Holacratic tyranny

People are viewed as sensors for the organization in Holacracy (and Sociocracy 3.0):

  • … individuals act as sensors (nerve endings) for the organization 1
  • An organization … is equipped with sensors — … the human beings who energize its roles and sense reality on its behalf. 2
  • One powerful way … is to harness the tremendous sensing power of the human consciousness available to our organizations. When those tensions can be processed quickly and effectively, then the organization can benefit … 3
  • The whole point of Holacracy is to allow an organization to better express its purpose. 4
  • … an ”organization” is an entity that exists beyond the people, with its own purpose to enact and with work to do beyond just serving the people doing that work. 5
  • Organizations running with Holacracy are first and foremost purpose-driven … with all activities ultimately being for the sake of realizing the organization’s broader purpose. Every member then becomes a sensor for that purpose … 6
  • The organization is depending on you, as its sensor, to give voice to the tensions you sense so that it can evolve. 7
  • Holacracy is focused on the organization and its purpose—not on the people and their desires and needs … 8
  • Many of the rules … are there specifically to ensure that the focus is only on what’s needed for the organization to express its purpose, … not on … anything else.” 9
  • … we are installing a system in which we no longer need to lean on our connections and relationships to be able to process organizational tensions. 10
  • … the organizational space is the result of working together role to role and governing those roles for the sake of the organization’s purpose. 11
  • [Holacracy] keeps human values out of the organizational space, which also keeps the organization out of our human-value space. 12

Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking. I think the sensor 13 metaphor leads the thinking in the wrong direction. The processing of tensions becomes primary when people are viewed as sensors, but people are neither sensors, nor actuators. 14 Alternatives to navigating via tension are navigating via awareness, 15 or navigating via the quietness within. 16 The latter is, for example, what the Quakers do in their unanimous decision-making. 17

My view is that values 18 are primary – especially intrinsic human values. Values can be measured systemically, extrinsically, and intrinsically. 19 For example, systemically a worker is a production unit, extrinsically one of several workers, and intrinsically a human being. 20 In Holacracy, systemically an individual is a role and sensor, extrinsically one of several roles and sensors, and intrinsically a human being. Holacracy prioritizes the systemic value of thought by keeping intrinsic human values out of the organizational space. However, making use of control, not for the good of those who are in the system, but only for the system’s own benefit is problematic. Ultimately it leads to tyranny. 21

1 Bernhard Bockelbrink & James Priest, Introduction to Sociocracy 3.0, (v2016-01-29), p. 81. (Accessed 2016-04-09)
2 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, p. 4.
3 Ibid., p. 7.
4 Ibid., p. 34.
5 Ibid., p. 148.
6 Ibid., p. 166.
7 Ibid., p. 194.
8 Ibid., p. 198.
9 Ibid., p. 199.
10 Ibid., p. 200.
11 Ibid., p. 201.
12 Ibid., p. 202.
13 A sensor is an object whose purpose is to detect events or changes in its environment, and then provide a corresponding output, Sensor – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-04-09).
14 An actuator is the mechanism by which a control system acts upon an environment, Actuator – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-04-09)
15 The proposition of Theory U is that the quality of results in any kind of socio-economic system is a function of the awareness that people in the system are operating from. See Theory U, Presencing Institute. (Accessed 2016-04-09).
16 There’s a center, a quietness within, from which action occurs. This quiet place has to be known and held. See Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, (Doubleday, 1987), pp. 161–162.
17 Holding the quite place, or silence, within is how Quakers make unanimous decisions. See Michael Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends, pp. 49–50.
18 Value is used as defined by Robert Hartman. When life has meaning, it has value. The richer its meaning, the richer its value. See Robert Hartman Freedom to Live: The Robert Hartman Story, p. 60.
19 Ibid., p. 57.
20 Ibid., p. 67.
21 Tyranny, as used here, is making use of control, not for the good of those who are in the system, but for the system’s own benefit only.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holacracy
Book Review: Freedom to Live
Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule


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