Holacracy - How to Future-Proof Your Business in a Fast-Changing World. A Chat with Brian Robertson
Okay, great. All right, I'm ready. Let's begin. So, everyone, I want to welcome all of you to this webinar. I've been waiting for this webinar for a while. And I'm glad it's finally happened. So I'm really excited. With we've titled this
webinar how to future proof your business in a fast changing world. So when you say future proof, what we really mean is, you know, how do we make our organizations more agile, more responsive, more adaptive to change, so that they can really deal with today's challenges. And I'm excited to have Brian Robertson with us. So Brian, if I could just invite you to just check in, share what's happening in your world. And just let it Say hi to everyone.
Hello, everyone. Hello. It's been pretty crazy in Texas. You may have just heard, we've had a blizzard and followed by an ice storm that knocked out power and water to most of the city. It was the worst storm since somewhere in the 1940s.
So pretty much a once in a century kind of weather event, which is pretty crazy. So that's, that's been an adventure, dive power and water again and manage to stay warm and put up a fireplace and attend to my living room for many days with a lot of blankets. Never thought that would happen when I moved to what should be the warmest state in the United States. But yeah, it's been an
adventure. And today I'm supporting a friend through some emotional struggles to service. There's a lot going on in my world right now. But here I am. And it's a pleasure to connect with the other side of the world, despite all that. Unknown: really hoping that I can introduce you guys to something meaningful and worthwhile. And yeah, I'm ready to go when you are.
Thank you. Thank you, Brian, I think this, you're sharing your checking of the perfect background to the topic of today. How to future proof ourselves, our businesses in today's fast changing world. A bit of background about us and also to this set some context as to what we're going to discuss today. I'm Ali Vakil. Many of you already know me, I'm the co founder of karma Cheever, also a GTD coach and a Holacracy. Coach. So both me and ahref, co founded karma Cheever in 2015.
In 2016, we were at a stage or I remember myself, I was at a stage where, you know, I was part of my family business I was, we just started calm achiever, we started a school, I was part of a nonprofit. And I just became a dad. And those of you who have kids know what that's like, when you just became a dad and how life is like, and I was so overwhelmed with, you know, with all the work that I was stuck in, and I remember coming to work every day, it's just this constant dread of all these decisions that I have to make. And it was weighing down on me so much that I was feeling totally burnt out. And I felt that I was at a crossroads that I have to make a choice. Either I continue what I'm doing and you know, go down this path of being burnt out. Or if I have to be saying, I need
to kind of decide to exit some of my businesses. And I didn't want to do that I loved my work. And I began to search is there a better way to manage my organization so that I can still continue with the work happening without really having me involved on a day to day basis. And it's that search that led me to Holacracy. And while I started reading about Holacracy, the, the shift or the insight that I got, that made me wanted to explore it further, was Holacracy gave a way to look at organizations or manage organizations as if they were living organisms. And not like machines. I realized after
reading that, that I was looking at my organization, like a machine, I was, you know, you know, documenting all the SCPs and, you know, making all these flowcharts and getting people to, you know, work in all of that so that I could be kind of away from the business. But that really didn't work out for me because when things change, everything will become outdated and you know, it will be back to square one. But Holacracy his way of managing organizations as if they are adaptive systems really got me so intrigued. I said, Wow, is this even possible and that journey Lead is not only to adopt Holacracy in our organizations, but also lead us to become coaches and licensees. And here we are sharing this methodology with people who want to make their organizations more adaptive and responsive to change. So along this journey, I had all these insights about Holacracy in terms of what it can do for organizations, and I started documenting them. And more recently, I've been
creating visuals out of these. And the idea came that I got a lot of these insights from Brian himself. So throughout this webinar, I'm going to be discussing these insights with him and linking it to see how we can make our organizations more responsive to change. So with that, we're going to start with the first one, that was kind of the first insight that I got.
Holacracy is not about running your organization like a well oiled machine. It's about structuring your organized organization, like a living organism. You know, if you read Brian's book, there are parts of the book that feel that you're reading a biology text, you know, because he talks about human evolution, he talks about how cells work, and how the evolution process works, and bringing that into organizations. So if I can invite Brian, you know, what is this the link that you saw between organizations and living organisms and evolution? That you were excited about it? You wanted to bring that into organizations? Unknown: Yeah, you know, it's, it's, for me, it came from many, many years ago, I took a dive into integral theory. And part
of that is looking at some of the nature of, of living systems, and specifically getting down to the idea of a hole on red, which didn't come from integral theory, but that's where I encountered it, which is the concept of a whole autonomous entity, that's also part of a larger hole. So Excel is a great example. Right? A cell is an autonomous entity, it's it's a, it has its own internal self organization, its own internal processes, there's no outside cell that reaches in and structures it ran, it's, it's autonomous. And yet, it's also a part of an organ, right, which is itself kind of an autonomous piece of a much larger system and organ system and us. And, and that idea of a whole archy. I had when I first
