Holacracy – The Title For A Title Less World

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If you think Holacracy is insane, you should probably think about what the current state of your organization is right now, and really dig deep into why.

The ideal situation remains to create an environment or work in an organization that can move and change with the members of the team, and that marries their needs for growth with those of the company. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the majority of “jobs” – especially in the earlier years of one’s career, will be stepping stones. As leaders we will also see team members come and go, as business focus and personal direction change. Adaptability is one of the greatest attributes to success both in life and in business – the only thing that is constant is change.holocratic

Holacracy: It’s not the definition but the idea of what makes it possible.

The business model that is most common in society is not the Holacracy of “Zappo’s” or nor do they have the vision of the “Mediums” of the world. Management is still struggling with the difference between agreeing with best practices and actually using best practices, and although innovation is necessary, you can’t build an entire model on the innovators – you need a variety of people with different talents and motivations to run a business. Enter titles.

So, Is there room for Holacracy in “regular” businesses?

It’s a matter of perspective. Some people believe that the idea is insane, that people need titles and direction. However nothing has really changed, whether it’s a holacratic model, or a more standard hierarchy… A strong business will run as smoothly because of other key factors that must exist regardless of how you will label your approach.

The direction we take in our businesses must come from:
• Clearly communicated company vision
• The ability of the company to tie their vision and goals with those of their employees
• A commitment by the employees to the company and its customers.
• Structures that support the monitoring and measurement of goals across many departments – to identify problem areas and areas for growth or needed intervention. These include CRM tools, internal social networks, and basically what you might look at quite simply as a bunch of excel spreadsheets that you can analyze that are pulled from this data collection. (Hint: If you don’t have data you can pull, you’re already behind).

Holacracy would be insane in any business that has not established these from the start. What we need to remember is if we break it down, holacracy is a simply a title in itself to embrace the direction that companies are going in when they focus on respect of the individual and their work, rather than a title and employee number. What if we think of it this way, perhaps that changes our view?

How to become Holacratic

Notice in the direction list above, no titles are mentioned, but clearly there is an entire diverse community of employees who will have to work together to meet these goals. Innovators to come up with ideas (from all levels of the organization), Executors – to figure out how these things will work, and how they will be measured, Team Leaders and Motivators and facilitators to help teams to collaborate, etc. Focus on this, and it really doesn’t matter what you call it, it boils down to respect, and also being appreciated for your work as an individual – something that used to be recognized by titles and promotions.

In a way, this approach becomes brilliant, because people do not seek titles as recognition of advancement or appreciation, but can focus on results. Clearly establish vision, establish that all employees share that vision and that they understand what part they play in helping the team deliver so that the goals are met for the organization as a whole. With this, you see results.

This is built with procedure, and structure. Let’s rename that, “The How To Guide” for your business. These procedures and structures in place then lead to an ability to measure and track success. Even without titles and hierarchies, roles will exist and leaders will emerge. I can guarantee that in these holocracies, there are people leading and working by their strengths and not titles, and the team surely appreciates and needs this support.

Do we still need titles?

This is a big question, and once people feel valued internally, they do not necessarily require a title…really all a title does is let outsiders know an individual’s ability or “appreciated value” within an organization. If I tell you “I’m Joe from XYZ co. I don’t have a Title” you will have no idea what I do. If you call XYZ co. to buy a pair of shoes and I say “I’m Joe, how can I help you” it’s the structure behind the phone systems and the marketing and the coordination of the person formerly known as a receptionist who directs calls who allows the customer to get to the untitled person who can help them. I’ll bet when they call the first thing they will say will not be, “Hey, what’s your title?” – people only ask that when things go wrong.

How do you create an environment of equality and respect?

You can go out on a limb and go holocratic, or you can start simply – every single business can do this:

• Mix your management, with a little psychology and a little humanity.
• Learn what motivates your employees individually and see if your organization can support them.
• Learn what the long term goals are of your individual employees and make part of your review process to find out how you can help them in reaching these goals, as they will likely in one way or another align with your company. Find these common grounds and build employer / employee partnerships. The working relationship is like a journey, an employee travels the path with the organization because it is helping them achieve personal goals. No one works for free, we all work for money – dig deeper into the motivations there and align them with the goals. Companies and people can reach their objectives together.
• Use Strengths to the Company Advantage. Create teams that work well together, ask for feedback and then make adjustments in roles to satisfy not only what will motivate your individual employees, but also use their strengths to help the team. Someone who is great in conflict resolution may not be the best public speaker. Break down the roles in the company and start putting them back together to let everyone be the star of something. The team members will then each have their own special value and performance will start to soar.

