Holacracy: the framework to free the “superpowers” of our team

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Holacracy: the framework to free the “superpowers” of our team

This article is dedicated to the organizational model or rather to the framework known in the literature as “Holacracy”.

Similarly, to the “Agile” framework, Holacracy also draws its inspiration from a group of professionals looking for a better, less rigid operating model than traditional corporate organizational schemes. In their research, they have documented in great detail the pillars of this new way of organizing. For details, I refer you to version 5.0 of the manifesto, which you will find in great detail here https://www.holacracy.org/constitution/5.


However, let’s not lose sight of “The Grand Scheme of Things”, which is the goal of this approach:

  • Overturn the command-and-control paradigm typical of highly hierarchical organizations,
  • Create autonomous and independent teams, equipped with a very high level of delegation
  • Eliminate waste of time, to travel at maximum speed

As mentioned, the system contains a certain level of formalism but in this article, I will boil it down to extract its essence.

From an organizational point of view, there are two fundamental constituent elements

Roles and Circles. Everything is brought back to these two fundamental institutes. The difference between the conventional definition of “Role” and the use of the concept in the holocratic field is very interesting.

  • Role: this term refers to an organizational construct that can be occupied by a person who will give it life, taking the name of Role Lead. The role is characterized by

o Purpose: The purpose, capabilities and goals that the role will pursue

o Domain: the area or areas including resources and processes that the Role lead will use EXCLUSIVELY for his purposes

o Accountabilities: the activities that the Role lead will have to manage and that he will have to provide in support of other Role leads or for the execution of his priorities.


As we can see, it is a simpler and more accurate context than a “Job description”, however complex. The areas of responsibility and the resources available to the Role are clearly explained, going into great detail to avoid potential ambiguities in the relationship that the Role lead will have with the other members of the Circle.

Among the responsibilities of those who find themselves occupying a Role, I point out three of enormous importance

  • Resolve tensions, ie identify and, as far as possible, eliminate what stands between the lead and the best realization of the project, ie its vision.
  • Choose which Next Actions, which actions, to introduce
  • Choosing the “Projects” or rather the results to be produced for the ideal functioning of the Circle.

The paradigm shift at this point begins to be evident. Compared to a conventional model, we see how much the Role lead in a holocratic scheme not only can but must take responsibility for deciding what to do, how to do it and also for solving any blocks that might limit his action

  • Circles, defined as “Containers for organizing Roles and Policies around a common Purpose”. Simple right? Much, yet this powerful concept, rather its poor application in the company, is at the root of the most dramatic organizational failures observable.

Companies are not (often) organized around what needs to be done, but around the professional skills present. Organizations called “Functional” that end up being so skilled in their functionality as to become dis-functional for the purpose of the corporate mission. My favorite example is (no offense) the legal department celebrating on Linkedin the award for “Best Legal Department” given by vaguely self-referential organizations, for a fee.

In practice, fortunately, practically every company assembles teams composed of different skills to carry out its projects, but it does not do it explicitly enough. Holacracy comes to our aid and tells us “Define an important activity, draw a circle on the ground and put all the people inside who are essential for achieving the goal”.

At this point we have two new concepts to be able to analyze our context and begin to transform it towards a more autonomous form!

So let’s try with two simple steps to build an example.


    1. Identify the Circles:

    Let’s forget about the organizational chart and think about how we contribute to the company strategy and who are the people with whom we bring results every day.

    For example, changing the paradigm “I am an electronic designer, I am part of the Elettronica team” to “I design electronic boards for the Alpha project, which develops an innovative air conditioner. Also participating in the Alpha project are Giovanni who creates the marketing plan, Francesca who designs the production line, Cecilia who supplies the components, Marco who verifies the safety of the product” and so on. The Circle is the unit that contributes to the corporate strategy clearly. The organization chart is a representation of a functional type, but, by itself, no function accomplishes anything.

    Each of us can of course be part of many “Circles” including some functional ones. For example, Marco, who for the “Progetto Alpha” Circle verifies work safety, can be part of the “Laboratory Management” Circle and in this team, instead, he takes care of keeping the test equipment efficient.

2. Identify the “Roles”

We have seen how the work of the Role lead does not coincide with the typical Job Description, since the latter tries to capture any activity that may be required of a certain type of professional.

The Role is “Circle specific” and very detailed, in a Circle there can be no gray areas where key activities are not clearly in the hands of a Role lead.

Building on our Project Alpha example and expanding our friend Marco’s list of activities, you’ll read something like this


  • Reception and analysis of prototypes built by the “Prototyping” Role Lead
  • Programming and Preparation of the test set up
  • Execution of A-B-C tests in compliance with X-Y-Z regulations
  • Drafting of test reports
  • Sharing of results in the weekly progress meeting.
  • Documentation of corrective action plan


These are just examples; I hope I have shared the philosophy. By changing our point of observation, and putting on “Holocratic” glasses, we can better see what are the flows in which we ourselves and our colleagues collaborate in achieving the real company objectives. As we always say, it is not necessary to revolutionize the entire company to see the first results, each of us has the power to change our reality in the desired direction, teaming up with our colleagues. Remember that “We are the company”!

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