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Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World Hardcover – Jun 2 2015

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (June 2 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 162779428X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1627794282
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

“Holacracy is the opposite of the cliché way to run a startup. People romanticize startup cultures and their lack of structure, but it actually creates tons of anxiety and inefficiency, whether we have to build consensus around every decision, or deal with land grabs for power. In contrast, Holacracy creates clarity: who is in charge of what, and who makes each kind of decision--and there is a system for changing that, so it's very flexible at the same time.” ―Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium

“This book reminds me of a book that I must have read 100 times during my quest to become a better poker player. The first reading will most likely result in a complete paradigm shift, and you'll gain new insight every single time you reread it, especially when interspersed with actual practice playing the game on a regular basis. Just like I had a 'poker bible' I constantly referenced and reread, I highly recommend this book as your 'Holacracy Bible' if you're looking to explore a new way of working.” ―Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller DELIVERING HAPPINESS

About the Author

Brian J. Robertson created Holacracy and founded HolacracyOne, the organization that is training people and companies all over the world in this new system. Robertson had previously launched a successful software company, where he first introduced the principles that would become Holacracy, making him not just a management theorist, but someone who has successfully implemented a holacracy-powered organization. He lives in Philadelphia.


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Format: Kindle Edition
To what does the title refer? As Brian Robertson explains, Holacracy is essentially "a new social technology for governing and operating an organization, defined by a set of core rules distinctly different from those of a conventionally governed organization." He notes that Arthur Koestler coined the term "holacracy" in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine. That is, Koestler defined a "holon" as "a whole that is a part of a larger whole" and a "holacracy" as "the connection between holons." Diagrams of this geometric structure are included in the book.

It is also important to note that Robertson is convinced, as am I, that Charles Darwin's insights concerning evolution have significant implications for organizations -- as Robertson notes -- that were "built on a basic blueprint that matured in the early 1900s and hasn't changed much since," one he characterizes as "predict and control."

"How can we make an organization not just [begin italics] evolved [end italics] but [begin italics] evolutionary [end italics]? How can we reshape a company into to an evolutionary organism -- one that makes sense and adapt and learn and integrate? In [Eric D.] Beinhocker's words, 'The key to doing better is to bring evolution inside and get the wheels of differentiation, selection, and amplification spinning within a company's four walls.'" In this book, Robertson explains HOW to do that.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o An Operating System Upgrade (Pages 9-14)
o How Do You Distribute Authority?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Holacracy the first true attempt at creating a methodology to operate organizations across different industrues in the new self- management paradigm. This pioneering work will help accelerate the coming of age of this new organizational model, which will gradually replace the current one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A solid ground to frame and adress organizations's dilemnas. Innovative.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98ce5ae0) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98b82a5c) out of 5 stars Too light on details Sept. 29 2015
By Justus Pendleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came into this via Reinventing Organizations. Though I had heard of Holacracy a bit before, I had never looked into it in much detail. I am predisposed to like this kind of book. I am a manager-of-managers in a high-tech company and I often feel like "there must be a better way".

I came away fundamentally unsatisfied. This feels like a Cliff Notes version of Holacracy rather than something that would convince me to try it out in my company. The author (eventually) makes a good case for the governance meetings, though I feel like the explanation was spread out across multiple chapters. For instance it isn't until Chapter 10 (a chapter ostensibly about how to adopt Holacracy piece-meal if wholesale adoption is impossible) the author explains "change your language, change your culture" and why the terms "tension" and "tension processing" were chosen. I feel like this discussion should have been up in Chapter 4 when the governance meetings were introduced.

I think in general the book does a good job of explaining the "what" of Holacracy but is pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to explaining the "why". Another example is the repeated claim that you "can't adopt only parts of Holacracy". This includes a rigid formula for meetings that includes a closing round where you go around the room and "give each person space to share a closing reflection about the meeting". I'm not saying that's a bad idea but I don't understand why that is integral to Holacracy. If I leave out that one part do I really lose all the benefit of Holacracy? I guess I'm just skeptical of that.

But the biggest failing of the book is that is it just too light on implementation details. This comes out in two main areas: role definition and the "apps" that are suddenly introduced at the end of the book. For the role definitions, Holacracy seems to rely in an almost legalistically complete role definition. Since Holacracy has been rolled out in many companies, I'm not saying it is impossible to do. But that book doesn't really give any real world examples of how this role clarification works in large and messy teams.

