Evolution of the main Holacracy tool: the Constitution

>> This is written in Dec. 2018. It’s about changes that have not even started in the beta test. We can’t predict what it looks like tomorrow. Read it if you’re curious.<<

If your organization counts on tools for organizing operations, transparancy and a safe process you want that tool to be up to date. Although signing the Constitution when adopting Holacracy is for many a big step to take, it’s also the fall-back when situations get hard. “Trust the process” can only be said when you have a process that is solid as a rock.

Sneak peak

The Holacracy® Constitution is evolutionary and currently evolving towards the 5.0 version on Github.
Or download version 4.1.

Brian Robertson already shared some updates during the Holacracy Forum. You can watch the videos here:
Part 1
Part 2

For many organizations Holacracy Constitution 4.1 is their fall-back. Many people have tested the system as it is now. Developers were eager to find the bugs and as the constitution evolved it became harder to find them. Still, creator Brian Robertson is aware that evolution is needed for progress, and therefore he keeps looking for improvements.

This is only pre-beta

This version is not even a beta version yet. So sharing the evolutionary steps here is early. Still you might want to take in the information and let it land or discuss it within your own organization. Ratifiers who have signed 4.1 can decide to sign 5.0 by the time it is ready or keep working with 4.1. You’re responsible for your own practice and can always ask for help when needed.

Deep dive with power users

Is 5.0 totally different? Not at first sight. But when you dive in you’ll find some very interesting differences. Therefore we invited some of the Energized.org clients like AIMMS, Voiceworks, DevHouse Spindle, Arpa and Springest to talk to Brian Robertson. It was great to see this concentration of power users at the table. When you consider that Europe is ahead of the United States when it comes to practicing Holacracy and even more specific the Netherlands being the precursor of Europe; this meeting turns out to be a good representation for a Holacracy Constitution summit.

Some of the differences you’ll find in the 5.0 version are simply about what we thought was clear in the 4.1 version but turned out to be open for interpretations. Like when can you touch a domain? Those rules are in 5.0 more clear and build on common sense.

Also some changes are made because daily practice asked for more guidance in the rule set. For example: it is more clear in the 5.0 version what you can and can not change in the rules. Like you can decide to not use Rep Links, but the 5.0 version says that can only be done if you create another pathway to process tensions in the broader circle.

Although you might think now that the 5.0 version is more strict; it is not. Like Brian said: “5.0 has more rope for people to hang themselves with but also more rope to do really cool things with.” This ‘hanging’ refers to the possibility to create almost any structure you want based on the Holacracy ruleset. That was also true for 4.1; if you wanted you could be a dictator, but you did have to adjust a lot for that. Now that is even easier. So if you are a manager that is really eager to adopt Holacracy but you don’t want the decision making powers to be distributed all the way; you have quite some rope to transform the Holacracy practice to a more old-fashioned hierarchy. Or do the exact opposite.

Version 5.0 of the Holacracy Constitution has more rope for people to hang themselves with but also more rope to do really cool things with.

– Brian Robertson

holacracy constitution evolution towards 5.0

Less circle minded

Another difference between 4.1 and 5.0 is that there will be no more distinction between a role and a circle. You are free to create a one-person role with several roles in it. You can but don’t have to be the rolefiller for all those roles. That offers the possibility to organize life better for yourself.

Therefore there will be no more Lead Links. Instead everyone is a Role Lead, and if you have multiple roles within your role, a Circle Lead. This raises a new tension on allocating resources. That tension requires solutions that every organization can customize to their needs. For example by starting ‘an intent to spend’ policy that describes how and when you can spend money. It is up to the Circle Leads to keep eye on those ‘intents’ and respond as-needed.

During this meeting some of us heard for the first time that the accountability of the Lead Link
Allocating the Circle’s resources across its various Projects and/or Roles is only about about financial resources. Time was never intended to be treated as a ‘resource’ for the Lead Link to allocate across projects and roles (although Lead Links can set circle prioritites).

New ingredient: working agreements with persons (not roles)

There is also something completely new added in Constitution 5.0: working agreements. It’s added because every organization deals with these and now Holacracy offers a new tool to create even more explicit clarity.

A working agreement is about you as a person (so not a role!) and the organization. An example: a retail shop that has specific opening hours will probably want the sales people in the shop to work during opening hours. So as a person you have to agree that you’ll adjust your working hours to the opening hours of the shop and not work at night. In this case, the working agreement is a condition that comes with a role and contains guidelines on specific behaviour.

What’s next?

A next step is to start testing in organizations before 5.0 is officially available for organizations to adopt.
Most of all we’re curious! Let’s try and find out.

Interested in the results of the beta test? Or do you want our next updates on the evolution of 5.0? Let us know.

We’re thankful. The participants made an effort and put their time and energy in meeting to reflect on their Holacracy learnings and the evolution of the process. This is a group of people who are all working hard to make their businesses thrive and have chosen the same pathway. It’s incredibly powerful to have these leaders in business reflect on the tools needed.


Paula Nordhauzen
Energizing Marketing and Events roles at Energized.org.

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