You don’t have to take away everyone’s titles, to let people shine – you just need to listen, and look at the opportunities for really using everyone’s strengths to the company advantage. Once this happens, people don’t care about their titles, they know they are respected and needed for what they are doing, and customer retention and sales will show dramatic results.

Goals for 2014

You don’t need to go holocratic this year to move forward, but in 2014 how about taking look at what you’re looking at in your employee reviews.
How about looking at what your company does for their employees own goals, to see how paying attention to this and putting a little human into the mix makes stronger more loyal employees – For employees who leave, send them off into the world letting others know how they grew during their time with you – so more bright minds join you on the stepping stones of life. The idea behind these changes is empowering people, not limiting them by internal titles and opening doors to ideas – and this is where and how companies can grow.

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Mila Araujo

Mila Araujo

Social Business Strategist and Speaker
Mila Araujo is a Social Business Strategist and Speaker. She writes on the topics of Social Media Networking, Employee Engagement, Leadership, NonProfits, Digital Marketing and Lifestyle for various online sites including her own blog “Perspectives” which featured on AllTop. She is the producer of the 140 Conference Montreal and passionate about connecting people and using social tools for education, professional development and driving businesses to succeed at new levels. She is Director of Personal Insurance at Ogilvy & Ogilvy, a Financial Services firm with offices in Toronto and Montreal. She’s lived in Los Angeles, Paris, and Hawaii, and calls Montreal home. Her personal motto is “Be the dreamer who does” in business and in life ~ there is opportunity in everything.
Mila Araujo

@tedcoine Thank you Ted! Great to see you in the stream :) Have a wonderful rest of the week! I appreciate the share !

Jen Olney
Jen Olney moderator

Titles have a meaning for people. HR still has a hierarchy with titles for salary and career placement - I don't see this as being a viable way for companies to move forward unless there is a change in how compensation structures are created.  A title gives the ability to denote the job description too - I still think they are very relevant - it's people who put the "ego" behind them IMO.

Latest blog post: One Word For 2014: Tithing


Mila! Talk about a Mind Blower!

I had to look it up- Holocracy!

You have given me much to think about, all good I can understand. 

It returns (the topic) you know, no matter what name, title or what you call it. The need for humanity. In all parts of our lives. It causes me to wonder why this is so hard to understand and implement into our business dealings and lives as well as our personal interactions.

Thank you, for this.


@AlaskaChickBlogI think what makes it hard is that going this route definitely requires a lot more attention than regular business models, in that human beings are constantly changing, and so you have to be constantly changing and adapting with them. If there is not a solid procedural base, and clearly - VERY clearly identified vision, then things can go off the rails. The other problem that I have seen is the inequity that can happen when others in the organization take more traditional approaches. I think that many small businesses would actually see this approach as something on big corporations can do, when in fact the most successful models would occur - in my opinion - when this starts in a small company and grows as the company grows. Its like finding a soul in your business - you almost have to fight every day to keep it :) However, i think it is worth it if you can get the right people in place to do it :) Everyone has value, and everyone can deliver very special attributes to an organization we need to find ways to harmoniously work that :) Thank you so much for your comment!


@Jen Olney @OlivierCompagneI do not think this would work in all organizations, and in government- forget it... too many people are too habituated to structure. The only way this can work is with constant effort on the part of management reinforcing the differences and how this structure aligns with values. If everybody understands what their job is, the mission of the company and what their particular goals are, then this can work. 

When titles aren't tied to pay scale, and performance & contribution are instead, it actually creates -in some businesses - a focus on the right things rather than just the title. The whole aspect of people  feeling valued (or undervalued by lack of) title takes away some pressures in a way. But again it only works when everyone is on the same page. Many new professionals will join firms for titles as well as work... what happens there? There's a huge education that must go on. 

The outside world however will have a hard time understanding what people do without titles, and recognition by others in the general population for ones accomplishments becomes very difficult as well. As an example, I think what Medium is doing is perfect, and although people where I work have titles, this is actually due to regulated industry standards, we do not limit them by their titles - they are all team members and each has their own contributions ad roles they take as they are able (based on strengths). The constants are the tools used to measure and recognize performance. 

I would think that it is people who are in less "professional" positions who would enjoy this kind of system the most. If we base it just on having a title or not - if we base it on the philosophy behind it, I find it to be a wonderful way, in an ideal world... so the question is - is the company able to put the effort in to run an ideal workplace. Thats where the work comes in - a lot of it.