like encountered that it just makes so much sense to me just intuitively like that's that's reality around us is composed of right where at every level, even within a cell, you can go further down to the organelles, which are their own little autonomous entities and realize this is nature's way of scaling, a complex system. And, and it's beautiful, and that at every level, there's an encapsulation of complexity, right? at every level, it's like looking at a cell from the outside, it looks like one single entity that does one specific function or job. But if you zoom in to a cell, it's an entirely different story. I just saw a new image, I don't know if you've seen this, it's floating around the web now that it's the most detailed, like, photograph compiled of a cell, the inside. And inside, it looks like a city, right? There's all these components and things moving, it's alive. It's dynamic. It's, it's huge in there. But from the outside, it's one thing, it's an
encapsulated a single entity. And you can do that at any level of scale in Oregon, right? Look at the heart, it's one thing it has a function and does it but my God, the complexity within and, and then I looked at what I was dealing with in in my organization, I was a new CEO at the time. And I was I was just overwhelmed with complexity. And my world was just massively complex. Because I didn't have this, I didn't have the parts behaving like their own living entities, I had all the complexity rolling up to the top and I was trying to design and solve everything, it would be the equivalent of you and I sitting here trying to figure out how to get oxygen to the right muscle cells so that we can actually, you know, move and talk and we don't have to think about any of that because all that complexity is encapsulated away or hidden from us. And then on top of that, I looked at adaptability, right. And as a
CEO, I was I was struggling even in a small company, to keep the company adapted to all of the changes in our world, which was so fast paced. It was daunting, but then I look at living systems and change is not something that they manage and do. It's what they breathe. You know, it's just part of the the living life process. It's not a thing. And it just for me when I read all about that, it's just Hit me this is this has got to be how we organize our organizations as are as they get more complex. It doesn't work in the machine paradigm, past a level of complexity. And I think we've, we've passed that in most
companies in the world today. Yeah, yeah. And you know, when I learnt that Holacracy inspiration came from nature, in a way it gave me that feeling where Holacracy, in that sense is not new. It's tapping
into this wisdom that has been there around us. And we're going to see how we can bring that in organizations. Yeah, let me What are the next image? Oops. Yeah, Holacracy is not about preventing problems, it's about getting good at learning from problems. You know, prior to Holacracy, when I was in my organizations, it was always about, you know, how can I? How can I avoid the problems? or How can I hide the problems? Or, you know, when I'm in a meeting, I'm like, Oh, please don't bring me problems, you know, tell me the good news. Because if it's a
problem, I'm gonna, you know, gonna spoil my bed when I when we implemented Holacracy. In our organizations, it was the opposite. It was this the structure and the process in white it problems like, Hey, everyone, you know, bring your problems, you almost literally saying, Hey, bring your attention, bring your issues. But it was the process distinct
in white problems, it also gave a way to process them, and eventually learn from them. So yeah, Brian, if you can share, you know, you've worked with so many organizations? And how did that shift? And looking at, into that new lens, where you are learning from problems rather than avoiding them? What, what, what did that do for teams? And what did that do for organizations? Yeah, even the language problem, right is is it's kind of loaded, right? It implies something is, is wrong, that needs to be fixed. I think even that language almost comes out of this machine age, industrial age paradigm of how we look at organizations, you know, when you look at living systems, I think it's a much more nuanced and powerful view not to look at problems that way. But rather, there's,
there's kind of a natural, just urge to change, sometimes there's something off in the system. But whenever we reduce it to a simple problem, it actually makes it harder to solve, we end up trying to treat a symptom instead of looking at the holistic system and what it does. And I think that's true in organizations as well. You know, so I talk in terms of tensions
instead of problems. And I define attention, just as an experience, it's not a bad thing, it's just the feeling you get, right, you often feel it in your body or in your emotions, before you even get to your head. You know, and it's that feeling you get when you're sensing a gap between where you are, and some potential, that would be in some way forward. Now, we can judge that and say, we shouldn't have this gap, it's a problem. Or we can judge that and say, oh, what an exciting opportunity, we can move over here. But all of that is us adding our intellectual meaning making on top of the raw physical sensation of the sense of tension of Oh, I feel a gap, I feel a stretching at the root of the word tension from the Latin means to stretch. You know, so I, I use that word and
whatever language we use, I love having a word that doesn't have an inherent value judgment in it. Right? And that's the way in which I use tension, the definition I use. And when when you have that To start with, it's that's that's the stuff of life, right? tension is, is what drives everything. For us. It's, you know, it's what drove us to schedule a webinar, you had a sense of something could be better. So you did it. That's what drove you to get out of bed this morning. Right? Here's something could be better than lying here. So you did, right.
