June 15, 2021
Succession Planning 26 June 2019
Pathways for Holocracies
Dillon Chen

Pathways is a great way for companies to organize their organizational structure and align employee goals with company goals. In the traditional top-down management structure that most companies incorporate, this is a great method for managers to gather feedback and promote growth among their employees. Employees progress upward through the organization ranks along career pathways.

But what about less traditional management hierarchies where there is no clear leadership in place? In today’s article, we will go over the benefits of pathways in companies with the holocracy organizational structure specifically.

Summary of Holocracy

Holocracy is a type of decentralized management used by organizations as a way to empower employees and improve company efficiency. Known as a “flat organization”, Holocracy has been used by many big-name companies such as Zappos to grow.

The purpose of holocracy’s self-management style is to allow all employees to innovate and move the company forward. To quote directly from the site Holocracy.org: 

Holacracy® is a self-management practice for running purpose-driven, responsive companies. By empowering people to make meaningful decisions and drive change, the Holacracy practice unleashes your organization’s untapped power to pursue its purpose in the world.

There are a lot of changes from the traditional organization system with Holocracy, but in general, it removes the typical management hierarchy and distributes authority and management power to each individual employee.

This establishes a rule system that allows you to operate without rulers, but still with a clear structure and clear boundaries. Everybody takes ownership of their own career development and engage with coworkers as equals. Teams of people come together on projects and are assigned job responsibilities based on roles and skill sets. 

Challenges of Holocracy

As employees take over their own career growth and are authorized to make their own decisions, they will become more invested in their personal growth and the growth of the company. Although on paper these concepts and systems sound like a great idea, Holocracy comes with its own unique challenges and problems. Below we will discuss some of these challenges and how Pathways can help solve these issues.

1. A Clear Understanding of Job Roles

In the traditional structure, employees know exactly what is expected of them and focus on completing the responsibilities associated with their job description. This provides clear expectations and harmony in the organization. With Holocracy, roles are defined around the work allowing for a more fluid structure to tackle the most urgent tasks. Employees can propose improvements and gain authority to fix issues without getting approval from a manager. People fill many roles, work with multiple groups, and have to be able to perform in different capacities.

Mark LaScola, CEO of organization design firm ON THE MARK says that 

Managers take a coaching role, and employees can make a real difference through their participation. When people feel their contribution is valuable, they become intrinsically driven by their own sense of control. Implementing this management style becomes challenging as organizations grow.  

Mark goes on to warn that ultimately, Holocracy can be dangerous if the evolution of value isn’t considered alongside the process evolution. Holocracy can be fast, but flatter and wider doesn’t always result in increased efficiency nor profitability. 

How ProSky can help

With ProSky, Pathways are determined based on the company objectives and employee needs instead of the role defining the employee. Everything from training, KPIs, responsibilities, and goals are mutable and can be adjusted as the employee progresses along their chosen career path. Different members can be given permission to view other pathways making progress transparent to the team and allowing tasks to be assigned easily. 

2. How to Measure Success

Employees like to know how their success will be measured. When they know how to do well on their job, they have a clear goal to aim for, and they have an incentive to perform well. 

In the traditional hierarchy, measurements of success are set by managers. It’s the employer’s responsibility to make these measurements known and then employees work to hit that standard.

With holocracy’s self-management style, employees define their own accountabilities and the way they measure their successes. They are in charge of scheduling their own days and have the freedom to pursue their own projects as long as their required work is completed.

Ashley Asue, CEO of guerrillaanalytics.io and an advocate for Holocracy and self-management style says,

The purpose of Holacracy and Lean Six Sigma is for individuals to “self manage”.  This means doing away with roles on hierarchy and instead aligning individuals who have common targets or goals. This aligns everyone with who’s on their team, what’s the goal, how they are performing and what they’re doing to perform better. 

According to Ashley, one of the biggest challenges with Holocracy is that it lacks KPIs to set up SMART goals for their newly aligned teams.

How ProSky can help

Teams can collaborate over the online desk feature to set goals and discuss their progress. The software allows for meetings right from the hub and everything can be recorded on the online whiteboard and file system. With succession planning, employees communicate with managers, know their goals and how their success will be measured.

3. Developing Leaders

Employees want to learn new things and have growth opportunities. Research shows that millennials expect to be promoted within one year of working for the company. There is a growing trend of employees wanting to be influential and making decisions that will impact the company.

As companies grow larger, decisions sometimes have to go through multiple levels of management. Leaders at the top get bogged down with making decisions and processes become bottlenecked at a manager. Because all employee decisions have to be approved by upper levels, it can be hard to get approval for even little things, thus making the whole system less innovative and responsive.

Because Holocracy enables all employees to make suggestions instead of a team of employees following orders, you get a team of leaders ready to step up and move the organization forward. Decisions are made locally by people doing the work instead of having to run by a manager further up the chain. Ownership and responsibility are distributed to the roles of the people in charge of the tasks. 

How ProSky can help

With ProSky software, employees can see exactly what tasks and responsibilities they are in charge of allowing employees to have a sense of purpose. Project leads can steer the discussion and analyze how their teams collaborate. Our platform has a board where coworkers can communicate with one another and use tools to express themselves.

4. Employee Training and Development

Going along with growth, employees want to learn new skills in order to have the tools to do their job better. The traditional method is to have a manager decide the training programs and development that will benefit the employee and then assign them to complete the training.With Holocracy, every job to be done requires a role, and every role requires a set of responsibilities. While this provides helpful transparency, it also means that the organization needs a way to keep records and update frequently.

How ProSky can help

Using ProSky Pathways, every employee has a profile that defines their current roles and skillsets. Employees are already on a career pathway with specified milestones to hit as well as training that can be completed in order to take on future responsibilities and roles. Managers can assign training, or employees can request courses teaching skills that they are interested in learning. 

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

As employees get on board with Holocracy, it allows them more control of their own career development. Upper management can focus on important organizational development tasks that will grow the company instead of spending most of their time managing employees and focusing on administrative tasks.

Can be hard to put into action, but you can ease the process with the right HRIS. ProSky pathways are suitable for all types of management and work especially well to solve the challenges of Holocracy. Pathways implements principles of self-management that found in holocracy and applies them to traditional management styles. It is a hybrid. 

As Ashley from guerrillaanalytics.io says,

I’m a fan of any self-management style because no one wants to be micro-managed and no executive or business owner wants to manage. We need to let individuals, we hire to creatively solve problems on their own so we, the business owners, can strategically grow our business. 

Contact one of our specialists to see how for more information on how Pathways can help you improve organizational development and set up succession planning,