The question ‘when adopting Holacracy, do you need to go all-in?’ has been around for years. And although there are some benefits to having everything in place at once, there are also disadvantages.

Michael DeAngelo has been Holacracy Coach at HolacracyOne for years. When he met the people from Athena Group he realized that this was a great moment to experiment and develop an incremental approach to the rules in the Holacracy Constitution.

During a Meetup on November 18th, Michael and two members of the Athena Group shared their experiences. These are the takeaways.

Collection of value propositions

When you look at the Holacracy Constitution as a collection of value propositions, you start wondering ‘what is the behavior behind the rules?’ And then, to get that value; which habits do you need to create?

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Every rule has a value from both a leadership perspective and an employee perspective.

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Case: The Athena Group

Michael and his colleague Tara worked with the Athena Group with a tension drive approach. Therefore, a modular approach doesn’t have a specific order.

While still working on it, the Athena group is now in the fifth phase and final phase which is in their case the ‘power shift’

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How to find your sequence

Michael suggests starting looking where the pain is, and start there. “Every team has some kind of meeting process, it may be a lousy one but is it your biggest pain point? Or is it the lack of governance? Fix your biggest pain point first and use what you’re currently using for everything else until they become your biggest pain point. It’s the heart of the modular approach to follow your tensions. There isn’t a preferred order. It’s a journey guided by your organization’s context until you’ve adopted all parts of Holacracy.”

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With the modular approach, this client experiences more ownership of the learning goals in the organization.
– Hans van Veen, Energized.org

Benefits and issues of a modular approach

Hans van Veen from Energized.org shares, “I have some experience with a client that felt overwhelmed by the all-in approach. We decided to create a backlog and roles that are in charge of the backlog. That helped us to prioritize which learning goals we were going to pick up next. My biggest learning was that everybody in the organization was more open to learning. With the modular approach, this client experiences more ownership of the learning goals in the organization.”

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Why choose a modular approach to Holacracy

Faith from the Athena group shares her reasons to do it this way.

  • Founder was ready
  • Small company
  • We were already trying things
  • Low on cash
  • Desire to be in relation and work and have something in place for that

Faith had been reading about all kinds of practices. As she puts it, “I was not put on this earth to tell other people what to do. And a management hiërarchy didn’t feel right. We are a very relational company and have certain beliefs like for example ‘there is grace in doing things wrong’. I was attracted to Holacracy when I read about it and proposed it to the other members who all joined my enthusiasm immediately.”

Michael adds, “You need a sense of urgency to drive change. That’s why a coach always asks ‘Why do you want Holacracy?’ and chances are real that his answer is ‘Holacracy is not going to solve that for you.’ And only if there is a fit you can start exploring the options of a modular or all-in approach.”

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Do you have to go all the way?

One question during this Meetup was, “Do you need to adopt the entire constitution and therefore all modules?”
Michael answers, “No, the organization will also benefit from doing a module that resolves its tension. But the key concept is, that it’s not perfect until you adopt it all. As I said, you start a journey.”

The approach mentioned in this Meetup is based on Constitution 4.1 and in 5.0 every article is one module. We’ll get back to 5.0 asap.

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