It's, it's this is kind of like how nature works, right? You feel this, this tug this pull on you. And then you can act on that. Right. And and I love bringing that into the organizational frame and saying, All right, well, what are the tugs on our attention. And this is where there's a connection to
GTD as well. To me, this is what I love about getting things done or GTD for those who know that it's, it's all about noticing what's got your attention. And in my language that would be those your attention. Those are the things that are tugging on
you, right? And when you sense those, you then have the opportunity to then act to consciously choose how am I going to respond to this, this tension. And when you do that really, really, really well and you can trust your capacity to do that. This is where to your point in your slide. You no longer need to prevent the problem or the sensing of tension. If you can trust your ability to adapt to it really well. But I think in most organizations, we don't have a
capacity to adapt. So the feeling is we better prevent anything from going wrong. Because we kind of know we can't quickly rapidly learn from it. But as soon as we have this kind of dynamic evolutionary capacity to, to digest tension, to constantly be changing and moving forward, when we have that, we no longer need to prevent it anymore, that most of it there are some you want to prevent, right? prevent the ones that will kill you instantly. Absolutely. Right. There are
some tensions in life I want to prevent. But the vast majority, I don't need to prevent if I trust my capacity to adapt, right. And it's not enough to just say, Well, I'm going to trust that you need to have the systems and processes in place at an organizational level, right, you need to have a framework that allows you to adapt. If you do if you have the right processes, and you know that whatever comes up anywhere in your organization, even on the front line, there is the capacity to adapt to it rapidly, then the number of things you need to prevent shrinks dramatically. Right? It's it's
maybe 2% of what you otherwise might want to prevent, if you don't have the capacity to adapt, which lets us do focus preventatively on the very few, the minority that really need to never happen in the first place. While most of them, it allows us to learn from and, and that makes them easier to find the right solution, if you will, or the right, right at adaptation. Because when you're preventing something, you're guessing you're anticipating what what it's going to be what's going to happen. And when you focus on learning from it, you know what's going to happen, it's already happened. So now you can
actually integrate it and adapt. It's so much more reliable. Yeah. Yeah. You know, when I when I think of this, and when you're sharing that. I recall in our organization, the moment we got that capacity to integrate that, you know, the process was so elegant in the way that how it typically when there are tensions in organizations or problems that they can use that word there's usually find someone to blame. But the process of processing tensions is done in a way that you're really trying to see what is in this, what is it in the system that you can change it so that this problem doesn't happen again. So I really, you know, it gave to change the culture and organization to be to make it safe enough to raise problems, because we're not going to address it in a way to point fingers at people. But we need
to see how can we improve the process? Yeah, and one thing I often say there is, when we take a more simple cause and effect view, problem solution view, it's so easy to see when something happens that we don't want in an organization something there's a problem, something not ideal, right? It's so easy to look at that from a cause and effect frame and see somebody to blame, see fault, right? And it really looks like that sometimes. But I think it's very common that we mistake system problems for performance problems, right? In other words, often the system is perfectly designed to generate the result it did. And it looks at a surface level like somebody screwed up. But if we if we really look at the overall system, the information flows, the processes, what information they had, what expectations were clear to the person that looks like they screwed up, when you see all of that often, not always. But often. I think what reveals itself is this is not a performance problem. It's a system problem. And yet, when we don't have the language and the
tools and the framework for looking at it, and figuring out the system and evolving the system, right, all of the flows of information and expectations and processes and roles. And when we can't see all that what we tend to do is jump to somebody screwed up because it looks like that when we have a simpler view on it. So I'm not saying there aren't genuine performance problems, there certainly are. But in my
experience, I'd say over 90% of what I see most managers and executives thinking of as performance problems are not in my view their system problems. And it's a really easy way out to think of it as a performance problem. But the challenge is it's likely to repeat even if you get rid of that person, right? You're not actually solving the root issue. If you treat a system problem as a performance problem. Yeah, it's this perfect segue to the next Arif Vakil: level. Yeah, before you get there. Just one very
quick add on. Of course, this is brilliant. The slide is brilliant. The image was brilliant, the way this Arabic getting stronger. Now, of course, Brian's summary of it got so many more insights, in my experience of practicing and living Holacracy. Not only do we have this, we now have the
capacity and adaptability to look over the problems to adapt to it. Not only do we have a system in place To take on these problems and figure out a better system that will address it. Also, we are addressing the problem at the earliest opportunity. As soon as you spot it, be at the next meeting, it's generally weekly or as soon as possible. Every share your problems and it's brought and it's done and it's addressed before it's shoved in the carpet, it becomes this huge thing for Everyone is scared to bring it up. So I love that part about it as well, and just want to share that with everyone.
Yeah, thanks, thanks for sharing that is, so the next image of just what we were talking about. Holacracy is not about managing people, it's about managing the process. And, you know, I see this phrase so often that, you know, especially in leadership books, and how do you manage people, and you just a phrasing of that, is, at least to me some kind of bit repulsive, that you don't want to manage people. And
that usually leads to, you know, manipulating people and using psychology to get them to do things. It's much more elegant, it's much more effective to manage the process. And the way I see Holacracy, doing that is, you know, getting clear on agreements, or getting clear on expectations. And really separating role from soul. So, if I could invite Brian to share
more about how Holacracy in a more practical level, enables that managing of process instead of managing the people. Yeah, it segues beautifully from what we were just talking about, right? It's, it's so easy. When we're looking at the performance problems, and we're looking at it from that frame, right, we end up with all we can do is manage people, that's all we have, we have no visibility into the system, we have no way of seeing it that way. You know, so all we can end up doing is is managing the, the people and trying to get better performance or get them to change somehow. And when we actually have a language to describe the system, right? When we actually have a way to view, here's what the system is, here are the processes, here's the roles, here's the flow, we can step out of just our personal conflicts or whatever, and actually be on the same team work together and look at how do we update the system design? Right? How do we evolve the system design? In other words, how do we change the process flows, the information flows, the expectation structure, on the roles at play, right, we can shift from thinking in terms of people to thinking in terms of roles. And when we when we do something, when we make that shift, we have so much more freedom to get more intricate, more granular with our design.
