The HOLACRACY – Episode 3

  • Scope:
  • Culture and People

Attention! We have a tension!

Psychological tension is often experienced as a feeling of tightness, anxiety and often uncertainty.  In Holacracy this term is deprived of its negative meaning. Tension describes a person’s sense that there is a gap between the current reality and desired state in the future. This gap can concern various things such as the desire to increase Facebook reach or a number of sales leads. Tension can also occur when there is some work to be done that is not reflected in the holacratic structure. This tension has to be processed during a governance meeting. Here is the story of what happened when the process met Tooploox reality.


It all began during our first governance meetings in the Marketing Circle. I realized that we had one role that goes way beyond the scope of marketing goals. That role was Employer Branding Emerald (the cool thing about holacracy is that you can invent names for your roles!) Employer Branding is a complex concept that includes variety of processes, skills and areas. It consists of recruitment process, Social Media presence, career page, onboarding, offboarding, candidate experience, internal and external events, employee satisfaction etc. In order to have  a successful Employer Branding, many roles in the company have to synchronize their efforts and their diverse skill sets.

In Holacracy each person that is assigned to a role has a full accountability Therefore, it’s unrealistic to create one role responsible for all areas related to EB and expect anyone to master all necessary skills. It was clear to me that one role is not enough, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt we need to create a brand new circle in order to solve my tension.

Round 1

I brought up my idea at a Governance meeting of General Company Circle. Back then I knew very little about how Holacracy works and I have to admit that my proposal was not detailed. However, I felt that it was the right first step. What happened during processing the tension was a bit unexpected. I was cross-questioned by all of nearly 20 people in the room. Then the reaction round came when everyone shared feedback about my idea. Apparently, most people thought that creating a new circle was too big and that we should start with something small, like a separate EB role outside of Marketing Circle. There was also an objection round, when I heard that my solution could be harmful to the organization. I felt that everyone thought my proposal was a piece of garbage, useless and problematic to everyone. I was so down that I withdrew it completely to work on details, using input from that meeting to bring it to another meeting…

Round 2

For the next meeting I decided to listen to feedback and take a small step first: to create an EB role outside of Marketing Circle. I was sure that everyone would be pleased with the fact that I included their thoughts. Unfortunately, this time I was also questioned and, to my surprise, I received feedback that a new circle would be better than a role. I left that meeting feeling angry and disappointed. To be honest, I wanted to leave the meeting and abandon the tension. It was just too much!

Round 3

After I managed to release my stress I decided to ask for help. I talked to Ewa from dwarfs & Giants and she pointed out that I was trying to make everyone happy and I should stop. This shift turned out to be crucial. The whole time I was thinking more about what others thought than about my problem. So this time I created the draft of EB circle and all roles that could be created or moved there from other circles. I asked relevant roles for feedback ahead of the next Governance Meeting. I wasn’t trying to make a perfect proposal that would satisfy each and every one of us. My focus was to solve the tension in a way I found best for the organization.

Win & Learn

This way we have created the Tribe Circle. Unlike all other circles, this one is responsible for all areas where we deal with people, not roles. For instance, if you would like to measure employees’ satisfaction, you will always ask people, not roles, for their responses. You can compare it with a recruitment process, where you meet candidates that are not in the structure (yet!). We had a whole human-centered area that had to be reflected in Tooploox new structure.

The Tribe circle is accountable for:

  • Developing and implementing Employer branding strategy
  • Promoting Tooploox as the best employer
  • Delivering exquisite end-to-end candidate experience
  • Providing excellent work experience at Tooploox
  • Gathering feedback about employee satisfaction

What have we learnt?

Although that was a dramatic and quite unpleasant process, I think we’ve all learnt some important lessons:

  1. Don’t try to make everyone happy! This is usually a good rule to follow in everyday life, and in Holacracy it’s essential to remember that you don’t need everyone’s approval for your solution. The process is well-designed to prevent implementation of harmful ideas, so trust in the process!
  2. Try out your ideas! As a consequence of the previous point, it’s safe to test your ideas. It’s always better to try out an imperfect solution that to work on a perfect one without testing it in real life.
  3. Be bold! Don’t be afraid to make big changes and big projects. It turned out that beside creating new Tribe circle we had to restructure virtually all circles we had. It felt like a big deal but now the structure reflects the work we do much better.
  4. Remember the common goal – while processing tension always have in mind that you all do have a common goal. It’s also good to know what this goal is so make sure there is a role a/a>

Next time on The Holacracy:  Gradually dwarfs and Giants are handing over meeting facilitation to us. This means we are nearly on our own. Let’s see how this turns out!

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