Article (April-2017)


Can Indian organisations adopt holacracy?

Nikhil Abhishek Mishra

Designation : -   Manager (Tie-up and Partnerships)

Organization : -  Gautam Solar Private Limited, New Delhi


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The term holacracy was first developed by the entrepreneur Brian Robertson and later came to spotlight with the start-up firm Zappos adopting it.

Holacracy in its approach is a democratic concept where the emphasis is being laid on the democratic decision making rather than following the hierarchical order. It doesn't means that there is no hierarchy in the system. Rather than that there are circles at each and every hierarchy which helps in decision making where no one particular post or person is responsible for taking the decision. Rather it is the group of people at that level/circle who collectively take decisions regarding the matter in hand.

In this write -up we will, however, be discussing the possibilities of holacracy in the Indian corporate culture. It has been observed that the corporate culture prevalent in any country draws its structures or gets affected by the societal structures prevalent in the society.

But with the change in times and the next wave of globalisation kicking in we have seen new entrepreneurs armed with technology and new set of ideas are ready to create new space and experiment with it. These new set of entrepreneurs have one thing in common i.e. they all have come up by challenging the status quo or the set norms of doing things in our day today lives. They have explored the unique opportunity to shape the corporate culture of the country.

However, there are certain challenges that this idea faces in the wake of prevailing organisational culture. First and foremost being the employees itself. Holacracy is all about self-motivated employees with their own Morningstar/guiding light to be able to take decisions. However, there is no guarantee that they will be able to imbibe the same amongst the other members of the company as we have seen in the case of Zappos employees who have not been able to adjust to this and have started leaving the organisation.

What remains as the core principle of holacracy is the decision making process which allows it to take decision without any manager instead there is a lead person responsible with the communication of the details both inside and outside. However, the thriving of this holacratic culture is possible only when the employees are self-regulated and initiative taker. If not then we will face the ultimate mismanagement of the organisation.

The challenges present with the current corporate culture however does give us an opportunity to try this because of its various benefits that it brings to the table as:

  • Agility
  • Transparency
  • Adapting to changes
  • Free flowing
  • Purposeful  Scalability

Agility: Every start-up faces this situation where the employees have to take decision in hand and in a quick manner here this holacracy comes handy where the employees have the authority to discuss the case scenarios in hand and take the decisions quickly without waiting for the approval of the senior most person.

Transparency: Since everyone is involved in the process it guarantees the complete transparency of the system without any problem. The entire process has involved all the concerned parties thus bringing the transparency in the process.

Adapting to changes: The agile systems are also comfortable to adapt to the changes happening in the business world and since the entire process happens at a much greater speed than that of the hierarchical one plus the working style of the start-ups also help them in adapting the changes in the world.

Free Flowing: Since, Holacracy is a process driven concept everyone knows the procedure of taking the actions and the decisions are taken after discussing all the important aspects of matter and everyone involved in the process has his own viewpoint and is free to pitch it in. This makes the ideas flow freely without any hindrance. This on the other hand helps the start-ups in coming up with potential ideas of business and processes to add edge to themselves.

Purposeful: The other intent is of employees being purposeful or we can say that decisions being purposeful which help in solving the problem. This helps in being focus on different aspects of the meeting and avoids any unnecessary delay in making decisions.

Scalability: However, the picture is not all glossy, other things being true, it faces the ultimate test of the scalability as the start-ups after initial success of the idea at a smaller level tries to capitalise on it and scale it to a much bigger platform. This presents a much bigger challenge as we have already seen that employees form the most crucial aspect of this concept finding employees at much faster rate which suits this culture is one problem, training them in this new system is the other problem as well. The next challenge is the functioning of this concept in a large organisations having top -down hierarchical structure. Once this idea is operational and the organisations grows up with it will find so many layers of decision making that it becomes impossible to take a decision on quick basis.  The entire process becomes so slow that even the simplest decisions may take long time to get settled and if some major decisions are to be taken as in the case of start-ups which happens more frequently it will be even more cumbersome once they grow into a large organisation.

Conclusion: For this, one of the important things which have to happen is the self-regulating environment and the drive amongst the employees to succeed. If any organisation succeeds in implementing this concept even after growing on a large scale it will help them in becoming a very successful organisation.

However, the chances of success of that organisation being a start-up are much higher as they can imbibe this aspect into their organisation from the very beginning. Thus, making the implementation is much easier in new organisation than the existing one.