You know, for example, I had a case, many years ago now where I do a lot of public speaking and conference presentations and all that. And I have a colleague, somebody that I work with, who books me for conference talks, right? So she'll get the invitations, she'll often have to build a relationship with a conference organizer. And, you know, way back when this first started happening, she wound up pretty frustrated, because she would spend a lot of time building a relationship with a conference organizer. And then at the end of her process, she present to me the opportunity, and I would end up shooting it down and end up saying no, I'm not going to go to that it's the wrong audience or its markets, not big enough, whatever. And
she felt disempowered, she was frustrated. And in most organizations, this would have showed up as interpersonal friction. But with us, what she was able to do is come to our governance process, which is where we actually design the roles and the processes. And she was able to propose a new expectation on my role. It's not about me at all, it doesn't
matter who fills my role. And it's her role, which was called casting agent needed something from my role called spokesperson. And she proposed that my role was accountable for documenting the criteria I use for accepting or rejecting a speaking engagement. Because if she could see that criteria, then she could assess it herself at the beginning of a process, and she wouldn't waste all their time. Right? took two minutes in
that process two minutes to get that expectation added to my role. And she can then turn to me and say, so what do you think of that done for me by? And the fascinating footnote of this story? She was our newest hire right out of college, and I'm the founder and a seasoned CEO, in what companies do you know, where the newest hire right out of college in two minutes can add an expectation onto the founder and then turn to them and say, so when will you have that done for me by and that's possible because it wasn't about her and I, it was about the roles, the system, the process, and we had a meta process a framework. That's what Holacracy gives us a framework for actually updating and designing at that level, designing and managing the organization, the roles the system and not the people. Right, otherwise that wouldn't have been possible. I think that's a pretty cool story to illustrate, illustrate And I love that story, because I've heard it before as well. But it is such a good story. And also perfect segue for our next image, which is really about, you know, how do you how do you empower people and that story was a excellent example of, you know, she being empowered to use the governance process to bring about change, to meet her roles needs. says this image says Holacracy does not feed answers
to people's problems, it empowers them to find their own answers. You know, when I share a lot with people, and when they hear that, okay, it's not a hierarchy of people. It does away with that. The, the, one of the first questions that come is then, you know, how do you hire? How do you fire? How, how's compensation, how's all that handled if you do not have this hierarchy of people making decisions? And the beauty about Holacracy is that it gives a process for that process to find their own answers. Yeah. Brian, you have this really good framework that you share about how people move away from being the victim to being someone who can find solutions to their own problems, if you can talk about that? Yeah, yeah. So I have. So one thing that's worth adding here is I see a lot of companies that want more empowerment, right? They want people to be more empowered to act with more more autonomy, at least in theory. But one of the
challenges of that is, when you focus just on on trying to push that you're often missing what people actually need to be empowered. So if you just if you're a manager, and you go tell your team tomorrow, good news, everyone, you're fully empowered, good luck, that doesn't actually solve anything, right? You don't get an empowered team, that way you got it, you get a lot of confused people. I think people intuitively know there are limits, there are boundaries, there are things that they shouldn't do, right without checking with someone. And often in organizations, those aren't
clear. And so often, then they hold back, they don't want to get in trouble. They don't want to, you know, rock the boat, they don't want to get someone mad at them or get their team upset or whatever. When people don't know their limits, they don't know their freedom. So ironically, I found getting a really empowering, empowered environment, where you can't really empower people, they can only find their own power. But
to give people an empowering environment, one that allows them to find their own power. It's just as important to clarify the limits and the boundaries as it is to clarify their freedoms, right, you need people to know, here are the real limits, and boundaries, right? And, and when they know that you can take a stance that says within these limits and boundaries, you have the power and freedom to use your judgment and take any action and make any decision at all, because we've clarified the boundaries, right? And when you know, those, you can take that strong stand. And that, to me is a really empowering environment. One where people have the freedom, they know the limits, they know the boundaries, and they know within those, they're free to act, they're free to do anything within those limits and boundaries. Right? So when that's true, they can then actually go take real empowered action. You know, and, And to me, that's just so different than pushing people to be more empowered. The other thing you
can do is remove the crutch. So I find that find this all the time when we hire new people, they'll often try to defer their power to me. Right? They'll look to me and say, Well, what should I do about something? Right? And I have a habit when somebody does that, and it's something in their role. I'm not going to feed them an answer. I think a lot of bosses are in that habit of just, oh, I'll suck it up. And I'll answer, I'll give you
my wisdom. But that's reinforcing somebody's deferring their power. And I think the alternative that we can do is, as, as former managers, when you're stepping into this kind of environment, you can push it right back, I'll tell people, literally, I don't have the authority to decide that for you. Because we're in a distributed authority system, a distributed power structure, which is put that authority in your role, not mine, the burden of leadership is on you, not me, I don't have the authority to answer that. So if you want my input, if you want advice, you can come to me, but I need you to do it owning your authority, I need you to say this is my decision, and I'm going to lead it and I just want some input before I do. And then I'm happy to give you my wisdom, and you're totally free to ignore it. Right, which is such a shift
from the way we see most environments working. And it's just as relevant to at a team level. I also see people defer their power to a team, right, though they'll use Wi Fi for this, they'll show up and say we need to make a decision. What should we do as a way of deferring their power to the group and this is why we have so many endless painful meetings and in the culture that Holacracy creates that gets pushed right back. It's well wait a minute. What do you need? To make your decision and leave your role, we don't make this decision you do? What would you like to request from us so that you can lead your role. And when you have these kinds of cultures
and the structure and processes to support it, Damn, it's powerful, it reinforces right back to that person, you have the power to act here, the burden of leadership is yours, you get to choose to step up and take it, you can never really empower somebody else. But you can create an environment that doesn't let them defer their power to others. And that that has real power for them to find, take and use when they're ready. Yeah. I think, for me adopting Holacracy in my organization, this is really one of the most exciting things for me, because it removes that burden of me being the hero in the organization trying to solve everyone's problem. You know, it gave my team really a pathway. And for
me to really share that burden to say, Hey, you know, you have ways to it's in your role, or you have ways to part ways to find answers to it, go ahead and do it. Here it is. And rather than without the structure, then you kind of just default to whoever's the manager who is the boss. And not all managers and bosses, unlike what is often seen in culture that, you know, they don't necessarily enjoy that privilege of making all the decisions. So for those bosses and managers who don't like
their to be the hero, I think Holacracy really works in those teams. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Love it. Talking about bosses, the perfect segue Holacracy is not a bossless. Organization, it makes the organization's purpose the boss. Yeah. You know, often, when
people learn about Holacracy, one of the things that really stuck out to them is like, Oh, this there is no management hierarchy, therefore, it's a structure less organization, or there are no bosses, there are no managers, therefore, anyone can make any decision that suits them. And, you know, without knowing what the new structure is, like, I can understand where that comes from. And in my own experience, I was asking myself, alright, if you know, you don't have a typical boss, in terms of how the management hierarchy is, then you know, who really is the boss, you know, or what's the North Star here. And just then
reflecting on the process, especially the governance process, and how it's designed to evolve, keeping the purpose as a Northstar. It just didn't hit me, oh, there is a boss. It's just not a person. Right? It's the purpose. And this then really makes Holacracy such a powerful framework for purpose driven organizations. Because typically, in management hierarchy, you have, you know, these layers of bureaucracy and layers of people, where you can't have a direct purpose to purpose relationship. But with Holacracy it, you know, in that sense, it's, if I can use the word pure to have that clean relationship between a person's purpose and the purpose of the organization. Yeah, Brian, if you can share about your thoughts on, you know, the, the importance of building purpose driven organizations, and how, you know, your thoughts behind it, and how Holacracy enables that. Yeah, yeah,
totally. So, I, I think you're hitting on, I think one of the misconceptions that that people often have when they hear about this idea of it's a bossless organization, right. And people often think that means that anyone can just go do anything or whatever. And that's not true at all. There's very clear boundaries, in fact, more clear limits and boundaries and a company running with Holacracy, than in a traditional management hierarchy, and more clear freedom within those limits and boundaries, both. There's more structure, not less
people often hear no bosses, and they think no structure. And that's not true. There is more structure, not less, right, the structures actually really clearly defined in companies running with Holacracy. And it's agile, it's changing constantly.
