Is Holacracy an environment extremely honoring and embracing of people?

Here is an old but interesting article on Holacracy – The Self-Organizing Enterprise by Deborah Hartmann Preuss from September 2006. The article makes it clear the four main tenets of Holacracy comes from sociocracy.

What’s interesting is that this article was published the year before Brian Robertson filed his patent application on Holacracy in June 2007 (Pub. No. US 2009/0006113 A1), where sociocracy is prior art.

What’s also interesting is that a writer on the ScrumDevelopment list wrote:

“Holacracy appears to be a system whose highest value isn’t people, but rather ‘the organization’. I find this troubling.”

In reply, Brian Robertson wrote:

“Creating an environment extremely honoring and embracing of people is deeply important to me, and one of my most significant motivations in all of my work with Holacracy. … this is a topic I’ll write more about when I have a chance … “

Well, Brian Robertson had the chance when he wrote his new book on Holacracy, which was published in 2015. Here are a number of quotes:

”An organization … is equipped with sensors — … the human beings who energize its roles and sense reality on its behalf.”1

”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 …”2

”The whole point of Holacracy is to allow an organization to better express its purpose.”3

”… 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.”4

”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 …”5

”The organization is depending on you, as its sensor, to give voice to the tensions you sense so that it can evolve.”6

”Holacracy is focused on the organization and its purpose—not on the people and their desires and needs …”7

”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.”8

”… 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.”9

”… the organizational space is the result of working together role to role and governing those roles for the sake of the organization’s purpose.”10

”[Holacracy] keeps human values out of the organizational space, which also keeps the organization out of our human-value space.” 11

So, ten years later Holacracy still appears to be a system whose highest value isn’t people, but rather ‘the organization’. I find this troubling too!

1 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 4.
2 Ibid., p. 7.
3 Ibid., p. 34.
4 Ibid., p. 148.
5 Ibid., p. 166.
6 Ibid., p. 194.
7 Ibid., p. 198.
8 Ibid., p. 199.
9 Ibid., p. 200.
10 Ibid., p. 201.
11 Ibid., p. 202.

Related post:
Book Review: Holacracy
Are Holacracy and sociocracy Teal?
Holacracy and Arthur Koestler

Update 2022-09-17: Text converted to blocks.

Update 2022-09-25: Moved a sentence to the previous paragraph.

By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

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