Holacracy describes itself as a system which “bakes empowerment into the core of the organization.” Empowerment comes through:
- Recognition that people can interpret data and develop a system that brings the current reality into a positive potential; people do not always need someone higher in hierarchy to state what needs to be done.
- Groups developing their own series of tasks.
- Self-selecting who the best candidates are for the group, even if they are from different traditional concepts of job description.
- Learning new skill sets through collective intelligence.
- Operating procedures that ensure contributions and ideas are equally presented and discussed.
- Electing a group leader who guides the group through decision making instead of dictating what must be done.
- Evolving skill sets learned from others in the group that represent other professional classifications
- Increased social connections at work
Creating a unified community is perhaps the most empowering aspect of all. Studies show workers become disengaged in commitment to their work and their organization when social connections are relegated to the few people in surrounding desks. On the other hand, robust social connections directly contribute to positive workplace performance because it develops people who more considerate of co-workers and trust their co-workers’ when working together toward a common goal (for more discussion of this, see posts like: “Colleagues and Learning: Another Part of the Engagement Elixir”, “Listening with Emotional Intelligence”, “Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Happiness”, “Creating Communication with a Genuine Style” and “Emotional Intelligence and Effectiveness” These connections develop relationships characterized by cooperation, support, trust and partnerships, thus creating a positive feedback loop into the operating and governance procedures unique to holacracy. The more people feel connected to a positive experience, the more people will work to sustain the community that produces the positive experience.
The heartbeat of every community is communication, especially when communication is transparent and empathetic. Likewise, holacracy works the best when communication is honest and forthright. Discussion procedures set out in the operating rules strive to keep space for respectful communication. Take for instance the integrative decision-making process, a set of guidelines about how to present a task which should bring about the “sensed potential” ( “sensed potential” is holacratic terminology which means the current reality has been concretely and systematically affected to bring about resolution between the reality and positive potential of an action). The steps a group are led through by their elected facilitator are as follows:
1) presentation of action proposal without any discussion
2) clarifying questions asked at the end of proposal presentation
3) sharing reactions to the proposal with all the members of the group without engaging in open-ended discussion about which action to take and its effects
4) amendment and clarification of the proposal by the presenter in order to augment problematic areas which arose in sharing actions
5) raising objections to the proposal
6) integrating objections by modifying the original proposal
7) following the steps again to ensure that all the group agrees to the proposal and its modifications.
In each of these steps, the group makes space for the proposal in its entirety to be heard, each person to be heard without any interruption from any group members. Each modification follows the same structure of speak and listen. Communication skills needed during this time include conscious communication, empathetic action, affirming language and emotionally intelligent listening.
Few people graduate into the working world with these skills already well-honed or, indeed, even being aware that these skills are essential in a democratic workplace. But, targeted mental training in cognition and social relational skills like attention, compassion and empathy can improve participants’ social relatedness. Tuning in people to how they tune in is a teachable skill.
So, for holacracy to be as successful as possible at its implementation, workers need the foundation training in how to communicate with each, the first step in “baking empowerment” into an organization.