Evolving Our Holacracy Practice

By Kayla Sheely

At Voice Systems Engineering, we don’t just care about doing our work. Because we also care about how we do our work, we implemented Holacracy back in 2014. Holacracy is a system that helps break down bureaucracy and constraints, enhancing transparency, empowerment, agility, and action. By enabling continuous improvement, Holacracy can help us better serve our customers, grow our business, and maximize our brand’s value.​ 

Sharon Donaghey, Circle Lead of People Experience, has been working at VSE with Holacracy for 4 years and finds immense value in this way of working. “Holacracy really does allow for you to do the most impactful work at any moment, and it allows people to leverage and utilize their skill sets,” she reflects. “It also helps distribute authority and gives people the opportunity to be very purpose-driven in the work that they do.” 

Holacracy has become an integral part of VSE’s culture over the last eight years. However, VSE’s staff has grown considerably since then, including many employees who weren’t here for the original Holacracy implementation and training. To refocus and advance newer employees in their Holacracy practice, the People Experience team decided to run a Holacracy reimplementation program. Sharon, who is spearheading this initiative, states that “During the pandemic, we didn’t always get together for tactical meetings, and I started to feel our practice was eroding. And now that we are mostly all virtual, the training helps strengthen our Holacracy practice and gives us an opportunity to be together as a group in a well-defined virtual setting.” 

The first phase of the Holacracy reimplementation is Facilitator training. Facilitators are often the most visible part of a Holacracy practice in an organization. Facilitators guide their circle members through Holacracy meetings and serve as a go-to guide to coach practitioners in their Holacracy practice. By starting with the Facilitator training, we are laying a solid foundation, which the Secretary training and Circle Lead training can build on.  

The Facilitator training covers a wide range of topics, such as purpose, framing, and meeting essentials. At the heart of the training are the two core Holacracy meetings: tactical and governance meetings. These meetings can feel foreign to new Holacracy practitioners, so it’s important for the Facilitator to have a clear understanding of the purpose and the process of these meetings.  

Tactical meetings focus on the actual work being done by the circle through surfacing “tensions” – opportunities to bridge the gap between the way things currently are and the way we would like them to be. On the other hand, governance meetings offer an opportunity to work on the structure of the circle through a rigid proposal process to ensure what is on paper matches how the work is organized and being done.  

To Sharon, this reimplementation is a crucial step in continuing to evolve VSE’s Holacracy practice. She notes that “Holacracy is a fluid operating system. It moves all the time, so the training helps us keep up current with best practices – it’s an evolution of our Holacracy practice.” 

It is important to remember that every company that has a Holacracy practice has its own version of it. Sharon points out that “it evolves to suit a company’s individual purpose – there’s no one set of rules across the board. We’re doing this training to meet our goals around Holacracy, and all of what we’re producing is proprietary to VSE. We’re producing our own system that’s unique to what we’re doing.” To support this customized approach, VSE has developed its own Holacracy Field Guide to meet the specific needs of the company culture.  

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