Every team is part of this process of updating the structure on their team. And that was the example I gave of my colleague and the casting agent role adding an expectation on my role. those roles are documented, they're clear, and, and they're not just something written up, you know, from HR years ago. They're they're living, breathing structure.
They're changing constantly, as we adapt the process and the structure of our team. So you actually end up with more clear structure not less. And the act of doing that structuring, I don't know any better word for that the management, right, that's what you're doing, you're managing something here. Now,
it's not management as in a top down command, the hierarchy, it's not bosses and subordinates. It's, you can think of Holacracy as management without managers. And it's, instead of centralizing power in a boss and expecting them to just make the team work, and to find everything, right, there's a process that everyone can can take part in, that's structuring this cell of the organization, this this team, and that process is taking place in every team and every cell if you will. And, and ultimately, what guides all of that is this idea of a purpose for the organization. And, and that gets broken down.
So there's lots of purposes, every role has a purpose, every team has a purpose. And ultimately, the overall organization has one general purpose, which is often fairly high level for a whole organization. And then it's broken down. And then you've got again, just just like, you know,
in the body, every one of my cells has a different reason for being a different purpose, a different thing. Same with every organ, it's trying to achieve something different for my system. Sometimes they're even in conflict with each other, which is actually fine and can be healthy. But overall, my
whole system, I get to, as best I can discover my purpose in life and pursue it. And it's not to say everything is always perfectly aligned with that it's often not, we often have parts of ourselves that are conflicting. And that's just part of the the living system process. But there's still an intention. There's an attempt for my whole system to align with, as best I understand it, my purpose in life, right? And I think we can look at the organization the same way we can get our best understanding, what is this organization's deepest creative calling in the world? What is it that it uniquely we're not even uniquely, it doesn't have to be unique, but what is it that it can do for the world? What is its creative potential that's trying to emerge through it? Right, we can tune into that. And then we can do our best to align everything with expressing that. And in that sense, the purpose becomes
the boss. And the process we use, the governance process becomes the management that everyone is taking part in. And there's lots of structure that comes out of that. There's just not a top down command hierarchy of bosses and subordinates. But
we still get clear structure, we get clear expectations, and we get adaptability. Okay, thank you. Thank you. So well put, yeah, we're gonna change tracks a bit. Talk about culture. Holacracy is not about creating a great culture. It's about having a structure where a great culture will emerge. And if I
can quote you here, Brian, because your quote was sort of the inspiration of putting it in this way. Peter Drucker has a quote, culture eats strategy for breakfast. And Brian's follow on to that was structure is culture for lunch. And I've never heard it for the first time for me, someone making that link that instead of, you know, trying to improve culture directly, you can work on the structure, and the culture is an emergent out of that structure. So Brian, if you can just share my thoughts
about that, and how, yeah, structure is totally well. So I definitely don't mean to imply don't consciously work on your culture, I think that can be really useful. In the same way, I think Drucker wasn't meaning to imply, don't consciously work on your strategy, right? I think consciously working on your strategy is really useful. But even more useful is being aware that your strategy is executed within a frame of a culture. And you can have the best strategy and your culture can sabotage and undermine it, or your culture can actually enhance and make up for even a shitty strategy. Culture is more fundamental. It's more low level, it's underlying, you know, the strategies we come up with. And I'd say the same thing here. I agree with everything
Drucker says about that. And I think the same thing, though, applies at a deeper level here, you can still work on your culture directly. And that's useful and the power structure you operate within provide some fundamental limits, it can sabotage your efforts with culture, or it can enhance them, even if you don't kind of do it all the all that the best you can, right. So, for example, just use something we have already experienced in society. Right? Imagine the culture that's possible among us, when we're living in a generally mostly, you know, free market society that with a lot of freedom, a democracy, whatever modern society as opposed to a feudal Empire, right, what culture is possible among the peasants and the barons, in a feudal Empire, and a feudal system where the barons have almost complete power over the peasants. There's, there's just a different culture that's enabled. There's there's more You can do with culture, when
you're in a power structure that gives people more autonomy, more respect, more freedom, more ability to adapt more freedom to choose and follow their own path in life. Rather than being bound to the land and serfs of the Baron, there's just more that's possible. And as much as you might want to bring in leadership development coaches or consultant, culture coaches, to that feudal Empire, there's only so much you can do in that power structure. But when you change the underlying power
structure, it enables new cultures, ones that wouldn't have even been possible or desirable maybe before. And it removes the potential for your power structure to sabotage a culture. Right? I think right now, when you get really good culture, when you you're doing the best you possibly can in organization culturally, there are limits you hit with the power structure, you're still in this this bizarre top down hierarchy that has all sorts of interesting incentives. And and when a power structure has incentives, they work against the culture often. Right? So that's what I mean by that. It's not that culture isn't important it is, it's to say something is more fundamental, basic power structure of who can make which decisions, who can do what, who can define what expectations and how on others. Those are the domains of power structure. And mostly in organizations, we are unconscious to that. In the same
way that a generation ago in business, most people were unconscious to culture. We didn't talk about culture. A generation ago in business, we talked about strategy. But we had no conscious awareness or attention on culture. And now we do now that's that's norm in the business world. But most people accept top down command hierarchy. As the only option I
