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Due to the impact of digital, leaders increasingly seek out alternatives to traditional models of hierarchical organization.

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False
Right !
True! Due to the impact of digital technologies, among other factors, more of our work relationships play out within the frameworks of online communities. At the same time, engagement at work continues to decline, with the annual 2014 Gallup survey reporting that only 14% of European employees are actively engaged in their work. These two findings indicate a distrust (and disaffection) of traditional hierarchical methods of organizing, which, since they’ve been inherited from another era, seem out of touch with modern realities.
Wrong !
True! Due to the impact of digital technologies, among other factors, more of our work relationships play out within the frameworks of online communities. At the same time, engagement at work continues to decline, with the annual 2014 Gallup survey reporting that only 14% of European employees are actively engaged in their work. These two findings indicate a distrust (and disaffection) of traditional hierarchical methods of organizing, which, since they’ve been inherited from another era, seem out of touch with modern realities.

A lack of engagement within your teams is a sign of an urgent need to rethink your organizational model.

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False
Right !
True! When traditional managerial models fall out of step with the needs of the organization, the following symptoms tend to emerge: problems achieving strategic objectives due to excessive bureaucracy or internal political games; disengagement among employees; wasted resources; and having to battle competing interests across internal silos. Models based on agile organizational governance, such as Holacracy, aim to resolve these types of problems, notably and above all stress and a lack of motivation among employees. (Source: “How can you empower your employees?” (Business Digest°255, April 2015)).
Wrong !
True! When traditional managerial models fall out of step with the needs of the organization, the following symptoms tend to emerge: problems achieving strategic objectives due to excessive bureaucracy or internal political games; disengagement among employees; wasted resources; and having to battle competing interests across internal silos. Models based on agile organizational governance, such as Holacracy, aim to resolve these types of problems, notably and above all stress and a lack of motivation among employees. (Source: “How can you empower your employees?” (Business Digest°255, April 2015)).

Holocracy is a non-hierarchical organizational model outlined by Georges Orwell in 1949.

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Right !
False! Holacracy is a system of organizational governance in which authority and are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy. It was incubated at Ternary Software by the company’s Brian Robertson in 2001 to develop more agile governance systems. In 2007, Robertson distilled the best practices into the organizational system that became known as Holacracy in 2007. It differs notably from pyramidal top-down models. Holacracy has been adopted by several organizations in the U.S., France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K. It is certain that this model would have remained an unlikely utopian vision if several California-based start-ups had not undertaken to test it out! These pioneering e-business companies do not content themselves with technological and business innovation: they also invent new organizational models. Source: Wikipedia.
Wrong !
False! Holacracy is a system of organizational governance in which authority and are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy. It was incubated at Ternary Software by the company’s Brian Robertson in 2001 to develop more agile governance systems. In 2007, Robertson distilled the best practices into the organizational system that became known as Holacracy in 2007. It differs notably from pyramidal top-down models. Holacracy has been adopted by several organizations in the U.S., France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K. It is certain that this model would have remained an unlikely utopian vision if several California-based start-ups had not undertaken to test it out! These pioneering e-business companies do not content themselves with technological and business innovation: they also invent new organizational models. Source: Wikipedia.

Online communities represent a new leaderless model of organization.

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Right !
False! Online communities are indeed loosely coordinated, self-organizing, and voluntary, but leadership still exists within them nonetheless. Sri Kudaravalli, Samer Faraj, and Molly Wasko’s study of leadership within three online communities focused around technical topics revealed that leaders are distinguished by task-based behaviors (such as contributing knowledge by answering queries, sharing programming code, and giving personal assessments) and by being better connected than other members. Source: “Leading Knowledge Collaboration Communities,” by Sri Kudaravalli, S. Faraj, and M. Wasko (forthcoming in MIS Quarterly).
Wrong !
False! Online communities are indeed loosely coordinated, self-organizing, and voluntary, but leadership still exists within them nonetheless. Sri Kudaravalli, Samer Faraj, and Molly Wasko’s study of leadership within three online communities focused around technical topics revealed that leaders are distinguished by task-based behaviors (such as contributing knowledge by answering queries, sharing programming code, and giving personal assessments) and by being better connected than other members. Source: “Leading Knowledge Collaboration Communities,” by Sri Kudaravalli, S. Faraj, and M. Wasko (forthcoming in MIS Quarterly).

Self-management extends traditional decision-making functions from the few to the many.

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Right !
True! Self-management is an alternative to traditional models of hierarchical organization. It is a method that consists of giving greater autonomy and decision-making powers to employees for structuring and carrying out their tasks: “Traditional functions of a manager (including planning, coordinating, controlling, staffing, and directing) are pushed out to all participants in the organization, instead of just to a select few.” Source: “What is self-management?” http://www.self-managementinstitute.org/about/what-is-self-management
Wrong !
True! Self-management is an alternative to traditional models of hierarchical organization. It is a method that consists of giving greater autonomy and decision-making powers to employees for structuring and carrying out their tasks: “Traditional functions of a manager (including planning, coordinating, controlling, staffing, and directing) are pushed out to all participants in the organization, instead of just to a select few.” Source: “What is self-management?” http://www.self-managementinstitute.org/about/what-is-self-management

Self-managed teams do not need direction from their leaders.

