An introduction to a new kind of corporate management system modeled on the self-organizing structures of organic matter.
Management consultant Robertson, founder of HolacracyOne, offers a primer on the system he pioneered, accompanied by procedures required for its adoption and the outline of a training program. The author’s program incorporates elements of traditional organization theory as well as inputs from David Allen, who created the “Getting Things Done” time management system. As opposed to a hierarchy, a “holarchy” is analogous to complex, multilayered systems like those which the author writes are “all around us in the way nature organizes itself.” He points to the relationship between cells and their containing organs, which “simultaneously honor autonomy and enable self-organization at every level within.” The author argues that his system will enhance productivity and reduce time spent in unwieldy meetings, and he provides ways to help overcome resistance to the new procedures he recommends and the inevitable fears roused by the adoption of these radical innovations. Robertson expects that such structures will enable individuals to define roles for themselves within the overall framework of corporate governance. With the use of his system, organizations can reduce the impacts of personal, emotion-driven conflicts and political infighting. He outlines how each autonomous layer should deliberate and define choices for action, within and between each element of his proposed assembly. Robertson also describes the mechanics of agenda construction and the roles of participants. The primacy allotted to choice and deliberation seems to undermine the author’s intent to imitate the form of complex natural structures, which, thus far, have not provided evidence of either. Nor has there been found a formal structure that can substitute for transformative individuals like Bill Gates, Andy Grove, or Steve Jobs.
Despite some intriguing nuggets scattered throughout, this book is a booster piece seemingly based on science but proposing a remedy for not adequately specified conditions.