The holacratic company: beyond the utopia

N°248a – Synopsis (8p.) – Reorganization
The holacratic company: beyond the utopia
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The concept of the holacratic company attempts to give employees a maximum of autonomy by eliminating the constraints which hobble initiative. What underlies the success of organizations which have adopted this management approach?

The concept of “holacracy” in business organizations, though often cited enthusiastically, also raises many questions and controversies. Is this a real breakthrough? How does it work in practice?

Despite the current media hype, this approach is not new. It is supported by the research of management theorists like Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg and Tom Peters, who have studied motivation at work since the Sixties. These experts share the conviction that if the right conditions are met, people willingly seek to do their best at their jobs. This approach contradicts the vision of work as a constraint, leading companies to put in place systems to ensure that people do not shirk their commitments. For these researchers, the more a company trusts its employees and the more freedom they are given to organize their work, the more they will strive to best meet their responsibilities.

The concept of holacracy refers to organizations that operate in accordance with this vision of man in the workplace. Compared to traditional businesses, this means a thorough transformation of hierarchical relations and management practices. Decision-making authority is redistributed as close as possible to the field. The organization and procedures are adapted to foster individual autonomy. Does this mean that collective performance at these companies depends exclusively on individual goodwill? The reality is more complex. Holacratic companies don’t simply entrust employees with real decision-making power and show them that they are trusted to use their judgment wisely. They also set up systems and an environment to regulate and orient their initiatives effectively.

- Get rid of everything that puts employees in the position of being mere executors.

- Create the conditions for autonomy, by ensuring that people understand the end goal with which their individual initiatives are to be aligned.

- Train and support people to take full advantage of their autonomy.

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