Browse Definitions :
Definition

holacracy

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A holacracy is a governance structure characterized by a distribution of power among self-organizing groups, rather than the top-down authority in the typical hierarchical corporate culture model.

A holacracy provides a flat management structure that distributes authority. The goal of a holacracy is to ensure that those responsible for completing work are given the authority to decide how that work should be carried out. According to proponents, holacracies lead to greater efficiency, agility, transparency, accountability, employee engagement and innovation. Critics argue, however, that the model doesn't allow for sufficient lateral communication. To be effective, the roles, responibilities and expectations for group members in a holacracy are clearly defined, but flexible. Connecting roles, sometimes called link roles, sit in multiple groups and ensure that those groups are operating in congruence with the organization's overall mission and objectives.

The word holacracy comes from "holon," a term Arthur Koestler coined in his 1967 book "The Ghost in the Machine." A holon is an autonomous unit that is nevertheless a dependent/interdependent part of a larger whole. The suffix -cracy means "ruled by." Accordingly, a holacracy is an organization ruled by self-contained groups, just as a democracy (from the Greek "demos" for common people) is a system ruled by the people and a meritocracy is a system in which those individuals who demonstrate their worthiness have the power.

Organizations that have organized or reorganized as holacracies include Zappos, Amazon’s footwear retail subsidiary; Medium, a social content sharing site developed by Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone; and Conscious Capitalism, a non-profit organization created by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

How does a holacracy work?
Within the holacracy, individuals perform in one or more roles on behalf of the organization. Roles are part of self-organizing circles which may be overlapping, separate or contained inside other circles within the larger circle of the overall organization. Each individual in a role is the leader for that area of authority and the follower of those roles in circles he is involved in. Circles are self-governing; they assign roles and are accountable for their areas within the organization. Connecting roles known as links sit in multiple circles and ensure that those circles are operating in congruence with the organization's overall mission and objectives. 

Holacracy.Example_Circle_Structure

Fig. 1: Circles in a holacracy

The name Holacracy is a registered trademark of HolacracyOne, which prohibits unauthorized entities from using the word for products or services. However, there are no restrictions on the holacratic model itself. The model is specified in the Holacracy Constitution, which is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 license.

Watch a brief introduction to the concept of holacracy:

This was last updated in May 2015

Continue Reading About holacracy

Join the conversation

2 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

I’ve seen a limited type of this in organizations that adopt an agile approach to software development in the sense that the self-rule was limited. Valve Software was one of the first companies I saw that actually tried to implement a holocratic environment in an attempt to create an environment where innovation flourishes. I think their employee handbook (http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf) sums it up nicely by referring to it as a “fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one’s there telling you what to do.”
Cancel
"Responibilities"? You don't use a spell checker in a word definition article?
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

SearchSecurity

  • GPS jamming

    GPS jamming is the process of using a frequency transmitting device to block or interfere with radio communications.

  • time-based one-time password (TOTP)

    A time-based one-time password (TOTP) is a temporary code, generated by an algorithm, for use in authenticating access to ...

  • Security Operations Center (SOC)

    A security operations center (SOC) is a command center facility for a team of IT professionals with expertise in information ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • disaster recovery team

    A disaster recovery team is a group of individuals focused on planning, implementing, maintaining, auditing and testing an ...

  • cloud insurance

    Cloud insurance is any type of financial or data protection obtained by a cloud service provider. 

  • business continuity software

    Business continuity software is an application or suite designed to make business continuity planning/business continuity ...

SearchStorage

  • SSD (solid-state drive)

    An SSD (solid-state drive) is a type of nonvolatile storage media that stores persistent data on solid-state flash memory.

  • NAND flash memory

    NAND flash memory is a type of nonvolatile storage technology that does not require power to retain data.

  • storage class memory (SCM)

    Storage class memory (SCM) is a type of NAND flash that includes a power source to ensure that data won't be lost due to a system...

Close