According to some people, holacracy is total anarchy. No job titles, no formal management or hierarchy – then how do we get our work done?
By reader request, I’m writing more about holacracy at Brendan & Brendan. We got some very interesting questions in via email that I responded to, and I’d like to share the answers. Here are some of the questions we received, along with some very thoughtful emails:
- How does your organization determine priorities?
- How dynamic are the priorities? How do they change and to whom and how are those changes communicated to re-direct the team in a common direction?
- What methodology was used to enable your team members to feel confident in making a decision and/or persuading them to MAKE a decision?
And my answers, which I have elaborated on.
At the start of every morning the team decides on priorities. We even decide on secondary and tertiary goals for the day and week, such as what we would like to sprint on that afternoon and the next day.
Sometimes, but not always, a client will throw us a plate. This means they need emergency work to be done. That will take precedence and we will have to push some other work (internal/external) to the next day. Or sometimes one or two people can handle it on their own and the rest of our schedules aren’t thrown too far off course.
In terms of our priorities, internal (ex. blogging, business development and making sure our own resources are up-to-date) and external work (ex. client work) hold the same priorities based on the deadlines we’ve given them. We’re still a growing business, and so often our internal work needs to be done just as urgently so that we can continue to grow our client roster and continue to thrive.
DYNAMIC PRIORITIES AND ROLES
Here’s a shocker: we all have the ability to change the team’s priorities. Everyone is on equal footing. I will say, though, it comes down to confidence.
For example, I’m not always truly confident in my priorities being the team’s priorities, but I have the option to broach the topic with the team every morning. Then we can all decide together on who is working on what.
For example, if I need a designer to work with me to execute the work I’m responsible for, I can sprint with a designer that day. Also, occasionally, we get urgent calls from clients; from there we can alert the team and call an emergency tactical meeting at a specific time on how to divvy up the work or work together for a set period of time (ex. 1 hour).
In another example, sometimes we are not all in agreement about how the work should be executed. It’s difficult to create work in a vacuum, and it’s often not as good as taking a collaborative approach. When the team comes together, though, we can often figure out the best possible approach to executing work, coming up with new ideas and helping one another out. This is the main goal of creating team sprints.
HOW CHANGES ARE COMMUNICATED
Changes in priorities are communicated in the morning or throughout the day. Changes in how we work together are communicated in governance meetings.
Ordinarily, priorities are first communicated in the morning scrum. If we hit a speed bump or are otherwise waiting for approval on something, though, we’ll move on to another task or project. This way, we’re always moving forward and able to keep up the pace on our work.
But if we need to switch teams, or are otherwise finding tension in the workplace, that belongs in the governance category. We don’t always agree on everything, and we are all highly opinionated people, so it’s important to address tensions before they become actual problems. If I need someone to step up on a project, or I am lagging behind, this is addressed in a governance meeting, too.
METHODOLOGY FOR DECISION-MAKING
A governance meeting is also how we determine decision-making within the team. I know I totally skated over it in my last blog post, but a governance meeting is the opposite of a tactical meeting.
Governance is basically how the team governs itself. So whereas tactical is for figuring out who “owns” what work, governance is to help the team members gain the confidence they need to start making their own decisions on their own work. This lets us decide for ourselves what we are comfortable with, and everyone can participate in setting team standards (ex. where to put things, how to name files, etc).
Governance meetings are also where team members discover new skills in each other. People who are better at customer service often take on more of a account management role, while those who are more technical-minded tend to handle the day-to-day operations, and in the process, we often find out about skills our colleagues have that we weren’t previously aware of.
Next up, how we do governance!