Holocracy? Zappos gives it a try

A new article from The Washington Post, that I need to clip onto this blog: Zappos says goodbye to bosses.


I read some remarkable quotes and I am using this blogpost just to follow-up on my own thoughts and notes:

At its core, a holacracy aims to organize a company around the work that needs to be done instead of around the people who do it. As a result, employees do not have job titles. They are typically assigned to several roles that have explicit expectations. Rather than working on a single team, employees are usually part of multiple circles that each perform certain functions.

  • Until today I was unaware of Holacracy. Something I will have to dive deeper into.
  • However, the notion of roles and the fact that these are following a different dynamic than a classic hierarchy is something I am promoting when I talk about social architecture.
  • A missing piece of my puzzle: roles apparently tend to roll-up into circles – a bit like the mechanics of Google+

Zappos and Robertson are careful to note that while a holacracy may get rid of traditional managers (those who both manage others’ work and hold the keys to their career success), there is still structure and employees’ work is still watched.

  • This insight very much aligns with the observations of the lattice structure at W.L. Gore.
  • From the moment that 2 or more people are collaborating towards the same goal, there will always be hierarchy -this is a natural thing.

Still, truly stamping out the corporate hierarchy may be much more difficult than it seems.

  • My gut reaction: this is barking up the wrong tree. Why would you want to get rid of silo’s and corporate hierarchy? My contention is that we should stop spending energy fighting against those silo’s. Silo’s are there for a reason. In my work as an organizational change practitioner, I have come to the point that I don’t believe anymore in fighting silo’s, because by the time you are done fighting you are exhausted… Instead I have changed my perspective and started to think about the benefits of a silo + how to make use of those benefits: stability, psychological safety, identity, (a certain type of) accountability, etc…

Any thoughts or gut-reactions from your end? Please leave a comment.

  • Luc, somehow my subscription to your great blog has gotten way laid. Fortunately this post came up on the 1st Google search I did on “Zappos Holocracy” (I have re-established my subscription!).

    I, too, am intrigued and you raise important points. You might also find this perspective from Dan Pontefract interesting http://www.danpontefract.com/holacracy-is-not-the-answer-to-your-employee-disengagement-issues/

  • Thanks for the link Gail – and don’t worry about the subscription because I do not include these kind op posts in a specific reader or mailing. These are called “Shortcuts” and they are actually my online memory of articles I read and find so interesting that I need to store the quotes online. For myself predominantly, but in a format that is easily forwardable…