Beyond the #holacracy #teal #cyane #agile hipe

In the Harvard Business Review article Beyond the holacracy hype, Ethan Bernstein, John Bunch, Niko Canner and Michael Lee, try  “to gain a more accurate, balanced perspective”  about holacracy and other types of self-managed organizations [-] beyond the buzzwords that describe these structures—“postbureaucratic,” “poststructuralist,” “information-based,” “organic,” and so on”. On twitter and other social media, these self-managed organisations are heavily supported or attacked. This article tries to be more objective and puts pro’s and con’s against each other.

Again I highlight some quotes that summarises their findings.

Two extremes

Most observers who have written about holacracy and other types of self-managed organizations—the latest trend in self-managed teams—take an extreme position, either celebrating these “bossless,” “flat” environments for fostering flexibility and engagement or denouncing them as naive social experiments that ignore how things really get done.

Balance between reliability and adaptability

To better understand the impulse behind self-management models, consider what leaders need most from their organizations: reliability and adaptability. Reliability means many things, such as generating predictable returns for shareholders, adhering to regulations, maintaining stable employment levels, and fulfilling customers’ expectations. So does adaptability: For example, some situations call for many small adjustments in production or manufacturing to meet local needs, while others call for fundamental shifts in strategy or capabilities.

If traditional organizations strive to be machines governed by Newtonian physics, precisely predicting and controlling the paths of individual particles, then self-managing structures are akin to biological organisms, with their rapid proliferation and evolution.


The modularity allows for more plug-and-play activity across the enterprise than in a system where teams sit squarely in particular units and departments. And the teams come and go as employees perceive changes in the organization’s needs (just as task forces and project teams in traditional organizations do, but without the surrounding matrix structure, which has a way of holding ad hoc groups together even after they’re irrelevant).

So the circles [teams] don’t just manage themselves; within those guidelines, they also design and govern themselves.


Leadership responsibilities continually shift as the work changes and as teams create and define new roles.

When someone isn’t a good fit for a role, it’s reassigned to someone else.

This approach to role design gives people room to grow on the job.


“Is the shift from traditional jobs to a larger number of microroles a net benefit? Possibly—but role proliferation has costs, too. It creates three kinds of complexity, all related to human capital”

  1. People grapple with where to focus their attention and how to prioritize and coordinate across circles.
  2. As people assemble their personal portfolios of roles, it becomes difficult to find clear benchmarks or market rates.
  3. Role proliferation complicates hiring, both into the organization and into particular roles.

Old power rules

Rather than run ideas up the flagpole and wait for answers to come back down, individuals go directly to the people who will be affected. Within holacracies, this is known as “going role to role.”

Some people have more power than others, and managers who used to supervise certain activities may at times try to reassert control, making it hard for employees to know whether to follow the new system or listen to their old boss.

It can also be tough for people to “step up” and claim their power.

Another employee, who formerly had a managerial title, talked about how much time he used to spend approving others’ decisions. Since the move to holacracy, he’s had to shift to enabling mode, encouraging individuals to make decisions on their own.

Old power rules can be deeply embedded in culture and institutions and may require continual attention to unravel.

Yet a great deal of evidence shows that efforts to drive change programmatically from the top, solely in response to what senior leaders see, often fail.

Responding to emerging needs in the market

Although it’s important to be close to your customers, it’s also critical to maintain a broader perspective so that you don’t follow them off a cliff.

Get rid of all bosses?

You might assume that the three goals of self-management structures—designing roles that match individual capabilities with organizational goals, making decisions closer to the work, and responding to emerging market needs—would make leaders less relevant. Yet one of the greatest challenges of implementing the goals at scale is insufficient leadership.

Leadership might be even more important in a holacracy than in a traditional management structure. You have to lead by example and round up the troops rather than rely on authority.”


Most organizations, particularly large corporations, should adopt these techniques in part, not in whole. We’d be surprised if more than 20% of the Global 1000 looked “teal” in 2030, to use Frederic Laloux’s term for “whole,” evolutionary, self-managing organizations. But we’d also be surprised if more than 20% didn’t significantly draw on some of the techniques within their corporate frameworks.


Wat/What is #Scrum?

In Wat/What is Scrum? Gunther Verheyen addresses the essence of scrum. Beside the usual aspects like roles and sprints, he emphasises two other important aspects:

“Short term sprints and long-term vision”

“‘Development team’should be interpreted broadly. It’s coding, testing, documenting and potentially also marketing, promoting, branding. So developing is more than only making”.

De/the Product Owner in Scrum

Translating market expectations and insights towards Development Teams.


Please find herewith a short movie in which I introduce the Product owner role of the Scrum framework.
It is in Dutch with English subtitles. It was created for Xebia with the Xebia marketing wizzy Ted Stravers, and recorded and processed by Higher View:

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#Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell

In a great video Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell Hendrik Kniberg shows all aspects of the product owner role.

It comes down to:

  • Vision of your product
  • Communication with stakeholders and DEV team
  • Capacity planning
  • Backlog grooming with stakeholders and DEV team
    • Estimate size and business value of user stories
    • Prioritise
    • Split up stories
    • Define acceptance criteria
  • Gradual insight

Thanks Hendrik for the enjoyable video!


#Agile quote of the day

Dennis Bakke tells how he helped create a company where every decision made at the top was lamented as a lost chance to delegate responsibility?and where all employees were encouraged to take the “game-winning shot,” even when it wasn’t a slam-dunk.

Perhaps Bakke’s most radical stand was his struggle to break the stranglehold of “creating shareholder value” on the corporate mind-set and replace it with more timeless values: integrity, fairness, social responsibility, and, above all, fun.

~ Dennis Bakke in Joy at work.

To create an organization that’s adaptable and innovative, people need the freedom to challenge precedent, to ‘waste’ time, to go outside of channels, to experiment, to take risks and to follow their passions.

~ Gary Hamel


“If there was a single question that obsessed 20th century managers, from Frederick Taylor to Jack Welch, it was this: How do we get more out of our people? At one level, this question is innocuous—who can object to the goal of raising human productivity? Yet it’s also loaded with industrial age thinking: How do we (meaning “management”) get more (meaning units of production per hour) out of our people (meaning the individuals who are obliged to follow our orders)? Ironically, the management model encapsulated in this question virtually guarantees that a company will never get the best out of its people. Vassals and conscripts may work hard, but they don’t work willingly.”

~ Gary Hamel

#Agile quote of the day

“If each part of your organisation works efficient, is your organisation as a whole then still working efficiently? Rushing can lead to a sloppy portrait, cost reductions get the music, the passion and the innovative ability out of your organisation. A company that is suffering from organisational anorexia looses strength and stops growing” ~Eric Koenen in The art of leadership in time of changes.

“Nothing fails more like success”.