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Podcast    H4'ed 11/11/15

Holacracy-- the Non-Hierarchical, Bottom-up alternative to Management-- Discussing it with Creator Brian Robertson

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Broadcast 11/11/2015 at 2:13 PM EST (41 Listens, 34 Downloads, 1754 Itunes)
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

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Brian J. Robertson is the author of the book, Holacracy, which describes a non-hierarchical, distributed approach to running a company which gets rid of the top-down, industrial, predict and control authoritarian model of management, replacing it with one that gives power to the process instead of people. That results in empowering everyone in the organization.

Brian works with HolocracyOne, which helps companies transition from top-down hierarchical corporate structure to becoming a holacracy.

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Very Rough interview notes (please don't consider this to be a transcript. It's far from it.)

Rob:Holacracy aims to take charge of evolution, enabling employees to be conscious revolutionaries. Hosting the bottom-up radio show, I've long been saying that we are transitioning from a top-down to bottom-up culture.

Holocracy is a powerful manifestation of how the organization is transitioning from a top-down patriarchal, parent child model to one with distributed power, empowering ALL the employees. I see it is the leading edge of a movement that could change the way we think about leadership, about how government and organizations work.

I'm also interested, having spent a good amount of radio shows exploring psychopathy, sociopathy and narcissism, including corporate psychopaths, how Holacracy affects the impact and influence of this group, with their unrestrained egos and predations. And you talk about how heroic, hero leaders are replaced. I've always been fascinated by Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. How does that fit into the transition to holacracy. Is there an organizational heroic journey? I did an interview with Chris Vogler, author of Writer's Journey, on how it could be possible to have bottom up stories with the people as heroes, instead of one super hero.

Basic operating system for self organized enterprises.

Rob: Tell us the story of your plane flight and Tony Hsieh's ideas about cities and companies?

a favorite metaphor of mine-- a training flight that almost ended in disaster-- my low voltage light came on the instrument panel. But all the other instruments seemed fine. I ended up ignoring the low voltage light. I almost crashed-- and it almost started me with ignoring one lone voice and we d o that in companies.

Rob: tie evolution and tensions--

Tensions- a sense of a gap between where we are today and some potential future.

When we can work out tension

Holacracy embraces the idea of experiencing a tension-- it's data. Most company are experiencing tension but can't do anything with it.

The goal of holacracy is to drive the company's org based on tensions of people in the company.

That's how companies evolve. We are the sensing organs

Rob: Holarchy and Arthur Koestler's ideas re. body/organs, cells.

we go into companies today and i t's l ike we stepped back into feudal ages, with kings, barons, monarchs"

But we've learned there are other ways to make sure we are all cooperating together without having feudal lords.

We actually see the same thing in nature. There's no boss cell in the human body that tells the other cells what to do and directs them. . Even an organ is not a boss to its cells. Rather it takes a cell, which has it's own autonomy and it integrates it with other cells and kind of deals with the process between cells" . That's how nature scales, with phenomenally complex adaptive systems.

That's the structure that Arthur Koestler named a holarchy

Holacracy works within a holarchy--

actually gives you more structure and clarity

Rob: autonomy vs individualism. Where does individualism fit into holacracy? You talk about hero

The journey with holacracy often starts when the CEO's heroic journey reaches a new level and then starts the company's heroic journey. People reach a point where they are no longer tied up with the status title and they want the best for the company.

like the parent's journey-- good parents aren't trying to direct their children's lives when they are grown up.

You don't want an organization that's dependent upon you being a hero. you want an organization that can stand on it's own and doesn't need a heroic leader.

our culture idolizes these heroic superhero leaders. That gets in the way of others becoming leaders. It's no wonder we see these skyrocketing CEO pay".

It takes ironically it takes the last heroic act-- to let go of power -- to adopt a constitution

Rob: Relationship between systems theory and holacracy

it's heavily informed by it. Holacracy treats a company as a whole system.

That's the way natural s ystems work anyway. Holacracy has built the processes around that to enable a company to embody that.

Tangible set of rules-- a constitution that establishes the rules of the game

Rob: how is a holacracy similar and different from a national constitution

The US constitiution-- there was a desire to move away from a monarch-- if you want to do that you've got to put power somewhere-- the constitution was there to enshrine some basic freedoms and basic rights and a basic rule set. In that sense it's very similar to a company using a holacracy constitution.

Instead of the ultimate power resting with the CEO , with holacracy the power rests with a documented process-- so people are playing with the same rules. -- a law of the land so the heroic CEO can release power"

it shifts the nature of power in a pretty major way when anyone can remind the CEO-- you don't have the power to do that

leaders can be disempowering.

Rob: You start your chapter on facilitating governance with the Frank Herbert quote.

Seek Freedom and become captive of your desires.

