Agile, on the Verge of Holacratic

We are Agile, clearly…sorry, bad (Clearly Agile) joke. We use the Agile methodology and Scrum process in ALL of our development efforts, no exceptions. We are Scrum Coaches and Trainers. We attend and host Agile events across the Tampa Bay. We breathe the Agile principles, so why would Holacracy not appeal to guys and gals like us? It does.

I am in my infancy of understanding Holacracy (but I like it, and we’ll get to that soon). I only first heard of it back in November of last year (because “last year” sounds like a long time ago). A Co-Founder of Clearly Agile (Mr. Frederic Mastropasqua), traveled abroad to the Global Scrum Gathering, hosted by the Scrum Alliance, in Prague, Czech Republic. He had the opportunity to mingle with some of the brightest Agile minds on the planet, and we were all really excited to hear about what he had learned upon his return.

Our first staff meeting, post Prague trip, involved a White Board, like much of the Scrum Enthusiasts’ meetings usually do. Of all the things Fred Mastro (as we call him to save a few syllables) learned, he was most excited to share a new Organizational Structure principle. It is called Holacracy. I sat in my chair, enamored by the lesson that reminded me of a college lecture, took notes, re-drew the mock images Fred drew in my notebook, nodded my head, and walked away intrigued. I researched it at home, Fred Mastro, as gracious as he is, gifted me the Holacracy book, I have been reading it, and then coincidentally enough, our friend (the other) Adam (Ulery) set up an exquisite speaker for our first ScrumMaster’s Guild meeing of 2016, an early adopter and Evangelist of Holacracy! All of this exposure to Holacracy was the catalyst for this piece, and the declaration of why we are absolutely adopting its principles.

Trying to explain (the little I know) about Holacracy, will be like trying to turn my readers in to a Samurai, who forges his own sword from a chunk of iron ore, with one simple blog. But I believe I am equipped to stress the main points, from a 100,000 foot view. It is Agile.

I was never shy, so will say it; 99% of your organizations are based on a structure that was architected in the Fordism (Industrial) Period. It worked perfectly then. It worked for nearly the last 100 years, but it doesn’t quite work now, and certainly won’t in the future. Holacracy is based off Agile principles, and all “principles” or “Methodologies” aside, and in a general sense, agile things and people move quickly, and in the direction they HAVE to move.

 Holacracy breaks down the archetypal organizational structure in to a more distributed authoritative model. Instead of a hierarchy with “Titles” involved, there are roles, and each one of those roles is autonomous to the rest of the body of the organization. Ingrid, our brilliant speaker at the ScrumMaster’s Guild, used the Starling metaphor (they move in sync, poetically, creating beautiful forms, but yet never collide (https://youtu.be/QOGCSBh3kmM), so to avoid stepping on toes or plagiarizing, fish do the same thing. A school of fish have the same PURPOSE…family, reproduction, survival, flourishment, but yet are individuals. They move in schools by the 1000’s, never collide (by design), but they each fulfill their own role for the greater purpose (https://youtu.be/cIgHEhziUxU).

 Holacracy will be a hard swallow for anyone more concerned about title, power, and authority. In order for Holacracy to be implemented (and succeed), some of the more seasoned folks (Director, VP, CXXO’s) will have to give up the power, distributing authority throughout the whole body/engine/organization. The easiest way to comprehend Holacracy is to look inside; your own body. Your white blood cells do not need approval from Mr. Brain before they start attacking an infection. Your heart does not ask your brain if it can pump. There are thousands of independent systems in our bodies, working autonomously, but SO in sync that you can smile (smile now) and read this article. Why can’t your company mimic something that has worked for millions of years, and will continue to work, vs. a structure painted before the Great Depression??

Clearly Agile is new(er). Having only incorporated in 2014, we are still babies in the business world, but we are excellent at what we do, passionate about our craft, and our sole PURPOSE is to serve our customers better than they have ever known. That is why we are Evangelists of Holacracy. Fred Mastro says, “It is a win, win. I free up myself from Executive tasks to do what I am good at, and what I love. Our clients get to speak to a CEO every time they interact with an employee from our organization, getting action immediately, no questions asked”. Our clients will no longer have to wait for a Clearly Agile representative to “bubble up” requests/concerns/questions, but will get immediate return from the President of the little bubble that employee owns.

Like many of us, when we were introduced to Scrum for the first time, Holacracy is somewhat challenging to wrap our minds around. Again, I am still a baby in the Holacratic world, but I am learning. From what I have learned so far, it pairs nicely with our already Agile model, and absolutely compliments our company’s mantra to serve, avoiding any politics or bureaucracy.

Thank you for reading…I don’t have a provocative and profound conclusion. G’day. 

Read more at www.holacracy.org. Thank you Adam Ulery for organizing the Guild. Thank you,  Ingrid Bredenberg, for your time and a bang-up presentation. Thank you Tampa Bay Agile for all of this. #LetsGetAgile #UsedToRideAhorse #NowIdriveAcar #NewThings!