There are many companies that pioneered methods of self-management, but it takes a lot of work to forge your own path and it is not so easy to transfer it to other business contexts. To resolve around the challenge of implementation, Holaspirit held a user club in September to gather practitioners and encourage the sharing of experiences between people who deployed self-management at scale.
Dennis Wittrock walked us through the Holacracy adaptation process, the methodology of the roll-out and discussed the obstacles at Hypoport.
Background of Hypoport
Dennis Wittrock is a certified Holacracy® Coach, who mainly works as internal coach for Hypoport, a major fintech company that opted for Holacracy. Previously, he worked for encode.org on pioneering legal, financial and social foundations for self-organization. He is the founder and former co-director of the Integral European Conferences 2014 and 2016.
Hypoport Group is a network of technology companies with a workforce of more than 2,000 employees. Currently 7 of its 15 main subsidiary companies practice Holacracy. They have 1164 people in roles, among 165+ circles and 2500+ roles.
Dennis Wittrock is part of a circle of 4 coaches with the purpose of “Healthy, enriching relationship between the learning self and the holacratic organization” for the 7 subsidiaries of the group.
It takes a lot of training to establish a stable practice, Dennis Wittrock explains.
Therefore, Hypoport offers a variety of internal trainings including Holacracy Practitioners Trainings, GTD trainings, Lead Link / Rep Link Training to make the practice stick and help its thousand people practice Holacracy most effectively.
Holacracy Practitioner Trainings are key. Hypoport tries to have at least 1-2 people trained practitioners in every circle. Direct transmission, hands-on practice is best to confer know-how and scale multiplicators.
Training gives confidence to people to try the practice. It lays the foundation for a solid implementation.
Dennis Wittrock recommends to implement one step at a time. They generally scale the practice from the top of the organization downwards. They start with the former management team and move down the holarchy beause former leaders have a role model function.
The implementation applies the full constitutional ruleset of Holacracy, "by the book“. The modular implementation approach (relevant with v5.0 of the Holacracy Constitution) hasn’t been tried so far.
It is important to remain pragmatic in order for people understand how to master their role and realize the full benefits of self-management using Holacracy. Therefore, Dennis says that beginners should start by adopting this 15-year old proven practice as it is instead of attempting to amend/change the rules of the game (there are parallels in the practice of “Scrum” vs. a watered-down “Scrum-but”).
The company generally follows these steps:
- Create the initial circle governance (roles etc.)
- Set up Holaspirit
- Fill circle roles
- Kick off the practice (Tac /Gov + elections)
- Let trained Facilitator take over ASAP
- Provide shadowing as needed
Holacracy covers the part of organizing the work, but does not necessarily covers all the people-, finance- or social questions. Dennis highlights the importance of creating spaces for negotiating the boundaries and relationships between the organization and the people, as well as between individuals themselves. This distinction is informed by the concept of “Language of Spaces”, pioneered by Christiane Seuhs Schoeller (Evolution at Work).
In the process of implementation, it is therefore key to create additional forums for processing tensions that are not directly related to the work or purpose of the organization – something that Holacracy in its pure form does not cover. If organizations don’t pay attention to this people-dimension, it might corrupt the implementation at scale.
To that intend, Hypoport has created „OMG Circle“ next to the GCC to give a space for tensions related to the individuals or the community. The company also makes sure to create an internal role accountable for the Holacracy adoption process which works together with the external Holacracy coaches.
In the implementation, communication is key and there should be a clear mandate for Holacracy implementation and the communication of the ratifiers is key.
As soon as the organization decides to go for Holacracy, the owners, the board or the CEO need to formally sign the Holacracy Constitution. It signals to everybody that it is worth the effort of learning the practice.
As long as the top management doesn’t revoke the decision to play by the rules of the constitution, they will be held to it, like everyone else.
At Hypoport, they’ve put in place a Coach role into the “People” circle of the organization. They also have an elected Holacracy Buddy role in every circle in charge of managing the training needs and answering the holacratic questions.
People at Hypoport have access to a wide range of ressources to dive deeper into Holacracy.
To support good practice, it’s important to provide good materials
Among the resources, there are habit support programs for practitioners and for Lead Links, tools such as Holaspirit, an evolution of the Holacracy facilitations cards by Hypoport, a learning database, learning videos...
By using the implementation strategy “scaling know-how even over direct coaching”, Hypoport has become largest Holacracy implementation case in Germany.
We are very interested to collect your feedback about this conference format potential. If there’s a topic you’d like to discuss during our next user club, let us know. :)