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

Validating a governance objection based on "overlapping accountabilities"

As a Lead Link I found myself objecting to a proposal that created overlap in accountabilities between two roles. My tension was that it's unclear which role I can ask to do something. I have 2 questions about this:

1. My tension was "anticipating", because I hadn't had to ask a role to do something yet, so I had no concrete example. However, I was already in reality feeling the tension, literally not knowing which role to expect what from. So, would you validate my objection?

2. Is there anything in the constitution to support my feeling of "accountabilities should not overlap"?

6 Replies
Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Ruben,

As Lead Link, your first accountability is "Structuring the governance of the circle to enact its purpose and accountabilities".

If the governance proposal causes harm or moves the circle backward by decreasing the clarity of the governance of the circle, then your objection seems to be valid from your Lead Link role, as the proposal impacts directly your Lead Link accountability...


To answer your second question, article 3.2.2 of the constitution gives some clues (last paragraph): "Finally, a Proposal is always valid regardless of the preceding criteria if it is made solely to help evolve the Circle’s Governance to more clearly reflect activity that is already happening, or to trigger a new election for any Elected Role."

So, as proposal creating overlap in accountabilities between two roles decreases the clarity of the governance, this proposal may be constitutionally non valid...

Any other perspective?

Hope that helps!




Davi Gabriel da Silva

@Ruben, in my understanding, your objection is invalid because you're trying to anticipate what might happen. If the Proposal is accepted, then there might be an overlap or confusion about who you should ask. Anyway, in my opinion this confusion won't hurt, because both roles will be accountable, and you can just choose one...

Also, for me the proposal seems to be "safe enough to try" and you can adapt later once you get more data. If I were the facilitator I would invalidate your objection... 

Hope it helps.

Joni Overbosch

Hi Ruben,

What I learned during the training is that an objection is not invalid perse because you are anticipating something. If the possible impact is significant, anticipating this is enough of a reason for the objection to be valid. If it's not significant, you can just give it a try and see what happens. If it does have a negative impact, you can create a new proposal. 

3.2.4 Criteria for Valid Objections, c

[...] However, relying on predictions is allowed when no opportunity to adequately sense and respond is likely to exist in the future before significant impact could result.

During training, Brian used the example of your neighbor working on a nuclear experiment in his basement. You would object to this because you anticipate nobody will survive an accident. So it's not safe to just try and deal with the  consequences if and when they happen.


Diederick Janse

Great question, and actually a pretty common objection! Here are my two cents:

You ask: "Would you validate my objection?" However, the Facilitator has no authority to validate or invalidate any objections (other than his or her own). The only circle member that has the authority to do that is the objector him/herself. What the Facilitator can do, is ask the objector some test questions to help him/her figure out whether the objection is valid or not. As far as I'm aware, there is only one situation in which the Facilitator does have the authority to declare an objection invalid, and that is when the objector is not willing or able to give an argument for one or more of the four validity criteria specified in article 3.2.4.

Here's the relevant bit from article 3.2.5 on testing objections: "The Facilitator may test the validity of a claimed Objection by asking the Objector questions. For a claimed Objection to survive the test, the Objector must be able to present a reasonable argument for why it meets each specific criteria required of an Objection. The Facilitator must discard an Objection if the Facilitator deems the Objector has failed to meet this threshold."

As long as the objector presents some reasonable argument for why the objection meets the criteria, then it's a valid objection, whether the Facilitator personally agrees with the arguments or not.

So really there's no way of knowing if an objection is valid or invalid without getting the specific arguments presented. The same objection could be either valid or invalid, depending on if and how the objector argues for it.

That said, I think you're objection would likely be valid, given the following arguments in response to the Facilitator's test questions:

1) Do you see a specific reason why this proposal would cause harm or move us backwards? --> Yes, this proposal would move us backwards, because right now this accountability exist in one place, and this proposal would cause an overlapping accountability to be added to a second, making it less clear who's accountable.

2) Would that issue be created by adopting this proposal, or is it already an issue, even if we don't adopt it? --> Without this proposal, there would be clarity about which role is accountable, so yes, it would be created specifically by the proposal to add this specific accountability.

3) Is that based on presently known data, or are you anticipating that it might happen? --> It's based on presently known data, namely the existing governance records (specifically the existing accountability) and this proposal to add an overlapping accountability. I'm not anticipating it might overlap and cause a decrease in clarity, I know it does interpreting the governance right now.

4) Does it limit one of your roles, or are you trying to help another role or the circle? --> In your case, coming from the Lead Link role, you can simply argue that it's coming from your role as Lead Link, looking at the clarity and coherence of the circle as a whole. That argument would not be valid coming from other roles, but they might be able to present a specific argument for why it decreases clarity for their role, if they're actually affected by this overlapping accountability (e.g. depend on it to get their own role's work done).

It's a long answer to a simple question, but I think the nuance here in judging or evaluating the validity of an objection is key, and it gets missed often. So I figured it was worth going on a little bit of a rant ;-)

Brian Robertson

Well put Diederick!  That sure captured my thoughts on the matter, and I doubt I could have said it better myself...

(And FWIW, as someone who raises that kind of objection occasionally myself in my own Lead Link roles Ruben, I also usually argue that it's based on present data, for the reason Diederick shares there.)

Alexey Ilyichev

Thank you for a brilliant case on why it is important that the only person who can validate the objection is the objector himself!