An idea founded by Brian Robertson, a software company founder turned consultant, Holacracy supports shedding official job titles and traditional managerial roles in exchange for overlapping ‘circles’ that allows for people to take on multiple roles. A tension-easing system, it enables employee communication and facilitates business processes without (1) getting stuck in traditional business funnels, and (2) without relying on management. Holacratic measures not only level the managerial playing field by democratizing the workplace, it’s the business model that Zappos, a company with 1500 employees, recently took on in late 2013. Known for their customer-focus and their willingness to try innovative measures, the company’s CEO Tony Hsieh has also recently stepped down in order to accommodate a system that favors a series of overlapping roles over traditional management hierarchies.
It boils down to this: our thought leaders are reshifting attention away from building additional products by turning attention toward the quality and value of the user experience among the products/services they already host. A Holacracy.org article entitled “Evan Williams on Building a Mindful Company,” by Olivier Compagne, a psychologist with a background in Integral Theory, also quotes the Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams. Williams notes how we, “We want to do great things, but we want to stay small. To stay committed to the one thing that we do well. To shape the experience around this one thing that we’re committed to….We believe that user experience is what makes people come back to the product again and again.”
To achieve a high-end user experience, you have to start with the basic. You have to understand and excel in your business workflow, seamlessly navigate organizational structures, and excel in internal communications, before you can even begin to extend that quality of business to your end-user. In a Holacracy.org article entitled “Holacracy at ‘Waking Up the Workplace [WUtW],” WUtW co-founders Ewan Townhead and Diederick Janse share how Holacracy has helped them achieve this. Janse shares how Holacracy has forced their team to “be very much aware of what WUtW needs, as opposed to what each of us individually needs and wants and desires. There’s a feeling of being accountable, because what I’m accountable for is so much more explicit, and what’s needed to move the work forward.” He comments on the level of transparency this brings to the team, which also makes it easier to spot problems and places more pressure on solving them. In a Holacracy, there are fewer pockets for problems to hide and near impossible to sweep issues under the rug.
The transparency extends to all aspects of corporate practices, including marketing and sales. If there’s a problem with the end-user experience at any level, you’re going to find out about it because now everyone has a voice that will be heard. There’s no more information getting lost through communication channels or filtered by upper management that (as Holacracy founder Brian Richardson pointed out), inhibits business processes. Diederick admits that it’s a daunting business model to adopt if for no other reason than it involves a considerable commitment and a willingness to jump into problems head first.
That bravado isn’t for everyone – but if you want the ultimate end user experience, if you want a compelling brand and an exceptional business, then (as Diederick phrases it) you need to wake up and be ok with not knowing what’s going to happen next. A great end-user experience requires moving way from your comfort zone across all levels of business and designing an intelligent business model that’s encompasses business processes rather than fracturing them.
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