How many people really know all the roles they fill and what the scope of all those roles are? How do you realistically make that switch? I'd have loved to see that detail.

What about jobs where you seem to have a lot of people who are somewhat interchangeable? How does that work. For instance, imagine a software team with 15 developers working in a normal scrum-kind-of-way where you take stories from the top of the backlog. What does the role definition look like for them? What is the scope of their autocracy? I'm sure there are answers but the book doesn't provide any, instead relying on contrived examples in a company that appears to have about 5 employees.

But my single biggest complaint is when you get to Chapter 8 and a subsection introduces "apps". By that point I was skeptical on some details, didn't fully by in, but felt it had some good and interesting ideas. But I had these nagging questions at the back of my mind and was wondering when the book would get around to providing some answers.

"How do you set salary? How do you give raises? How do you give promotions? How do you make hiring and firing decisions? How do you decide to shutdown an entire office and lay off 150 people? How do you decide to IPO or accept a buyout? How do you set budgets and enforce them?"

The book's answer is...."You could design your own system, given your specific needs, but you may find it useful to check out [the HolacracyOne] 'app store'."

No link or URL is provided. It is hard to get excited about designing from scratch my own systems for these things (I don't expect a perfectly formed solution that requires no tweaking but starting with a totally blank canvas?) and I'm also not excited that the answer is to go read a web page—I bought this book for a reason, hoping it would make a compelling argument.

(FWIW, there is exactly one "app" on the "app store" for compensation. It sounds interesting but it also sounds similar to the compensation system a startup called hanno.co blogged about using...and then nine months later blogged about moving away from. So I'm not exactly sold on it as a great option.)
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98b823e4) out of 5 stars Changing Holacracy's Bad Press June 7 2015
By Mr Michael D Falconer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you live in Las Vegas…Check!

Have an interest in management and business issues… Check!

And know a number of people in the Downtown / Zappos / entrepreneur community… Check!

Then you can’t help but have heard of Holacracy.

Normally the tones of conversations about Holacracy, and in particular of Zappos’s ’embrace it or leave’ offer to their staff, mix wonder and an unbelieving shake of the head normally reserved for parents of teenagers. This new book by Brian J. Robertson aims to change all that.

The funny thing is that it actually does a pretty good job.

The first real hint that there is more here than just a new business book, is in that the author has been involved in Lean software development and it is almost a throwaway comment- which is unfortunate. Lean is becoming a highly respected way of changing how companies work (please see my review of Lean Hospitals for a better explanation) and there are some interesting commonalities that someone, better versed in both than myself, needs to explore.

At its core, Holacracy is the deconstruction of work into roles, accountabilities, domains, and polices and giving employees the freedom, and the structure, to make modifications when “tensions” arise without the formal structure of supervisors and management. Interestingly, a lot of the housekeeping of Holacracy is in preserving the integrity of the process rather than the comfort of the employees. “It is difficult to hide from empowerment when the organizational process around you continually shines a light on your hiding place.”

Of course, if you are looking for things to turn you off such as parody worthy jargon; “In Tactical Meetings circle members use a fast-paced forum to deal with their ongoing operations, synchronize team members, and triage any difficulties that are preventing progress.” then you will find it. However, it is worth embracing one of the key conceits of the author when describing the adoption or even understanding of a system such as Holacracy: The rules of any game fade into the background when everyone knows what they are doing and how they should do it. It is only when someone breaks the rules, or does not know them well enough, that the rules come into sharp relief.

For those of us who are constantly looking to upgrade our management tool box, there is a lot you will recognize from other areas and other ideas what are worth re-purposing if a complete adoption of Holacracy is never even on your mind. The structured checkins at the beginning of meetings, for example, I am already planning on adopting along with the book’s strategy definition.

Of course, a book of this length (it is a short 200 pages that I read in a morning) can be nothing more than a appetizer or introduction to the world of Holacracy. I would have liked to have seen a few more diagrams and a decent FAQ section: The idea that the CEO of a company unadopt Holacracy at any time but is not above the rules is great to know; but would have been nicer to hear on page 10 rather than page 152!

My main criticism of the book, however, is in the field of Human Resources. What does the disciplinary process look like in a Holacracy? What does termination look like? How does that jive with legal and privacy issues? There is mention of compensation models, but these are brief and experimental at best.

