7 Years of Holacracy – Dirk Nölke Takes Stock

Markus HenkelMay 2024

How have my experiences with Holacracy been?

My experience with Holacracy describes a journey full of teaching moments and adaptations that significantly improved the communication and teamwork in our company. When we made the switch from a traditional organisational structure to Holacracy, my first challenge was to redefine my role as a manager. It was all about letting some of the responsibility go and enabling my colleagues to become self-organised. Of course, that also applied to me.

Continual Optimisation of Processes and Activities

That change was a huge challenge for many of us at first, but it fundamentally changed the entire organisation. One of the key elements of Holacracy is the continual optimisation of processes and activities. That helped us get ever better at learning from mistakes and improving continually. This dynamic led to great enthusiasm in the team early on because we all felt like we were actively shaping our work environment. But it soon became evident that responsibilities were shifting with the introduction of Holacracy. Some focused more on the organisational aspects, while others dedicated themselves to the implementation of projects. Interestingly enough, Holacracy makes it possible for a person to be active in both fields, which requires flexible adaptation to the needs of the company and the employees.

The clear and accessible definition of roles and responsibilities as well as the promotion of transparency and responsibility further strengthened our culture of open communication. This not only improved the collaboration within the teams but also increased employee satisfaction.

To sum it up, you could say that Holacracy helped us create a more dynamic and flexible organisational structure that promotes both individual and collective growth.

Lovey WymannJune 2023

Psychological Security and New Work – or How to Make Shared Governance Work

Experts and interested professionals got together at an after-work event in Berne to talk about psychological security and shared governance. What do employees and (former) managers need when responsibilities are shared in a novel way? Here are a few tips on how to make shared governance work.

Psychological Security and New Work – or How to Make Shared Governance Work

What advantages does Holacracy hold for me personally?

I would like to highlight the many different roles and activities I can try my hand at here at Unic. In close to 13 years at Unic, I have gathered experience in project management and requirements engineering and have supported the marketing team with my experience. I am currently consulting in transformation projects with a focus on digital channels such as e-commerce, which highlights the versatility of a career in a Holacratic system. This career path would most likely be harder to travel in a traditional organisational structure. With all these activities, what mattered most to me was creating added value for the company.

What are the biggest challenges for me and for Unic with Holacracy?

Being open to implementing suggestions in the organisation that you personally do not think make a lot of sense – as long as it does not verifiably damage the company, for instance. The underlying principle of ‘safe enough to try’ is great, but sometimes hard to follow when a suggestion just does not make sense to you. Of course, that also applies to my own suggestions, ideas and requests in the eyes of others.

Recognition and Promotion

One of the key challenges in a Holacratic organisation is the recognition and promotion of the different activities in people’s roles. At Unic, we decided on a specialist career model from the outset. The difficulty here lies in finding a way to recognise the comprehensive expertise and the tasks associated with the different roles of every person in combination with their specialist career. Often, employees contribute to the success of the company in different fields, which should be reflected in promotions and salaries. But not every commitment or contribution is considered in the evaluation and quantifying them is a challenge. When discussing responsibilities, the focus should always be on transparency. Even though certain persons are responsible for certain topics, the true challenge lies in evaluating this responsibility and sharing it collectively.

It is also challenging that in Holacracy, there is no traditional delegation of tasks ‘to subordinates’. This is particularly evident when you are looking for new employees with leadership skills. People who think proactively, take their responsibilities seriously and contribute to the progress of the company usually settle in well at Unic. They focus on their own responsibility and drive change. Former managers who are unwilling to give up their status will struggle to find their place in our organisational structure.

You must always ask yourself whether it is better for a superior to tell you that you messed up... or for you to admit to yourself that this really was not your brightest idea!

Dirk Nölke, Principal Consultant

Another key aspect is settling into Holacracy. At first, many people have a hard time parting with old habits and redefining their role in the Holacratic structures. Even though change is possible, it often turns out to be hard. Striking a balance between individual freedom and collective responsibility is an art form and it increases the transparency and effectiveness of the organisation.

Looking back today, what would I place a special focus on?

It is a challenge to pick out specific aspects from such a complex organisational ecosystem. Any change in one area almost inevitably triggers changes in other areas. Overall, Unic handled the transition to Holacracy very well. They decided early on that open communication was the way to go, and today, most information is available to all employees.

A particular challenge lies in the KPIs and how people read them. If the numbers look good, everything appears to be fine. But what if the numbers do not look so good every once in a while? In these cases, the responsibility lies with every individual and not with the team leader as before. It is then up to the individual employees to come up with their own suggestions to optimise the KPIs or to implement them straight away – that is the essence of assuming responsibility.

For companies about to embark on that journey, I would recommend...

Star Wars can be very instructive as a parable, in particular ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, where young Skywalker tries to lift his starfighter out of the swamp during Jedi training. It seems impossible to Luke. “Alright, I’ll try” he says, and Yoda replies: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” This saying also applies to a change in operating system. At first, everything may feel alien, it may be slow going and there may even be setbacks. But if you do not recognise the advantages of the new system, the way back will only be harder. At first, you will lose those who do not want to switch to Holacracy, and later maybe also those who want to stay. In general, the transition to more granular company management through Holacracy is the right step.

Trust in Leadership

Delegating tasks from the top to the bottom as mentioned above is not always the only option. Trust plays a key role in leadership, and this applies to Holacracy just as it applies to traditional hierarchies. The success of an organisation depends to a large extent on the quality of its leadership. There are many examples of hierarchical structures in which communication, transparency and agility are more than just empty phrases. In these cases, leaders fully trust teams and experts to do their work independently and effectively. They lead, clear the way and provide direction without delegating in the traditional sense. This kind of leadership – servant leadership – shows that even within hierarchical structures, a large degree of self-organisation and individual responsibility is possible – however, structural changes are more of a rocky road than in a responsive organisation.

Insights into Unic

Markus HenkelApril 2024

7 Years of Holacracy – Martin Kriegler Takes Stock

What does the switch from the hierarchical corporate structure to the autonomous Holacracy organization, in which, as we know, there is no traditional management, actually entail? We asked Martin Kriegler, Expert Application Architect at Unic, what has changed in detail? And where Unic can still be optimized?

7 Years of Holacracy – Martin Kriegler Takes Stock

Markus Henkel

Markus HenkelApril 2024

7 Years of Holacracy – Patricia Gomez Takes Stock

What exactly changes when a company transforms into the Holacracy organisational structure? How does the work of employees change? Patricia Gomez, Senior Application Architect at Unic, talks about the details and the challenges for the company itself.

7 Years of Holacracy – Patricia Gomez Takes Stock

Markus Henkel

We look forward to hearing from you!