As readers of this blog can probably guess by now, going down research rabbit holes, in which one interesting read leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another – is one of my favorite pastime activities. I find the discovery process just as satisfying and rewarding as the content itself.
This was one of these cases. It started with reading Mike Arauz‘s Unlocking the Benefits of Self-Management Without Going All In on Holacracy, which led to a deeper exploration of August, the consulting firm that he co-founded and the interesting work he did around the Responsive Org Manifesto, which led to the work by another August co-founder, Clay Parker Jones, which is the topic of this blog (even though I can probably write a separate post on every step in this process):
Clay addresses the common phenomenon of companies becoming “bad” as they become “big”, and proposes a set of principles that may chart a path for an alternative outcome.
He starts by identifying a 7-attribute Performance Criteria for organizations:
- Purpose: The work we do here is important to us and to our customers; We gather according to a clear purpose
- Fitness: Those who consume our product believe in its quality; We achieve impressive things together; We make sense in the world
- Vitality: Not just fun, but vital, life-giving; Our lives improve as a result of our membership in the organization; We get energy from our work; Our culture is contagious
- Fairness: We make decisions taking everyone’s needs and advice into account; There is a strong sense of justice; Everyone in the organization has the same basic rights
- Power: More, and more forms of power for all; Power is spread throughout the organization, not just kept in the hands of a few
- Connection: Boundaries between teams are permeable; We don’t see our users as outsiders; We offer signals generously so others can learn from us
- Safety: People stay in the organization by choice; I won’t be let go for personal reasons; It’s easy to do good work; We have what we need to succeed
He then charts a path for achieving the desired change. I’ll give you a quick taste of the first one:
- We must replace tyranny with the rule of law:
“Large firms mostly have good corporate governance… these tools actually stand in the way of a true application of the Rule of Law … “governance” typically comes in the form of a standing meeting where a group of subordinates recommend a decision to one or more senior officials, who either say yes, no, or go do more digging. This is tyranny, or at the very least, it’s a feudal approach to organizing human work. The alternative approach is one where we don’t let a single person or a small group make arbitrary decisions that impact a whole, but instead we vest authority in a system”
- We must replace central planning with market forces
- We must replace opacity with transparency
Each one of those, is supported by a small set of “even over” statements – choosing to do one good thing, even over another good thing . If that construct sounds familiar, it’s because Holacracy’s approach to strategy is utilizing it as well:
- Elect even over Select
- Process even over Decide
- Describe even over Prescribe
- Focus even over Help
- Open even over Closed
- Pull even over Receive
If I managed to pique your interest, you should definitely read Clay’s full piece.