather than some rigid and confusing process (even though it still followed process and was facilitated).

In our training for new hires, we focus more on explaining the "why" behind each piece, then let them know what the verbiage is just so they are aware. Since they get the fundamentals, the words immediately make more sense. For example, if you try to learn sign language just by learning all the individual gestures, it will be difficult. However, if someone first teaches you that each of the signs are essentially how you would gesture it in charades, it makes it much easier to understand what someone is trying to say with a language you didn't know previously.