As founder of Meetberlage, i’ve run into a lot of situations that are just magical. When there’s just too much work to do, someone in our value network steps up and starts helping out unexpectedly. When cash is tight, we get a lucky break somewhere or when energy is down people start blogging about the new initiatives that they formed on our stage. It often seems that when i let go of the control i perceive to have over the organisation, everything tends to fall into place. And i’ve come to trust on that magic in many situations.
This has also been a strong basis for our organisational structure and culture. Trying to stay VERY far away from traditional top down ways of controlling the people who try their best to build this place with me, we’ve pretty much had to trust on our gut feeling with a lot of questions.
If we’re not going to control each other top down, how do we make sure we can count on each other to be accountable?
If we’re leaving room to move around and find your best place in the organisation, how can we trust that a specific job within the company is always done?
If we feel a variable salary is a great way to create a feeling of co-ownership, how do we decide who get’s what, and who decides?
This has resulted in a pretty cool way of working together, we’ve linked our own experiences, our principles, our vision, our methods and also many lessons from Branson, Ricardo Semler, Eckhart Wintzen, Ronald and Marielle as founders of Seats2meet.com and many more mentors, innovators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. But it’s become quite a of tools and tricks and principles and methods.
Recently we’ve all felt we are very happy in the organisation on many levels, but we lack certain structure in setting goals, agreeing and following up on accountability and thus also blocking our organisation and everyone in it from reaching their full potential or growth. The traditional and very caring manager would now step in, sit down with everyone, set personal growth goals, agree on accountabilities, and step in when goals, accountabilities or anything else isn’t met. A full time job, that really feels like baby-sitting.
My personal struggle was that i really feel that people should be responsible for their own goals and growth, and should have full say in their rol in the organisation to grow to the person they want to be. Not who the manager wants them to be.
ENTER HOLACRACY! The magic was playing it’s role again, blogs started showing up about Holacracy all over the place. Organisations like Valve, Medium, Zappo’s and many more were switching to this ‘no-boss-model’ that was supposed to be the next level of Semler thinking in some way. Kind of like the operating system of your laptop, but then for organisations without top-down controlling chain of command and other very scary things my teachers in school told me were the way to go.
GREAT! Reading more and more i started to get excited and informing our team, implementing some tools i’ve read about, pre-ordering the book and pretty much raving about it online:) More magic on twitter brought me in touch with Diederick Janse of Energized.org, the leading consultancy agency in Holacracy in the Netherlands. It took us a couple of months to set up a meet, but the chemistry was instantly very clear. This was something we really needed to do. With my biggest fear lingering in the back of my head of making myself instrumental to this (reading the book, following training, setting up training for our team and the failing this because i had missed some key perspectives while missing experience), Diederick connected me to Koen Veltman, a certified Holacracy coach looking for organisations to experiment holacracy with. A few weeks later, here we are.
After some careful preparations by Koen of identifying our current status, we got right into it. Explaining the vision behind and the broad overview of holacracy we figured out what we want out of holacracy (mainly structure, clear goals and a good framework to enable us to work from autonomous power in a very fast way). I was thrilled to see our initial survey of the status of the organisation. Top of the list with best ranking: ‘We operate from shared vision, we have a strong feeling of co-ownership, and we are happy’.
Bottom of list: ‘we have clear goals, and we finish what we start’. Very clear work to be done there in structuring around work in the organisation, but the basis of happiness, fulfilment, purpose and co-ownership even surprised me:) Basically, our next step was to ask 10.000 questions, and get right into just working with the system. The image above shows us defining our purpose, and making a first step in identifying what work needs to be done to get there. This resulted in roles that then have their accountabilities, projects and actions. Pretty clear, and very straight forward.
Next step: Our very first governance meeting. Holacracy pretty much works like this:Stuff happens in the world, and enters the organisation. The roles in the organisation then do the work to process that stuff and get closer to their purpose. Whenever there’s a tention or a problem that limits or blocks a role from being carried out, the circle (group) hosts a tactical meeting that is very straight forward to solve the tention. The person who notices that tention might ask for advice, then brings a solution, a vote is brought to the table and voila. Tention gone. -PLEASE correct me if i’m wrong, i’m pretty new to all this:)-.
Every month or so the circle hosts a governance meeting. The overview of all the roles and processes in an organisation might be organised smarter, new roles are needed or other changes should be made. This happens in a governance meeting. Also following a very strongly pre defined proces. Result: short meetings. yeey!
Here’s the very best part of our meeting yesterday. A circle needs 3 main roles. A facilicator who facilitates meetings and controls that we follow procedure, a secretary who is always up to date on the latest holacracy rulebook, and a lead link. The lead link is the person who pretty much holds the circle together. If there’s work that doesn’t fit into a role, the lead link does it until a role is created. If there’s a shift in resources needed between roles or projects, the lead link facilitates. So it’s a manager, without the controlling babysitter work. There’s no checking accountability for others or solving tensions for others, but there is maintaining and updating the way we organise ourselves. There’s a vote to every role.
Koen and i had talked about the role of lead link on the phone before, and i didn’t really understand the accountabilities. Koen suggested i’d take up the role because usually this is what a founder of an organisation does anyway. But thinking more and more about it and bringing up the role in this meeting got me thinking. It’s not reasonable to accept that just because i am founder, i am the best person to fulfil this role in Meetberlage. I’m good with vision and getting people excited about stuff, but structuring, allocating resources and keeping things in order is NOT my strong suit.
We decided to put it to a vote. first round. Felix 4, Simina 1. My reasoning: Simina is really stepping up to this role more and more already, and while our organisation is growing and looking at potential new external projects, it might be very necessary to speed up this proces. We notices this with a lot of rules. I’ve found that there have been a few key people in my life who’ve helped me grow extremely rapidly. These people saw something in me, and in stead of saying ‘you’re not there yet but i’ll help you grow’ they told me ‘you’re ready, go and do it and if you crash and burn just call me’. There’s always a round of ‘do you want to change your vote based on everyone’s explanation of their vote’, and i am very happy that Simina is now Lead Link by majority of votes!!
I have to say: it is SCARY AS ….:) With holacracy being based on full autonomy, Simina is now accountable for overseeing the organisation, allocating resources, etc, and there’s not much i can do about it. It’s the weirdest thing, i would never invite anyone into the organisation it i wasn’t sure that they had the best intentions, and still i can imagine this is how it feels when a mother of a newly born baby first hands over the baby to her family. -in lack of a better reference-. I had anticipated this feeling to be strong, but it lasted for about 5 seconds. 2 seconds later my shoulders actually physically felt lighter, and adrenaline took over.
I can’t wait for the rest of this, i’m a fan!
There are two things i am still figuring out, and i’ll try to get back on this:
– Is there room for personal growth goals, or is this a coaching thing that should be on the side? Intrinsic motivation to bring you to work on a shared purpose is very important in my humble opinion, and being in touch with that motivation that always grows and changes should not be overlooked.
– Is there a way to make holacracy a bit more principle based instead of so rule based. Rules are great, but they always leave room for interpretation. Look at the law, that’s a rule based system that’s gotten out of hand, and somehow always leads to controlling fears by creating more rules -> killing room for opportunities and magic. Principle based also leaves room for discussion, but has less rules, controlling systems and has principles as a basis to work things out.