Hierarchy: Really the Best for Company Decisions? Or: Meeting-ocracy??

Few people would argue that for a modern organization a true, strict hierarchy is really the best way to make decisions. So what’s with those org charts?

More common today is the “meeting-ocracy” and specifically a “hierarchy-weighted meeting-ocracy”. What?

Most decisions today are made by having discussions at meetings, where the viewpoints expressed are informally weighted according to how far “up the ladder” each attendee is. The new marketing employee may propose a bold strategy, but of course the VP of marketing (if the senior person in the room) makes the call. Now, get three equally-senior in the room, and who makes what decision? If contentious, this may fall back to hierarchy – bumping it up to their boss to decide. That boss may not be very familiar with the issue, but at least that decision-making is clear. More likely a group might meet several times, to present, cajole, and re-hash until a new somewhat-mutually acceptable proposal is made, or one group caves. In this system, there are no written rules, and it’s never clear who is making what decision.

There’s no explicit governance.

And overall, it’s a culture with a cynical view about the value of meetings: people deride the very interactions between people who are the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of the organization.

Holacracy is an alternative, with much clearer rules about how the game is played. After more than two years of living it, I find it an absolutely amazing system. It’s changed our culture dramatically, and everyone from occasional meeting attendees to long-term employees here rave about it. Holocracy_logo

Briefly, Holacracy is a system:

  • that transforms meetings with a set of agendas for assigning authority, setting strategy, and (the most common meeting, a “tactical” meeting), for getting stuff done
  • where decision-making authority and accountability is clearly, explicitly assigned
  • where through a novel, structured, forward-moving process accountability is distributed in a consensus-based process (that actually works)
  • once assigned, people have clear “dictatorial” powers over their areas, unless explicitly constrained by governance
  • where leaders still hold some powers (by default) – such as distributing budgets, or appointing people to roles, but those don’t include overriding others in their areas of responsibility

Want to learn more? The folks at Holacracy One speak best about it. Or, consultant Eric Babinet and myself are speaking at Wisdom 2.0 next week about Holacracy. It will be great event with big minds. Picture of main speakers at Wisdom 2.0 Summit 2013 - Jeff Weiner, Arianna Huffington, Biz Stone, Joshi Roan Halifax

I hope to see you there.

– Brian Burt, CEO and Chief Visioneer

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