My Experience of Holacracy Practitioner Training
In January 2020 I went off to Amsterdam to take part in the Holacracy Practitioner Training. Yes, well before the world closed and we all had to stay at home for the rest of the year. I never for a moment thought it would be my first and last trip abroad in 2020.
You may be wondering why I had to travel to Amsterdam to learn more about Holacracy, but currently, Holacracy is something extremely new to the UK, in fact, from my current knowledge I only know of a handful of businesses that have adopted Holacracy in the UK. Therefore to be trained in Holacracy you can only either travel to Amsterdam or Texas.
With a much shorter flight and a love for the Netherlands – it was a no brainer for me to book on to the five-day practitioner training in Amsterdam.
As I’m fully aware of how new Holacracy feels here in the UK, I thought I would share my experience of the training, and why it may or may not work for your business as a self-management model.
I hope that everything I share in this feature gives you an insight into the Holacracy model and whether it’s a worthwhile investment.
What is Holacracy?
If you’re completely new to Holacracy let me give you a little background information.
Holacracy is an operating system for self-managed organisations.
Self-managed organisations are where you remove hierarchy and instead create self-managed, autonomous teams who govern themselves and have the power to make decisions based on their roles rather than their titles.
As self-management is a concept that can feel very alien to a traditional organisation, Holacracy has created a framework so that any business from any sector can adopt a self-managed practice.
Holacracy was pioneered by Brian Robertson and Tom Thomison. Together Brian and Tom created the concept of Holacracy, and then in 2010, they launched their first constitution for the model.
Brian speaks regularly about Holacracy, has done a TED talk on the subject and written a book; Holacracy – The New Management Model
Why I went to Amsterdam to train in Holacracy?
Holacracy is not the only way to have a self-managed organisation. There are many businesses worldwide that have adopted self-management systems without Holacracy. So why did I want to do the practitioner training you ask?
I first discovered self-managed organisations more than five years ago when I read Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. If you haven’t read this book, then I would highly recommend you make it your first place to go to understand more about self-management.
After reading Frederic’s book, and having the veil lifted on the outdated and archaic way we continue to build businesses and manage people, I knew I had to delve deeper into this topic so that I could help it’s growth here in the UK.
Unfortunately, all of the self-managed organisations in Frederic’s book are either in Europe, The Netherlands or the United States.
At present, Holacracy is the only type of ‘formal’ training there is around self-management. There are other types of training, but these all vary greatly as each organisation or business has used different methods or concepts to adopt self-management.
Like I said – there’s no one size fits all approach, and as Holacracy has been dubbed the most formal, I was intrigued to extend my knowledge to see if this model is something I could support my clients with.
As a company culture coach and someone who now specialises in building self-managed organisations, I was keen to ensure that my knowledge in this area was extensive.
Holacracy vs. Self-Management
One thing I really want to get across in this feature is that Holacracy is only one way to build a self-managed organisation – it is not the only way.
I think when researching Holacracy it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that if you don’t adopt Holacracy then there’s no way of building a self-managed business. But that is not the case, and you will find many businesses who have taken a very organic approach to their self-managed organisation, rather than the almost ‘hyper-structured’ Holacracy method.
After your research, and even taking part in the Holacracy training, you may decide that Holacracy isn’t right for you and your business; but don’t give up on self-management just because Holacracy didn’t work for you.
Self-management is the aim. Holacracy is just one of the many routes you can take to get there.
25 people all from different parts of the world
During my week of Holacracy practitioner training, one of the most overwhelming and humbling parts was the international attendees.
I spent a week with people from all over the world. From Brazil, Cuba, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the United States.
It was by far a huge personal development journey for me. I had never been part of an international training course, let alone meet like-minded people from around the world who also wanted to create businesses and organisations that worked for us, rather than against us.
We dined together every lunchtime around a big table, where we shared stories from parts of our world about how work was impacting people, and what we believed we needed to do to change it.
I will be forever grateful for the experience, and for the international friendships I have gained as we all embark on this journey together to make work better.
Five days of turning my brain inside out
By now you’re probably thinking – come on, what’s the practitioner training like?
Well, I don’t even know where to start.
Everything you ever thought you knew about management and creating organisational systems, is turned on its head. There are new systems to learn, mindsets that change, and after five days, I can confirm that your brain will ache from the amount of information that it will take on, and how much you will have changed many of your existing beliefs about work and people management.
After the five days, I clearly remember sitting in Amsterdam airport feeling at utter exhaustion, and with the biggest headache.
During the course of the five days, you not only get taught Holacracy by Brian Robertson himself, but you’re then put into simulations exercises where you then have to actually live it. This is both terrifying and a lot of fun all at the same time.
Through the simulation exercises, you quickly learn, but you also realise how easy it is to fall into old traditional hierarchies. It’s a constant falling down and picking yourself back up.
Meetings and battle of the egos
My absolute favourite part of the Holacracy practitioner training is the meetings training.
Holacracy and self-management in general are well-known for their more holistic and structured approach to meetings. It’s nothing like the meetings you have in a traditional business.
The fun part here is that each meeting has a facilitator who is there to ensure everyone speaks and contains the conversations so that they don’t derail. As well as managing people who may try to dominate the meeting.
The facilitator has the power to tell people to be quiet and shut them down if suddenly they start interrupting. As you can imagine, this was hilarious as some of us would slip into our old ways of speaking out of turn or being quite opinionated; which meant watching the frustrations and light-hearted ego tantrums occur during these new meetings made for quite a lot of fun.
One thing you will hear constantly when researching or exploring Holacracy is The Constitution.
The Constitution are the ‘rules of the game’ when it comes to Holacracy. This is the handbook and policy for all of your team when it comes to adopting Holacracy.
Like I said at the start, for businesses who are dipping their toes into becoming self-managed, Holacracy gives you the systems and processes to get it all started, and the Constitution is the core of this approach.
It tells you what people can and can’t do, and how to implement every system and process.
For some, people feel that the Constitution can be quite rigid, but for others, it has worked well in representing the decentralisation of power.
Businesses that often adopt Holacracy will do an entire ceremony about adopting the Constitution that helps people see that power is no longer held in one space, and from that day forward everyone agrees to live and work by Holacracy.
Would I recommend Holacracy
Now that my knowledge is much deeper on the concept of self-management, and from the experiences, I’ve had with clients to help them adopt self-management, I still get asked if I would recommend Holacracy.
Personally, like anything in this world, there are some practices suit people and some that don’t. This means you can only truly know if Holacracy will work for you by having conversations with those who have adopted it, and by giving the training a go yourself.
I would also recommend listening to my podcast episode with Robin Roth from Traidcraft who has been using Holacracy for three years, and my interview with Luke Kyte from Reddico who has adopted self-management without using Holacracy.
For me personally, I prefer the more holistic and bespoke approach to adopting self-management because I feel you can build something that better suits your business and your team. To me, self-management should be an organic process where together you come up with systems and processes that help you identify what really matters in your organisation.
The great part is, you can always adopt parts of Holacracy without taking on the entire Constitution. So for example, you may just start with adopting the meeting concepts as a way to test and trial self-management before going through an entire transformation.
If you would like to hear more about my experience of Holacracy, or if you’re considering adopting self-management, book a call with me as I would be happy to talk through any of your fears before you begin the journey.