There is something really interesting going on here with Holacracy and it deserves a more positive press that it currently seems to be receiving; hopefully this book will help change that.

But it is not a panacea – at least not yet.

But is is worth your time to find out why!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98b82d20) out of 5 stars There is a certain unnecessary rigidity involved Aug. 16 2015
By Steven W. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I learned about holacracy, I ordered the book and read it right away, and then ordered and read the constitution desk reference from the website. He's definitely on to something, but it's not quite there yet. I think for the ideas, systems, and processes more evolution is needed for holacracy to be accepted and used effectively in new or existing organizations. There is a certain unnecessary rigidity involved. Grasping how it's all supposed to work is challenging. I don't believe that implementing holacracy whole and without deviation is required to benefit from some of the core principles and methods, although 100% devotion to the system is the proposal presented. There is a near religious, quasi cult-like flavor in the requirement for absolute adherence to the system that is quite off-putting. Yet, the diagnosis of the problems in many organizations is accurate and insightful. If you approach the book as a starting point with promise, rather than as the final description of a proven system, then there is much of value worth considering. Some things do require complete implementation to really work. I'm not convinced this is the case here.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98b85a68) out of 5 stars How and why, "one way or another, evolution will have its way with us" and our organizations in a rapidly changing world June 2 2015
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To what does the title refer? As Brian Robertson explains, Holacracy is essentially "a new social technology for governing and operating an organization, defined by a set of core rules distinctly different from those of a conventionally governed organization." He notes that Arthur Koestler coined the term "holacracy" in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine. That is, Koestler defined a "holon" as "a whole that is a part of a larger whole" and a "holacracy" as "the connection between holons." Diagrams of this geometric structure are included in the book.

It is also important to note that Robertson is convinced, as am I, that Charles Darwin's insights concerning evolution have significant implications for organizations -- as Robertson notes -- that were "built on a basic blueprint that matured in the early 1900s and hasn't changed much since," one he characterizes as "predict and control."

"How can we make an organization not just [begin italics] evolved [end italics] but [begin italics] evolutionary [end italics]? How can we reshape a company into to an evolutionary organism -- one that makes sense and adapt and learn and integrate? In [Eric D.] Beinhocker's words, 'The key to doing better is to bring evolution inside and get the wheels of differentiation, selection, and amplification spinning within a company's four walls.'" In this book, Robertson explains HOW to do that.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o An Operating System Upgrade (Pages 9-14)
o How Do You Distribute Authority? (16-21)
o Power to the Process (21-26)
o Discovering Purpose (31-34)
o Nature's Structure (38-40)
o Differentiating Role and Soul (42-46)
o A Taste of Governance (68-79)
o The Basics (88-90)
o No More What-by-Whens (104-108)
o Facilitating the Mechanics (113-124)
o Strategy in Holacracy (131-134)
o Evolution Inside (139-141)
o Five traps to Bootstrap Holacracy (151-157)
o When Holacracy Doesn't Stick (167-173)
o Change Your Language, Change Your Culture (176-178)
Note: This presupposes that you have changed your values and perspectives and need a different language to articulate them. Obviously, adjustments of non-verbal communication (i.e. body language and tone of voice) must also be made.
o Toppling the Hero (185-193)
o Moving Beyond a Personal Paradigm (197-203)
o The Evolution of Organization (203-205)

I commend Robertson on his brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices that include relevant quotations that are strategically inserted throughout his narrative, bullet point checklists, illustrations of structural relationships, interrelationships, boxed "Role Descriptions" and sequences of various processes, and boxed mini-commentaries that function as a précis of key insights. These various devices will help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

When sharing his final thoughts, Brian Robertson suggests that, ultimately, "Holacracy is an invitation to consciously engage with [an evolutionary process] in a new way, using a new tool. Because whether via Holacracy or another system, evolution will find its way into our organizations. It's just a matter of time. We can steward it in, or we can fight it for a while - but one way or another, evolution will have its way with us."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98a551a4) out of 5 stars Good introduction but didn't quench my thirst for answers Aug. 3 2015
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a good introduction into the management system. The book certainly offers ideas on where else to look for more details. Without looking into it more, I'm still unsure of how staff can get promoted, demoted, hired, or fired.


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