thought it was when I started my first business, I didn't consciously ask, with my co founders, what kind of power structure Do we want, we just assumed top down management hierarchy was, of course, the only realistic way to do it. We just, we didn't even know we had that assumption we just did. Right, it was unconscious. And I think what's happening now,
thanks to the self management movement more broadly, the, there's a lot of other movements that play in, there's more and more consciousness on this lower level of power structure. In the same way that culture was radically new. And it was weird a generation ago when people started at first talking about it. But now it's normal. And I think we're seeing the same
journey to power structure, we can now consciously talk about it. And if management hierarchy command top down command hierarchy is the best power structure for our environment in our organization. I say great use it. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with it. I think it doesn't often scale to the complexity we face, I think it was meant for an era where we needed more controls, and standardization, and less creativity and adaptability. I don't think it was built for the
latter, right. But there are some environments that still might find it the best solution for them, then use it. What I really want to encourage people to do is just make a conscious decision. And I think when you consciously choose a more robust
power structure for complexity, things happen at the cultural level. And I love that I love how you talk about culture emerging here. It changes the culture fundamentally. And from what I've seen in a really powerful way. Yeah, I've, I've experienced this firsthand in my organization, particularly remember, one of our team members, and the customer care team was usually very shy and quiet. She came in one of our governance meetings, and she
made a proposal about expenses and taking decisions her or taking decisions within a certain limit. And that sort of pass through, there was no objection. And she felt so empowered by that, you know, she came in one person, and she walked out a different person. And in just that one meeting, and you know, if I had given a speech, say, I want you to be empowered and so important for this organization, I don't think that would have changed. But you know, that one governance meeting really changed that team's culture. Yeah, I believe it.
All right, it just got the last image. Before we move on to q&a. You know, we've been talking about how great Holacracy is and how it can change organizations and make them better, more agile, more responsive. But at the same time, you know, I never tell anyone that Holacracy is easy to implement, and never use the word easy when explaining Holacracy. I really see this after practicing it for almost five years now. I see it as a lifelong practice. And, yeah, because I think real transformative change. So it's
not easy, but it's so transformative that it's brought me and my brother here, you know, talking about it to everyone we know. But at the same time Holacracy itself is evolving itself. It's changing. And I think on a scale of one to 10, in terms of difficulty, it is slowly moving to become more easier. There is a newer version of Holacracy. That's going to be
coming out soon, version five. So before we have come to a close to this webinar, I want Brian to share a little bit more about what's coming up in version five. And how is Holacracy going to become easier so that more people get to experience it. Arif Vakil: I want to pump a question here, as it's related.
Brian, what was the thrust and pension behind? Holacracy? version 45? You can add that to your answers? Well, yeah, one of the things I love about Holacracy itself, it's just as evolutionary as it helps an organization be right on the method itself, which is why it's version controlled. It's it's an open source process, that open source document, we capture the rules of Holacracy in a constitution, to constitutional approach to running a company constitutional power structure, and that constitutions that open source document that you can download and use for your organization. And it evolves the same way open source software does by the community of users submitting feedback when they find something that seems like it's, you know, kind of a, an edge case that the rules don't handle well. And then the rules
have all to integrate them. Or they find bugs, if you will, and they submit those and, and we've collected those for years. Now, it's been, oh, I don't know, six years or something in the works. And we finally have about to be released a new version. And there's something like 100 different tensions integrated into it. So it's no one thing. And it's all of the feedback over the years, all of the edge cases where the rules didn't quite work as well as they could all the tensions people had about the rule system itself, about the framework. And there
are some major changes, big ones, the one he was alluding to is we've made it a lot easier to adopt. I still would I really love this slide. It's it is a lifelong practice, it's this is not something that you just adopt in a quarter or I mean, you might get some positive ROI in a quarter or two. Right, you might have find that suddenly you're addressing issues more efficiently or you might have some positive results. But the
actual journey is many years. And how long does it take you to master being a manager in a management hierarchy? It's at least that long, right? It's a many many year journey. But that said, The hard part at first was starting, right. In prior cases, the biggest complaint we had an affair one is this is changing the entire power structure of your company. And in the past, it was kind of an all or nothing change it was you adopt this entire new constitution and all of your power structure is different. And then you got to catch up and figure out how to use it and what it means and how to work with it. And it's just a
daunting change. And what we've done with the new version is we've kind of broken it out into different segments that allow you to adopt incrementally. So you can start one piece at a time, you can basically start with a constitutional management hierarchy, which defines a little bit more clearly how managers need to operate and use their their managerial authority with clear roles. And it gives you some framework that, frankly, you want anyway, in a management hierarchy, it's just really hard to get, and it puts some guide rails on it and gives you a starting point. And then you can adopt another segment and another and another until you're all the way there fully doing this distributed authority Holacracy thing. And I think
that's a huge game changer in in the nature of how this can be rolled out. And it allows a friend of mine who works in in personal change. He's a coach, fitness coach. And I worked with him and it was life changing. And he said, when it comes to
body change, one of the things he's discovered is people are often daunted at the beginning, they think it's going to be massive, and so they never start. It's almost like too hard to start in their mind. And he said what he he's experienced. So compared to that the change is actually easier than most people think it just takes longer than most people think.
