Episode #069: Olivier Compagne: Holacracy: A Complete System for Self Organization

How can organizations upgrade their operating models to adapt more effectively in an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world? Tune in to this week’s episode of the Team Coaching Zone Podcast with guest Olivier Compagne of HolacracyOne to find out. Olivier is a Partner at HolacracyOne as well as a seasoned consultant and coach with years of experience supporting companies transitioning to Holacracy.

In this episode of the podcast learn about Olivier’s journey from his homeland in France to coming to the US to pursue a Master’s in Psychology with a focus on adult development, to his study of various conflict-resolution practices from Non-Violent Communication to mediation, and to his discovery of Holacracy. Themes explored in the episode include: the need to upgrade our organizational operating models to be fit for the 21st century; the trends and movements that inspired Holacracy; defining Holacracy; self-managing organizations; the role of teams and circles in Holacracy; distributed authority and the governance process; the iterative process of updating the organizational structure; moving away from job descriptions to roles; how teams link up to each other as part of larger wholes; conflict resolution and decision making in the system; the role of coaching in Holacracy; how to introduce Holacracy into organizations; the book by Brian Robertson “Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World;” and more.

Olivier also shares some stories of companies that have implemented Holacracy as well as how consultants and coaches can become trained in the system. This is an episode that all team coaches cannot afford to miss!

Listen Now

Resources Mentioned

  1. http://www.holacracy.org
  2. Robertson, B.J. (2015). Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World.

Listen to the Episode: itunes-podcast-300x110 oie_FHDKkMxcjd4O oie_wLWK44Dk98d5 oie_P2hcJxBfeWEd    


Part 1 – Getting to Know the Guest: Olivier Compagne

  • Olivier is a Partner at HolacracyOne
  • Seasoned consultant and coach with years of experience supporting companies transitioning to Holacracy
  • Based in Nevada Las Vegas
  • Certified Holacracy Coach
  • Native from France
  • Background in social science
  • Completed a masters in psychology with a focus on adult developmental psychology
  • Interests in conflict resolution: nonviolent communication and mediation
  • Closet technologist
  • We spend so much time at work: how can we improve that? bad relationships at work is crippling
  • Organizational conflict often times a result of organizational structure that gets played out between individuals
  • The way a company operates is often assumed: the traditional management hierarchy as the main approach to organizing is often assumed as the only approach
  • Was volunteering at a non-profit in San Francisco that wasn’t functioning well: the organization decided to adopt Holacracy: Brian Robertson came one day and that was Olivier’s introduction to Holacracy: a few years later he joined HolacracyOne, LLC.
  • All the things Olivier was looking for in Psychology and Conflict Resolution was about people…however Olivier found that Holacracy wasn’t focusing on people but rather on organizational structure (the way power is organized and distributed) and that was having the same and even better results

Part 2 – Holacracy & Stories of Application

  • What is Holacracy?
    • All organizations need an operating model or system
    • The traditional management hierarchy has been the dominant one
    • Holacracy is a replacement for that hierarchy
    • Operating system as a metaphor: Holacracy is an upgrade to your current system
    • Self management and organization: doesn’t require centralized control
    • Trends that have influenced Holacracy: agile software development, lean
    • Brian Robertson the pioneer behind Holacracy: sought for a better way to organize a software development company
    • How to take the best of agile and bring it to the whole organization
    • Teaming is great but all teams ultimately have to coordinate with the rest of the company
    • Word “Holacracy” came from an author Arthur Cussler
    • “Holon” – a whole and a part of a bigger whole
    • “Holarchy” – a hierarchy of holons
    • Holacracy – a play on the above
    • Self-managing teams organized into larger wholes or circles (nested)
    • Can be used with larger and small companies
    • Zappos: 1200 people has applied Holacracy
    • A system with clear rules: more than just principles; key processes
  • Elements of Holacracy
    • A whole system
    • Governance – the way the organization manages its structure; A process that enable a team to change its structure based on the real world issues it faces: make tweaks, frequent iterations to the structure; every team has its own governance meeting
    • Double Linking: within teams the traditional manager is split into two roles (different people): one is external facing and that liaises with the external environment (e.g. taking requests from the broader organization) and one that is more internal facing (taking the requests of the workers up)
    • Linkages between teams: circles
    • Circles: a group of roles
    • A top of organization you can have a team or circle that is focused around roles: lead link role – doesn’t have the authority of a CEO
    • Roles: don’t use job descriptions in Holacracy; roles describe what is expected of you and they are clear; you can have several roles: role is like a hat; roles can get changed through the governance meeting
    • Coaching in Holacracy: help people leverage Holacracy to get what they need; facilitating governance and tactical meetings like referees; helping explain some of the rules of Holacracy; a lot about mindset shift;
  • Stories of Companies Using Holacracy
    • Zappos: one of the success stories despite what is being said in the media; story about a team member at a governance meeting: mix of blue collar and white collar workers: proposal by a woman who was having an issue with the schedule which wasn’t working with her because of day care: the work involved drivers: the team had been talking about it for a while but never sat and dealt with it: through the governance process they resolved the issue in about an hour
    • Governance Process: different rounds: someone makes a proposal: then a round of clarifying questions to better understand (not a place to say whether you like it or not): then a round of reactions: go back to the original proposer to clarify or modify based on what they hear: then a round of objections if adopting the proposal would harm the company (some specific ways to facilitate objections – having an experienced coach can help): then an integration round (modify the proposal to address the original tension and include any objections)
    • Zappos: introduced Holacracy through a pilot with 100 people in HR; after pilot they rolled it out to the company in a phased approach
    • One outcome was flexibility it gave workers to step in and out of roles: helped to leverage the employee talents to a greater degree: also reduced burden on managers
    • When conflicts of roles arise you don’t need HR to resolve them because you have the governance process
    • Can be applied to all kinds of organizations: you can scaffold it onto organizations
    • Benefits of Holacracy: Analogy of why you should upgrade your operating system
      • Agility
      • Engagement
      • Autonomy in roles
      • Meaning and Purpose: a purpose-drive system
      • For profit and non-for-profit becomes obsolete: For Purpose
    • Other companies that have implemented Holacracy: David Allen’s company (Getting Things Done); Precision Nutrition (Coaching on getting more fit and healthier); ARCA (North Carolina – manufacturing cash handling machines, ATM’s);
  • How Holacracy Get’s Introduced
    • Organizations that want to bring it in often start with a pilot in order to experience it first
    • Taster workshops: half day
    • Can bring HolacracyOne in for 2 days for a discovery session to try it out on some real issues
    • Trainings: Holacracy Practitioner Training (flagship training for people in companies and future coaches) and Holacracy Coach Training
    • Licensing model and certification level

Part 3 – Resources & Parting Advice

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