Holacracy Part II: 18% the Opposition.

Last week I wrote about how the newly introduced subject of Holacracy kept popping up in my life. To summarize, for those who didn't read, a Clearly Agile partner went to the Scrum Gathering in Prague, learned about Holacracy, brought it back to us who remained stateside, and I found it very intriguing. Fast forward a few months, and the Tampa Bay ScrumMasters’s Guild had a guest speaker, an early adopter and evangelist of Holacracy, and she gave her version of a concentrated intro, giving me more to think about. In this span of months, the Holacracy book was playing (via Audible) through my VW speakers, as I commuted about Tampa, turning the time that used to be a waste (stuck, sitting on i-275), in to that of an educational variety.  

 Yesterday was another one of those days…in a Holacratic sense. The trend started when Fred Mastro and I were discussing Holacracy over lunch with a potential client, a Tampa Bay Exec, but that was not the first and only time the subject was to come up. That same day, an industry friend shared a link/article with our Agile community that the New York Times had just released on Zappos’ Holacratic transition. I bumped in to that “industry friend” later in the evening at an Agile event, and we sat with several other friends, talking about what we read in that piece. We all agreed the NY Times put a negative spin on the movement, describing Zappos’ transition to Holacracy as a “Radical Management Experiment”, and labeled the employee attrition as an “Exodus”.

 Today, the trend continued, and on my LinkedIn newsfeed, I came across this update:


 Naturally I opened the article, read what the Business Insider had to say, and was pleasantly surprised that it was written from a much more neutral place, and simply is a journalistic approach of what Zappos is doing with Holacracy, and the results the organizational change brought along with it. I was really caught up on the “18%”.

 In my first post about Holacracy, I already declared that I am a fan, and this excerpt is not intended to be another advocacy piece, but rather my thoughts on the “18%”. Zappos is just one organization of many, and the 18% was not derived from a year-long study where 100,000’s of professionals were polled, but I still find it interesting in a few ways.

 I took a stab at entrepreneurialism back in my early 20’s, remained there for a few years, learned a ton, had some successes, got beat up a lot, dusted myself off, and did it again. In my early 30’s, I took my first shot working in the proverbial “Corporate America”, learned a ton, had some successes, got beat up, dusted myself off, repeat. After a ½ decade working in an enterprise environment, I came to the actualization that the entrepreneurial seat was the one I found most comfortable, and it is where I sit today. I get it; entrepreneurialism isn’t for everyone, but maybe that is why I find the 18% interesting. Back in my Corporate America days, if I would have received a memo that “Titles” were being stripped, authority dispersed across the organization, and we were all going to inherit roles that sling-shot’d us in to rapid advancements and innovation, I would have done a backflip right there in my office. I never got that memo, and no, I cannot do a backflip.

 Aside from the notion that an entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for everyone, can we read in to the 18% figure and logically deduce that a fifth of Americans only care about title, prestige, and power, more than making an impact on society, remaining employed, or trying something new? There is also the possibility that silos, bureaucracy, and the typical organizational structure allow some to clock in, do their MVP (Minimum Viable Productivity level without anyone noticing they are doing the bare minimum to get by…thought you Scrum folks would like the MVP reference), clock out, and go home. Or maybe it isn’t the loss of title and power, nor lack of motivation that led to the “exodus”at all, but just the simple fact that something was changing, and change is scary. I am not an expert in Sociology, nor Psychology, but nevertheless found the statistic interesting, and something to chew on, that a fifth of a company jumped ship when changes were a comin’. I mean if the New York Times can jump on the “Negative Train” when they find out there may be a better way to organize a corporation than the traditional fashion we are all accustomed to, I guess anyone can get scared and bite back at the threat of change…

"If nothing changes, nothing changes."