Saturday, January 04, 2014

The role of Open Business in emerging holacracies

How Holacracy works - image from
With Ev Williams’ Medium and now Zappos going the Holacracy route, it’s no surprise this ‘new’ management model is getting attention from the likes of mashable
Its Flattened/No job titles/Goal-rather-than-management-led approach is an enviable fit with the more open business philosophy companies of this kind are comfortable and familiar with.
In many ways it’s simply putting a name to and combining many of the learnings those pursuing the 10 Principles of Open Business have already acquired. - but it may also provide a useful additional toolkit for the internal development of some Open Businesses.

The following brief extracts from my new book (out on January 28) The 10 Principles of Open Business, illustrate the point:

South African entrepreneur Arthur Attwell – found similar effectiveness from following the principle of Transparency:
“... you get a productivity boost from people who properly understand their importance to the company and the role they play. So many people – even unconsciously – think that they are just a tiny cog in a big machine.”
 “They feel an alienation from the products of their work,” says Arthur.
Without transparency it’s difficult for people to find meaning in their work. And without meaning there is little ambition and even less joy.
The job descriptions he offers people are just three lines long. There is no task-by-task list of things to do every day.
Everyone must have the ambition to own their space in his company.
“That’s why we don’t have job descriptions in the conventional sense. We have a maximum three bullet-points of functional responsibility. Some people have just one or two,” says Arthur.
“What that means is the things in those bullet points are your problem. It means people have to engage with more than just a narrow task list defined by key performance indicators,” adds Arthur.
“Make your people the boss of what they do.”
This will sound familiar to those trialling holocracy.

As will the impact of Principle 4: Shareability:
Definition: Packaging knowledge for easy and open sharing both internally and externally
Sharing is the cultural key to collaboration. It is where the organisational design principles of collaboration reside.
It is a principle which has the powerful benefit of flattening hierarchies, distributing responsibility and making the organisation more strategy and goal-led than management and task directed.
Shareability provides the tools for a radical re-organisation of resource. Deployed effectively it means people gravitate to what they care most about and can do most about. It can allocate people to work with their passions – generating a giant leap in effectiveness and productivity – not to mention morale.

And from the chapter on Principle 1: Purpose...
If every employee is clear about the Purpose of the org, if they express this in what they do and it is expressed in what they see of the behaviours of the business and of their colleagues, then they will be better able to make decisions which are truly aligned to the Purpose...
The decisions your people make are what drives the success of your business. Ensuring those decisions are made towards your shared goal (Purpose) is... more critical than ever.

Since we have seen that telling teams is not enough (and even less likely to succeed in distributed structures), ensuring they know the Purpose, through belief and behaviours, becomes even more essential.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?