There’s been a lot of buzz about Zappos implementing Holacracy, primarily negative.The real story, of course, is a lot more nuanced and complicated than can be shared in any one article.  And, I personally believe that if Zappos hadn’t been such a shining star in the first place, the “hot” stories would have been about how Holacracy at Zappos has succeeded instead of how it hasn’t.

All that being said, as a Holacracy coach and consultant, and someone who’s had his fair share of successes and failures with Holacracy, I wanted to share some tips about how to make your implementation of Holacracy even better than Zappos’

1. Commit to the personal transformation

Holacracy is not just a new way of working; it’s a new way of “being” at work.  For its real success, it requires a tremendous amount of self-reflection and willingness to grow and change.  Before you consider a Holacracy implementation, you should check in with yourself and your team to see if everyone is up for that kind of journey.
It is a rewarding one for sure, building better empathy, transparency, responsibility, and clarity.But, it requires personal as well as organizational commitments.

For this reason, at Living Orgs we have developed four practices: the Kung Fu of Holacracy. These are: David Allen’s Getting Things Done®, mastering tensions, leading from your role, and feedback.  We work intimately with our clients to make sure that each person in the organization is supported and held accountable to acquiring these skills.

2. Consider a phased implementation

This is something we do at Living Orgs that is somewhat heretical.It’s been our experience, however, and it’s our belief that doing a phased implementation of Holacracy creates less of a culture shock for organizations, and gives team members a chance to adapt to the new system and principals before they need to run distributed governance — the most complex, challenging, and potentially rewarding aspect of Holacracy.

Other Holacracy providers, like HolacracyOne, disagree with this approach.  And, this is part of the strength and health of the diverse Holacracy ecosystem in which you, as a client, get exposed to different methodologies and ways of thinking about approaching an implementation.  Then you can decide for yourself what’s best for you and your team.

We phase out our implementations so that your organization can focus on one aspect at a time:

  • Organizing around the work, not the people
  • Disciplined tactical personal and team processes for getting work done
  • Distributed governance and a process for the iterative evolution of the org structure

3. Monitor your implementation through data

One of the powers of a Holacracy-run organization is that it integrates the use of data and metrics much more cohesively and actively. The use of metrics in every tactical meeting encourages your organization to look more objectively at how it defines success for itself, its circles, and each role if need be.

The implementation should be no different.  Instead of walking into the implementation blind and hoping that you get the results you want, track these results using data.

This is why at Living Orgs, we complete a culture and process audit before we begin an implementation. This gives us a sense of exactly where your organization is thriving and struggling culturally and tactically.  We track this data and run a similar audit 3 to 4 months into the implementation so that your team has objective data about the progress instead of the subjective view of a few people.