The Holacracy Framework: a Unique Model to Achieve Self-organization

Mark Bridges
3 min readSep 15, 2023

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Due to the limitations and inefficiency of traditional hierarchical organizational structures, the concept of self-organization emerged. Recognizing the need for a more flexible and adaptable approach, organizations are now attempting to tap the collaborative intellect and creativity of their employees.

Self-organization refers to a decentralized organizational structure in which teams and individuals share Decision making authority. This strategy enables teams to adapt and respond more effectively to complex and shifting circumstances.

Typically, self-organization models display the following 3 characteristics:

1. Teams are the fundamental building blocks.

2. Teams are autonomous in their design and governance.

3. Leadership varies according to the circumstances.

This combination creates an organization that prioritizes responsiveness to the needs of the work over following the directives of influential individuals.

In the 1960s, self-managed organizations originated the concept of self-management. In the 1980s, it evolved into adhocracy, and in the 1990s, it became known as “the networked firm.” Structures such as podularity, Holacracy, and customized self-organization methods have been influenced by more recent developments such as open-source collaboration, Agile methodologies, and the sharing economy.

Holacracy stands out as the most well-known and comprehensive system for self-organization among its competitors. In multiple ways, Holacracy surpasses conventional organizational norms. Its formalized nature makes evaluation and analysis simpler, especially considering its widespread adoption in comparison to other designs.

Self-organizing teams in a holacratic organizational structure are referred to as circles or holons. Holons exist as both autonomous entities and as constituents of a broader entity. In addition to managing themselves, these circles actively engage in self-design and self-governance while adhering to the larger entity’s established guidelines.

Holacracy is distinguished by its highly flexible and adaptable structure, continuous stakeholder engagement, and tolerance for uncertainty. In addition, it emphasizes employee participation in all aspects of the organization.

A constitution is a living document adopted by holacratic organizations that outlines the principles regulating the formation, modification, and dissolution of circles. Instead of focusing on task completion procedures, the constitution details the obligations, limitations, and interactions between circles.

A “lead link” in a holacratic organization is responsible for connecting circles to larger circles and reassigning roles as required.

Holacracy is the practice of organizing a business so that the tasks at hand take precedence over the individuals conducting them. A person may simultaneously assume multiple responsibilities and participate in a larger number of circles or holons.

Each position in a holacratic organization conveys distinct levels of responsibility and authority, providing employees with clarity regarding their expected responsibilities. When a particular role’s responsibilities exceed an individual’s capabilities, the role can be divided into multiple lesser roles.

In contrast to conventional hierarchical structures in which management operates from the top down, Holacracy integrates management at all organizational levels. It encourages peer collaboration by granting the right to participate to everyone. When a team member identifies a discrepancy between the current and intended state, an all-staff meeting is called to address the issue collectively.

The Holacracy Framework offers numerous prospective benefits to organizations that implement it, but it has also been criticized and confronted. Current users of the Holacracy management system include Zappos, Morning Star, and W.L. Gore, among others.

Interested in learning more about Holacracy Framework? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on Holacracy Framework here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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Mark Bridges

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management. https://flevy.com