And I think we've version five of Holacracy. I can now honestly genuinely say that that is true for this as well. Now, it is easier than most people think because you don't have to change everything all at once at the beginning. But it will take
longer than most people think. Right? And you can roll it out at your pace as you go. Oh, great. Great. Thank you. Thank you,
Brian. I'm personally very excited to try out version five. Arif Vakil: This one commit, I would add that even though it's not all at once, it's easier, and it takes longer, but you experience the rewards and benefits. I'm tempted to say from day one, but not day one, let's say week one. And it just
keeps getting better with each article or each clause that you adapt from Holacracy. So it's not that you have to wait to the end to experience all the benefits. You get the benefits immediately and just incremental one over the other from personal experience. Yeah, I'm I think Ryan might be frozen. Maybe he had a power cut, which we often have in India here, but I think that about it on his side. Okay, what I'm going to do is I have a quick announcement to make. And then it Brian comes
back, we're gonna have some time for q&a. You know, we've been talking about Holacracy. But you may have a lot of questions. All right, this sounds so great, but how do we do it. And even though I can share how I think the best way to learn Holacracy is to actually experience it. So we do have a workshop coming up on the
16th 17th and 18th of March. It's a 3d virtual workshop. So no matter where you are, around the world, you can join us, it will be facilitated by ahref and myself. And in this 3d workshop, we really are going to give you a hands on experience on how Holacracy works, and even teach you how to, to some extent get started in your own organization. So I'm going to be
sending you have a email with a link with all the details, more explore more. Found register, you will have all the details there. I sorry, I leave my my internet connection finally did die. Access is a bit of a disaster zone right now. Still.
Great. Okay, so I want to open it up for q&a. So really, anyone has any questions for Brian? I can just raise your hands. I'll unmute you. And you can go ahead and ask your question. Jonas Arif Vakil: can go first. He's been asking a lot of great questions. So I guess, give john Surtees one question go first. And then you're just gonna raise your hands. It's a book after
Jonas? Okay, Jonas, I have given you the unmute options. Unknown: I'm still deciding which one to choose. Oh, yeah. I'm Unknown: Brian, thank you so much for the presentation. What
I'm really interested in is my understanding, there are always conflicting expectations and several purposes and organizations. In every living system, being at biological or social, can be adaptive or agile, if it focuses on one purpose only. So why do you focus on one purpose in your organization, and how can be agile? And so in my experience, I found that just useful, have read the one I've had experiences in organizations that didn't do that. And once it did, and I find when you have at least a good purpose, one that isn't too specific, but also not just so vague, that it's meaningless, you've got kind of that sweet spot of a meaningful kind of motivating higher calling. I found that useful. To me that helps adaptability gives us something to compare against. How are we doing that? Overall, it gives us something to align different efforts, even as we're also pursuing all different sub purposes under that. And so for
me, it's it's same thing in my personal life. And when I actually choose or uncover or discover whatever belief system I have around purpose, when I find myself orienting around a higher purpose in my life, I find myself generally more productive, more effective and more adaptable. And so for me, it's just been experientially useful. Unknown: Yes, and no, I mean, it's great to have an orientation. I fully agree with that. But if if I hire people,
and they are joining me, just for one purpose, and the organization has to change, for example, Nokia made shoes many years ago, and then they made cell phones and not not changing again, if I change my purpose, I might lose many people. I don't think making shoes or cell phones is a purpose, not as I define it. Right? That's, that's way too specific and granular.
And I think when you've got the right purpose, it changes very slowly and gradually, typically, that said, if it does rapidly change, and you need to lose people, that might not necessarily be a bad thing, but purposes, not shoes, purposes, not cellphones purpose. I capture the purpose of my life, for example, as I show people a radical new way to organize power. And that's not just about Holacracy I do that in Holacracy. I do that in some of my writing politically. I mean, it's a it's across so many aspects to it in interpersonal relationships for methods that have nothing to do with Holacracy. Right. It's a very general high level but still
directionality. For me. That's my purpose. You know, my company's purpose is similar, but you know, we have we have different ways of capturing it. For this the kind of the book I'd recommend about purpose, as written by a friend of mine, Tim Kelly. And the book is true purpose. And I love the way he
languages purpose and its utility for organizations is. It's it's different than a lot of the other purpose methodology that I've seen. And I really, totally agree with you if if that's what we mean by purpose, that's not the right right purpose for an organization. Unknown: Thanks for watching. Oh, got it. Yeah. Thanks, Julian. Join us. Sorry. Anyone else? Any questions for Brian, you can raise your hand or just let me know.
