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4 ways holacracy could put org charts in a spin (Part 2 of 2)

By / September 17, 2015 / , , / 2 Comments

Here’s part 2 of our series on Holacracy. This post will look at job descriptions and accountability in a holacratic organisation.

Employees control their responsibilities in a holacratic organisation and answer to their teams instead of managers. hiring new people can become difficult when everyone’s jobs evolve on a constant basis. Accountability becomes a concern when no one has a direct manager to report to.

Here’s how to address these concerns and analyse the way hiring and accountability work in holacracy (and how to update your org charts to reflect these changes):

3. Job descriptions in holacracy.


Holacracy gets rid of traditional job descriptions, the argument being that many job descriptions do not reflect the actual roles and responsibilities of an employee, especially years down the line.

Holacracy attempts to fix this problem by making job descriptions fluid. Employees decide what roles they need to fill and update them over time.

Roles are based on an employee’s skills and what circles they operate in. An employee could have several roles in multiple circles in an organisation.

New hires would be defined by a series of related capability gaps. The use of roles means the responsibilities of a new hire can still be articulated.

How to visualise these roles in your org chart

Your org charts would need to display an employee’s skills, the circles they are in, and the roles they fill in those circles – almost as a sort of employee directory.

All of these details would be updated on a monthly basis, and are defined by employees themselves. In a tool like Planning@Work, it’s easy to give everyone the visibility to view their charts, but it would be up to HR to make sure that your HRIS is kept up to date to ensure your charts accurately display who is a part of each circle.

4. How accountability works in holacracy.

Employees volunteer to fill roles in holacracy. This does not mean unpopular roles are left by the wayside. Employees will be given charge of a domain, be it a website, sales, or a section of source code. Employees then become responsible for everything related to their domain, and others must ask permission before working with it.

Accountability for a role then extends to the circle an employee works in, rather than just one manager. Employees in a circle make each other accountable to their roles for the sake of the project. Underperformance becomes more visible as employees depend on each other to complete their roles.

How to show accountability in your org charts

Accountability is dispersed in holacracy. Org charts would show employees must answer to their circles, rather than their managers, meaning it could be worthwhile having your Reports To fields based on a circle rather than an individual person or position.

Image source: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

The final word: Does holacracy work?

Tony Hsieh and Brian Robertson are constantly asked about holacracy’s effectiveness. Both admit it is too early to tell.

Many factors go into the effectiveness of an organisation, and Robertson admits the adoption of holacracy is not a sole catalyst for business success. Both Hsieh and Robertson say employees can only go with their gut feeling on holacracy at the moment. Conclusive data on the effectiveness of holacracy is still being developed.

Many employees at Zappos are enjoying the new management structure. They feel that holacracy has made their jobs easier, removing unnecessary red tape and giving every employee an equal voice.

Whilst it may be too early to state the effectiveness of Holacracy yet, it is refreshing to see organisations such as Zappos who are willing to take risks to try something new in the management space.

Time is yet to tell whether holacracy is the future of management, but if it does gain more popularity, we are going to have to rethink the way we use org charts.

Of course, if you’d just like more visibility on your organisational structure, you may only need a better management tool rather than a whole new system of management. Check out Planning@Work and what it can do to help chart your organisation.