A holacracy is the kind of governance structure characterized by the distribution of a power among self-organization groups, instead of the top-down authority in the standard hierarchical corporation culture model. This offers a flat management structure, which distributes authority. The main goal of a holacracy is to guarantee that those accountable for completing work are provided the authority to decide how that work must be carried out. In accordance to the proponents, holocracies result to greater innovation, employee engagement, accountability, transparency, agility, and efficiency.

However, some critics argued that the model does not enable for enough lateral communication. To be efficient, the role, expectations, and responsibilities for group members in a holacracy are defined, but flexible. Link roles, lie in several groups and guarantee that such groups are working in congruence along with the overall objectives and mission of the organization.

How does it work?

In holacracy, rather than hiring an individual to have a defined role, people choose to fill one or more roles at any given period and have the flexibility to move between roles and teams if they have insights and skills, which would prove advantageous to the organization.

Within the holacracy, people perform in single or more roles on behalf of the organization. Further, roles are part of the self-organizing circles in the bigger circle of the overall organization. Every person in a role is the leader for that area of authority, at the same time the follower of these roles is responsible for their areas in the organization.

The term Holacracy is a certified trademark of HolacracyOne that prohibits unauthorized entities from utilizing the word for services and products. Nevertheless, there are no restrictions on the model itself. The model is identified in the Holacracy Constitution that is made accessible under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 license.

The author of book “The Ghost in the Machine” Arthur Koestler coined the term holarchy as the organization links between holons – Greek term for whole – that describes units, which perform independently; however, wouldn’t exist without the organization they’re part.

For instance, when a farm was to accept a holacratic structure, it might look something like one team might be accountable for the land management. In that team, there might be individual roles for land management, irrigation, soil composition and more. Another team might be allocated to vehicles and tools, along with individual roles for choosing and buying new equipment, operation machinery, conducting regular maintenance checks and a lot more. Workers might play several roles.

On the other hand, Brian Robertson created the concept and dynamics of holacracy while working a software development company called Ternary Software in the beginning of 2000s. in 2007, he and his friend Tom Thomison established HolacracyOne and released Holacracy Constitution three years later. Companies, which have publicly adopted holacracy in some form are Medium and Zappos.com.

Critics have also pointed out that this holacracy as a corporate management doctrine doesn’t denote the end of the corporate hierarchy. It is still a crucial part of holacracy; in fact, the rigidity and hierarchies it makes in the different roles of the actors might be more noticeable in holacracy.

— Slimane Zouggari