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False
Right !
False! Teams and employees need five key elements to self-manage their work simply and effectively. The first of these is clear direction, notably in the form of explicit short-term objectives and clarity around daily work responsibilities. The next four elements that employees need are resources, independence, support, and an environment that fosters lifelong learning. When an organization chooses Holacracy, it renounces hierarchy with “managers who manage” and instead adopts a circle structure of teams organized around a mission. These circles are “self-organized”, but they are NOT “self-directed,” because their goals are defined by a superior circle. Source: “How can you empower your employees?” et “Holacracy: Reinventing the organization for tomorrow” (Business Digest°255, April 2015).
Wrong !
False! Teams and employees need five key elements to self-manage their work simply and effectively. The first of these is clear direction, notably in the form of explicit short-term objectives and clarity around daily work responsibilities. The next four elements that employees need are resources, independence, support, and an environment that fosters lifelong learning. When an organization chooses Holacracy, it renounces hierarchy with “managers who manage” and instead adopts a circle structure of teams organized around a mission. These circles are “self-organized”, but they are NOT “self-directed,” because their goals are defined by a superior circle. Source: “How can you empower your employees?” et “Holacracy: Reinventing the organization for tomorrow” (Business Digest°255, April 2015).

Holacratic meetings are democratic and consensual.

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False
Right !
False! Holacratic meetings are neither democratic nor consensual. Unlike a democracy, they take into account all opinions, even those that are not the majority. Unlike a consensus, they do not seek to reach an agreement. In Holacratic meetings, decisions are part of an inclusive process that aims to move quickly without ignoring the potentially vital information of a minority voice. This process is divided into six stages: presentation of the proposal by an individual; roundtable of clarifying questions; feedback; possible amendment of the proposal by its author; round of objections where the facilitator asks if the adoption of the proposal could hurt or regress the organization; and finally, integration, where the fate of the proposal is determined by the group. Source: “Holacracy: Reinventing the organization for tomorrow” (Business Digest°255, April 2015).
Wrong !
False! Holacratic meetings are neither democratic nor consensual. Unlike a democracy, they take into account all opinions, even those that are not the majority. Unlike a consensus, they do not seek to reach an agreement. In Holacratic meetings, decisions are part of an inclusive process that aims to move quickly without ignoring the potentially vital information of a minority voice. This process is divided into six stages: presentation of the proposal by an individual; roundtable of clarifying questions; feedback; possible amendment of the proposal by its author; round of objections where the facilitator asks if the adoption of the proposal could hurt or regress the organization; and finally, integration, where the fate of the proposal is determined by the group. Source: “Holacracy: Reinventing the organization for tomorrow” (Business Digest°255, April 2015).

Holacracy aims to increase agility through a strict set of rules.

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False
Right !
True! “Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes part of the power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear rules, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss. The work is actually more structured than in a conventional company, just differently so. With Holacracy, there is a clear set of rules and process for how a team breaks up its work and defines it roles with clear responsibilities and expectations.” Source: “Holacracy: how it works,” GlassFrog, http://www.holacracy.org/how-it-works/
Wrong !
True! “Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes part of the power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear rules, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss. The work is actually more structured than in a conventional company, just differently so. With Holacracy, there is a clear set of rules and process for how a team breaks up its work and defines it roles with clear responsibilities and expectations.” Source: “Holacracy: how it works,” GlassFrog, http://www.holacracy.org/how-it-works/

Your results

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0 – 3: Stop and think!
Uh oh, you’re essentially unaware of an important new development in leadership strategy: the questioning of the role of managers, authority, and hierarchy structures. You haven’t taken the time to reflect on this issue — on what’s changing, why, and what you think about it. But better late than never! If you are feeling the pressure on a daily basis, why not start to reflect on the emerging alternatives to traditional hierarchical models?

4 – 5: You’re somewhat aware.
You’re aware that many leaders are rethinking their role as managers and the role of authority structures more generally in response to evolving digital technologies and ongoing problems with disengagement. But you haven’t put in the kind of time needed to make a fully informed decision about whether or not — and how — you as a leader may need to reinvent your own organizational model. Don’t despair! To gain a clearer vision of what direction to take, you just need to spend a bit more time and energy reflecting on these new alternatives to traditional, hierarchical organizational models and what they mean for you and your company.

6 – 8: You have really thought this through.
Whether or not you’ve decided that Holacracy is the right answer for you and your organization, you have carefully researched and reflected on the different ways that organizational models are changing in response to today’s new realities. You have evaluated the risks and paradoxes and are thus in a strong position to select the more model that corresponds best to your needs and those of your organization.

Find out more

Is it time to rethink the role of managers, authority and structures?

How can we take better advantage of collective intelligence? Holacracy is an inspiring model whereby people have roles instead of titles; instead of hierarchy, there are circles of accountability. And, instead of rigid organizational structures, there is continual evolution. Based on Reinventing Organizations, a Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux (Nelson Parker, February 2014), “La nouvelle entreprise sur le chemin de l’holacratie” by David Layani (Le Cercle Les Echos, March 2015), “Une nouvelle technologie managériale: l’Holacratie” by Bernard Marie Chiquet and Etienne Appert (IGI Partners, 2013), and a March 2015 interview with Edouard Mandelkern, president and co-founder of Davidson Consulting. Read the dossier