Arif Vakil: There's no one. I've got a question. Brian, my question, and this is the pushback I normally get when I try to sell Holacracy is I can't help sell it. This just works so well, for me. Is that like, most companies use the RF most companies, successful companies, the world most leading companies, they don't follow Holacracy. The be the top tech
companies be the Forbes 400 list? What is it that? Why do you think we will be more successful following Holacracy? What makes them more successful? And that's where that's where I get stuck. I can give them reasons why I like it, but and how, how would you how do you answer it? So two questions, how would you answer or relating it to such an objection? And truly to the question, what is it that is making these companies successful? But wait, but let's put a quote right now? Yeah. And if I can just add a follow on to that if I know, some people on the call who are looking to explore Holacracy for their organizations. So if you can also add, you know, what should companies look for to see if Holacracy is a good fit for them? Yeah. So the biggest thing I'd say, to know if Holacracy is a good fit to start with that, you've got to experience it. It's I mean, it's a practice, it's something you
do, it's not a model, it's not a theory. Doesn't matter how smart you are, you don't get Holacracy by reading about it, as much as I'd love for you to all go read my book. Great. But that's not how you learn it. And that's not how you assess is this right for us? I think it'd be kind of like trying to assess do i do i like soccer? By reading about it. Right? Or do I like playing
music by reading a book on musical theory, right, that doesn't doesn't really do it. You've got to listen, you've got to play. And so I know you're offering a workshop that will be experiential, I believe in that I think that's, that's an awesome place to just get a taste of it. Or often, what
executive teams will do is bring in a Holacracy coach for just a day or two, to walk them through its processes on their real business issues. And that way, they're not not trying to assess Is this the right thing, this giant change for my company? upfront, they're saying, let's just take a day or two, and let's try it out. And let's experience it. And that's what's going to help people really know. And at that point, you
won't need to ask how do you know if it's right, you'll know, you'll know what's right, or you'll know it's not because you've lived it, you've experienced it, you felt it. And you'll have a visceral felt sense of how that compared to how you normally work, how you normally meet how you normally make decisions. Right? And when you've got those two experiences, it's usually pretty clear. Right? So the real question to me is, how do you know if it's right to at least get a taste of it? And and that that's a much easier question, then Is it right to adopt? I mean, are you curious? Or do you feel inspired you feel interested? Is it worth a little bit of time or energy to learn a little more? Great, if so, then go to the workshop, or if you want a little more, bring a coach into your executive team, you know, those are the those are much easier decisions. So start with that. And also be aware that Holacracy, it is a big change, the smaller the company, the easier it is, right? It's much easier to adopt Holacracy in a 30 person company than a 30,000 person company. So I don't expect the big companies of the world to be rushing there anytime soon, although we've seen departments and very large companies, even governments adopt Holacracy now, so there are some large entities that are moving in this direction. But
let's be honest, I think most of the large companies in the world today are not exactly the Paragons of fast, adaptable experiment. So usually, they're not the early adopters of new technology like this. And so, how are the big companies successful? Oh, God, I don't know. I'm sure it's different in
every industry. In Every company and every case, in some cases, it might just be momentum. I mean, if you go back and look at the companies on the fortune 100 list, you know, 50 years ago, or I forget the exact day, there's some comparison done. And there was something like 90% of them don't exist any longer. Right. So to some extent, the large companies might just be carrying on inertia and momentum. And to some extent, some of them are brilliant at doing great things, you know, so I don't want to lump them all together. I think all of that is true. But I do
think it's easier to experiment and adapt when you're smaller. And if you're running a smaller business, you have opportunity before you get too big. To get in place this kind of framework or whatever framework you want, just make a conscious decision, because it gets harder as you get larger. As companies grow, they lose innovation, they lose creativity, bureaucracy gets worse, waste gets higher. And there's been studies on that it is worse as you grow. So whatever you're going to do, if
it's putting in place something like this, do it sooner than later. All right, thank you so much. I do we are out of time. I am tempted to ask Brian, if we can take in one more question. Yeah, I
can squeeze in one more. Sure. Okay. Deepu. All yours. Unknown: Thanks, Ellie. So yeah, so Brian, I Arif Vakil: think this is a follow up from your previous question. I work for one of the largest companies, I Unknown: worked for Pfizer. Arif Vakil: And as you can imagine, like at the macro level, it's a very conservative organization. At the same time,
my team is around 20. Members. So I was wondering if you have any examples of stories where like smaller departments within larger organizations have successfully deployed Holacracy Unknown: at a micro level? I think there actually may be a team at Pfizer doing it? Well, I don't know. I don't know the details. And I don't know how public they are about it. So consider this just
possible. I'm not sure. But if you if you'd like you go to holacracy.org and contact us and you send this request in and tell it tell us that you run a team at Pfizer, we can try to make an internal connection for you. And I know it's one of the large drug companies, and I'm pretty sure it's Pfizer. So
yeah, and this is what's happening in big companies, there's stealth teams and departments doing it. There's an inspired leader who says, I have a vision, I think we could do better. And I think we can use my team as a laboratory and experiment some. And they bring something like this in. And we've done that in a lot of big companies and even governments, country governments, sovereign nation governments, where we go into one department or one agency, and we we bring this in and support them in doing something really different. And
sometimes when that works, well, it becomes a, like a retrovirus and it starts spreading internally, right. We've seen neighboring departments get into what they're doing, see that it's working, and then start adopting themselves, which is pretty cool. And I think if the big companies are going to change, it's it's likely to be some combination of that. retrovirus internal stuff spread. And the right leaders eventually catching on and saying, Oh, wait, this is this is something worth pursuing and then sponsoring it.
All right. Thank you. Thank you so much, Brian. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. I felt really complete, going through all the topics on this webinar. And it's been a while since I wanted to discuss this with Brian. So thank you, once again, have a great day. And we'll be in
touch. See you all soon. Thanks, everyone. Appreciate your time. Thank you all. Have a great day. Bye.