A month after our first encounter with Holacracy (see our previous post for a quick intro to the concept), we are moving forward: we had our first workshop with experienced Holacracy-trained coach Christiane Seuhs-Schoeller who came to BSL to help us embark on this journey as smoothly as possible.
September 30, BSL: It’s an early morning as we arrive at BSL, grab a cup of coffee and sit in a circle. A full day ahead of us, and the promise of a new beginning. We start with a “check-in” – a ritual we are now used to – and take a moment to tune in, call out any distraction, and ensure that we are fully present for the meeting.
Christiane introduces herself and immediately opens the space for questions, doubts, and uncertainties. “What is the legal framework for Holacracy?”, “How does Holacracy look at accountability?”, “What are the steps to adopt Holacracy?”, “How do we ensure the work gets done in Holacracy?”, and “How do we deal with personal issues in Holacracy?” to name but a few questions we ask Christiane. She takes great care in answering each question and in doing so, without us realizing, she’s already got us started on this new journey.
One of the first things I pick up is how Christiane talks about Holacracy as a practice. She says it’s like playing a new instrument – you need to practice a lot in order to master it and it takes a while to learn to love it. Being one of the first Holacracy-certified coaches in Europe and having assisted many organizations in their transition to Holacracy, Christiane shares her observation that more often than not the most difficult part is the un-learning of some basic beliefs we’ve inherited. The process can be really challenging and frustrating at times – assures Christiane – yet she suggests that we stick with it for 6 months and then make an educated decision on whether to go on with Holacracy.
Another big topic for us, which makes us both excited and nervous, is what Christiane defines as the “separation of role and soul”. Holacracy is very efficient in keeping personal and organizational tensions separate. It is a system that governs the organization as such (and its interest), and not its people (neither their personal interests). At first, we feel worried that the mix of personalities that we so much enjoy having as a team will be lost forever and so will our personal relationships. Yet Christiane goes on to explain that, in fact, Holacracy respects the autonomy of people to handle interpersonal issues so much that it does not enforce rules on how to govern these. Instead, by refusing to deal with personal tensions, Holacracy ruthlessly respects the right of people to manage their personal interactions in a different space, in whichever way they find appropriate, and they can freely do so because these interactions will no longer interfere with work-related decision making. Any attempt to govern and control employees’ personal expressions and interactions – says Christiane – implies the loss of autonomy to deal with these.
Upon reflection, I see how brilliant this is – Holacracy creates a work space where employees speak out of their functional roles and keep personal feelings at bay – a safe space which rules out power games altogether. As our colleague Aurea observed, it is “interesting how this innovative organizational structure can create space for individuals but at the same time is so straightforward and goes directly to the organization’s core tensions in meetings.”
To our relief, Holacracy achieves this notably smoothly and efficiently. Asking simple questions such as “Out of which role are you talking to me?” or “Is this your accountability?” help us cut through the personal and keeps our relationships free from political influence and implicit expectations.
“By changing the decision making process and making decisions that are based from the focus of specific roles, we will ensure that we take the correct decisions for the true purpose of the organization as well as be much more flexible to the ever changing market needs,” says David from our team.
We’ll soon tell you how the rest of the workshop went – stay tuned!
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