Would you like to be more productive in your approach to completing your task? Do you sometimes find it difficult to implement your ideas efficiently? We as a company would like to prevent this situation. Therefore Katrin and Johannes explore the concept of "Holacracy" and introduced it at Zielpuls. In the following interview we learn more about what makes this concept so special.
A conversation with our Holacracy pioneers Dr. Katrin Schober and Johannes Esterer.
What is Holacracy and how did you discover it?
Katrin: Holacracy for me is a completely new method of shaping one's work life and it is not comparable to any traditional organisation form. Not even to more modern and flexible methods. For me, this is the first truly holistic approach that has been thought through to the end. It challenges all aspects of a person and respectfully involves them in the process. If the person is fully integrated and therefore truly identifies with the job, a company can only benefit from that. This was my first assumption.
Johannes: Holacracy provides a framework that is designed to resolve all operational and structural tensions an employee can have and at the same time it utilizes the potential for the further development of the company and for the empolyee himself.
Katrin: I became aware of Holacracy through a newsletter article. This article covered a special form of information transport in organisations through strictly defined roles, i.e. communication is directed in a very clever way. At Zielpuls, we have experienced that, for example, in the development of complex products for our customers, it is often not technology that is the limiting factor for success, but the way in which participants communicate with each other. This link between the process and the organisation was the first step for me.
In addition, we wanted to grow in accordance with our strategy at Zielpuls without losing our strong employee-oriented corporate culture. This required a deliberate step into the world of organisational development.
What makes this organisational framework so special?
Katrin: Holacracy focuses on the core elements such as "working in roles" and two strictly moderated meeting forms for "working in the company" and "working on the company". It also relies heavily on the "purpose". In my opinion the idea of expectation management in meetings and role descriptions integrated into the methodology are very unique in its approach. The same applies to the special handling of suggested changes to the status quo.
Johannes: Holacracy thus compensates for the inherent lack of control over the complexity of classical departmental hierarchies. What does this look like? Dynamic roles quickly replace obsolete job descriptions. Authority is distributed via a purpose-oriented hierarchy of circles with clearly defined tolerances and a transparent set of rules to which every participant is committed, in order to implement projects in an active manner.
Katrin: An additional benefit is that in this system there is no antiquated documentation of the organiasation anymore - everything is always up-to-date and executed roles are visible in real time for everyone.
Which criterias have you introduced to Zielpuls so far and what experiences have you made?
Katrin: We initially started three pilot projects as circles and tried to steer them strictly according to the "Holacracy Constitution" in order to gain solid experience. We are currently filling about ten circles, some of which are highly differentiated in themselves, i.e. with subcircles and their own purpose. We follow a roll-in instead of a roll-out principle, so we only extend this method to areas we feel comfortable with.
Johannes: It is important that the rules and regulations are introduced holistically. If not, it is difficult to understand the meaning behind the individual rules. After a certain - and also quite exhausting - acclimatization phase, the tasks and processes were better understood. Moreover, the framework has helped clarifying things that otherwise would not have been resolved for months.
Was it difficult at Zielpuls to convince the managers and employees?
Katrin: One of the first questions you get asked is: "How does this method help me to work faster, better and more efficiently?" You have to know: Holacracy is not a method to directly increase performance, speed or productivity. This has to be understood first and requires therfore a change of the mindset. Without the commitment from our managers, an introduction would simply not have been possible. "You'll learn while you're doing it" - is one of the most important lessons from the pilot phase for me. It takes a certain courage to dare to think in terms of "sense and respond" - everyone experienced this very clearly in the transition phase.
Johannes: This requires practice, patience, some discipline and a certain confidence that the investment will pay off in the future. As soon as one notices how strongly the rules fade into the background and that the correct application of the mechanisms leads to one's first "success", the initial skepticism fades away.
What are your goals and how do you want to shape the future of Zielpuls?
Johannes: Zielpuls already has a very progressive organisational structure and culture. Especially when it comes to the culture of communication and interaction, some rules - which often seem overly strict to us - are not as necessary as they might be in the case of some other companies. Nor do we have departmental silo thinking, but rather flat hierarchies. The challenge with Zielpuls lies in the fact that we want to find a way to implement systemic organisational development based on our growth model, because individual people can no longer hold all the threads together.
Katrin: I think it is aweful when false status symbols are cultivated in companies, as we unfortunately see in some cases with our customers. Often the most stressed are the most respected, busyness is a status symbol - especially for executives. This means those whose calendars are filled, those with the most unread mails in their inbox, those who send mails after 9 p.m., those who constantly answer the phone during a conversation and start conversations with third parties. A catastrophic approach - and I think it is absolutely pseudo-efficient.
I'm convinced that an employee who knows what he's doing, why he's doing it, and likes getting up in the morning loving his job, works a lot more efficiently than someone you put to work until he can't do it anymore. In order to avoid this and still be able to achieve top performance, companies have to allow an employee to find his or her way around. Modern companies should show courage and invest in a system such as Holacracy, which allows employee orientation in a set of rules that is equally transparent for all.
Many thanks to Katrin and Johannes for sharing your experiences with Holacracy with us!