Uncubed

Upgrade |

The alternative organizational structure Holacracy has been adopted by Zappos and Medium

Jack's got tensions to resolve.

Holacracy, Now!

With a name that sounds like a Silicon Valley punch-line and enough jargon to warrant a glossary, it’s easy to make fun ofHolacracy. But companies like Zappos and Medium are adopting the much-buzzed alternative organizational structure, while the rest of us wonder: what on earth is it?

Created by former programmer Brian Robertson in 2007, Holacracy forgoes traditional management structure. An employee doesn’t have a title – she has roles, which change often. There’s no hierarchy – instead, small teams (“circles”) built around common responsibility decide what needs to be done. And each circle holds meetings regularly to discuss “tensions”, and what can be done to improve efficiency.

In 2013, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh began transitioning his company to Holacracy as fast expansion began to create a more

traditional corporate environment. It’s been a bumpy road: in May, more than 200 employees accepted Hsieh’s offer of three months’ severance to anyone who wanted out.

“Imagine 10 or 20 aboriginals and you gave them a football rule book,” Hsieh said in a recent New York Times feature, in an unfortunate metaphor. “It’s going to take them a while to understand the game.”

Robertson says the program’s confusing rules and lingo are meant to attract only the companies who are perfect fits for Holacracy, inversely comparing his sales approach to – of all things – Nigerian email scams.

“They are filtering out all the people that are not ridiculously gullible, only the ones that are really good targets are left. For us, it’s the positive version of that,” he said.

You can dig in the complex world of Holacracy here.

Now go forth (and discuss your tensions).

Share