Seek discipline and find your liberty.

Frank Herbert

This would suggest that, in government, regulations are necessary to create a situation where liberty thrives-- which would seem to oppose free market and libertarian thinking.

Most people would bucket me in the libertarian cap.

any free society needs some kind of governance process.


Rob: So, are you saying that holacracy could provide an alternative to government as we know it?

if we an efficient society we need a ". subject to the forces of evolution

Holacracy gives us purpose driven organizations.

With holacracy power resides with your purpose.

That makes the distinction between non-profit, for profit and governmental less".

Holacracy is an example of a s ystem that distributes governance-- a s ystem that is self-governing.

we're seeing a shift to decentralized, distributed, peer to peer processes.

Rob: Have you had any experience applying holacracy in govt.

State of Washington-- going pretty well for them-- a great example of government becoming more competitive dept is office of CIO-- technology.

They're competing against big tech companies for employees.

Rob: consensus vs role authority" consensus in occupy. Where does consensus fit into holacracy. I get the impression you're not impressed with it.

There's a huge difference between giving everyone a voice and letting them drive meaningful change. When using consensus as a decision making tool-- use a lot of time and you have the tyranny of the majority that's not necessarily just. Any one person can deadlock a decision.

One of the things that enable modern society are clean boundaries-- I can control my own self and anything I have a rightful claim to.

Holacracy gives everyone a voice but not to make specific decisions.

what role has the authority".

We use a distributed, not top down autocratic process to make decisions.

It's almost the opposite of consensus.

Rob: Brian can you tell us what Holacracy is how it is not hierarchical and how holacracy works.

Hierarchy provides alignments, accountability. control, work breakdown

Holacracy does the same, more efficiently, using a distributed, peer to peer set of processes that allows everyone to do what used to be the manager's job. We use a different operating system-- it's more structured than a conventional management hierarchy. It can change from anybody, not just top down.

Rob: Can you describe the elements-- roles, circles, links

holacracy replaces job descriptions with a way of describing roles.

roles are updated regularly by the team doing the work.

Roles sit within circles-- circle has a purpose it is trying to do and has regular governance meetings.

Circles sit within broader circle-- this kind of fractal structure.

When you fill a role you get the autonomy to do anything that makes sense to you to get the job done, unless it is explicitly against a policy set by the circle.

Holacracy is much more entrepreneurial. Instead of bureaucracy defined in advance, fearfully, we learn.

Rob: Zappos billion dollar company which shifted to holacracy-- who left-- people who left (about 14%-- were paid 3 or more months of pay)

middle management people left--

you will see some people leave. Folks who know how to lead in the conventional model. They are good at managing and they don't want to learn a new model. Some people aren't interested in losing that status that comes with the title.

Rob: you talk about how some people have a hard time embracing their power-- people who grew up in patriarchal, authoritarian families and cultures" can you talk about that?

HOlacracy breaks that-- you see, in early meetings people look to the boss. The job of the holacracy coach is to say there is no boss any more". You have the burden of autonomy and leadership. It is a challenge to own authority.

Rob: How does holacracy deal with narcissists, psychopaths

It' makes it visible and transparent. it makes it really hard for that kind of a person to hide. When someone is really addicted to their own power and ego it is hard to ignore.

You can't run a fiefdom as done in a typical company.

Rob: what about individualism and creativity?

It's not that holacracy is forcing people to be more creative" what it is doing is removing obstacles to expressing creativity. HOlacracy removes roadblocks and obstacles and makes it easier to make change. Holacracy really differentiates the people from the work.

The governance and processes free people to be more human.

Rob: How do manager roles change as the organization shifts to holacracy? What happens to Managers?

usually it's a small minority that end up opting out and leaving. those who wrapped self esteem in hierarchy and status. They have to learn a new way to add value It frees them It liberates them to do something more valuable -- build new processes, systems, functions, frees them to take on more direct roles creating value for customers.

There is a bit of a crisis holacracy can create, "what am I doing now that I'm managing people all the time"

Rob: What about money-- payroll, salary for managers and others.

Most orgs realize they have to re-think how they compensate.

The companies furthest along on t heir journey with this system have come up with ways in th is peer to peer way. Instead of bosses determining pay, you earn badges your peers deem that you've earned. It's almost gamification. This level of badges equates to this level of pay.

It's a really interesting distributed compensation model.

Rob: Does implementation of holacracy identify and create new job roles?

good neighbor, zen master, tribal custodian

Rob: you've talked in your book about massive CEO pays. Is that something you'll see in holacracy?

less likely

Rob: Can a start-up begin as an holacracy?

yes. We have free resources on the website.

Rob: Glassfrog software-- give it away free What does the software do?

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Rob Kall Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity  

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites,

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization (more...)

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