All roles in Holacracy are managerial roles

Tim Rayner writes in the article “Medium’s Experiment with Holacracy Failed. Long Live the Experiment!” that:

  • Holacracy flattens organisations, getting rid of hierarchical power structures.
  • It distributes power to individuals, who get to choose what projects they work on and are granted full authority to execute tasks as they see fit.”
  • The Lead Link heads a circle, but doesn’t manage it.

I’d challenge this:

  • First of all, I think a Holacratic organization is all but flat. The organizational structure consists of nested interlinked circles.1 It’s this hierarchy of nested circles which is called a holarchy.2
  • Secondly, Holacracy distributes power to Roles, not individuals. I think this is an important distinction. In Holacracy, the power is in the process, which is defined in detail.3 Individuals have the basic responsibility, and sacred duty,4 to act as role fillers. Individuals also have specific duties in offering transparency, processing requests, and accepting certain rules of prioritization.5 The process is all that matters, and it takes care of everything else.6
  • And finally, I do think that the Lead Link manages the circle. It depends of course on how you define manage. The Lead Link definitely controls the circle, and control is a managerial function.7 With this definition, all Roles in Holacracy are managerial roles.

1 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, p. 47.
2 Ibid., p. 46.
3 Ibid., p. 21.
4 Ibid., p. 85.
5 Ibid., p. 92.
6 Ibid., p. 111.
7 Control (management), Wikipedia. (Accessed 31 March 2016)

Related posts:
Traditional vs. Sociocratic vs. Holacratic Command & Control
Book Review: Holacracy by Brian Robertson

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog. A common theme is his search for better ways of working together.

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