Richard Newton's Reviews > Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy

Holacracy by Brian J. Robertson
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Sep 29, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: business-and-organization

I started this book expecting to hate it, but I actually enjoyed it. (It's a good question why I would read a book I expected to hate, but that's another topic!). It's probably the cover which I found off putting which makes the book look like another over-confident, but basically vacuous business nonsense. In reality this is a well thought through and genuinely innovative set of thinking about organizations. It is also well written, being an easy read, which is a good trick to pull off for novel ideas.

To some extent the tone of the book reminded me of some of the writing on Agile, and also a little of Goldratt's theory of constraints - not that there is any direct comparison. The similarity was in Robertson's idea of tensions, which reminded me of Goldratt's focus on constraints.

So, great - worth reading and interesting. Will it work? Frankly, I don't know. Most of the organizations involved are fairly small. Some of the organizations I work with have more people in support functions like procurement, than many of the organizations mentioned here employ in totality. Also many of the organizations are relatively new, and I would be interested in the change impact of trying to implement this in a long established business culture. But that is not a reason to reject the thinking. It's just a reason to be a little careful. After all we all know there's a lot wrong with many organizations and the way Robertson looks at these challenges is insightful. To be fair to Robertson, he treats the subject with realism and pragmatism, accepting that implementing a Holacracy is not always an easy ride.

Does that mean I liked everything? No. There were a few niggles. For example, I don't like the analogy Robertson uses of a new organization being like a new operating system - but that is probably just a personal thing.

What most irritated me will probably seem like a pedantic point. Robertson keeps talking about focusing on the goals of the organization, not the goals of people in it. Sorry, but organizations don't have goals, for the simple reason that an organization is not the sort of entity that can have a goal, any more than it can have a relationship, like music or enjoy hamburgers. Well, not unless you have a very different view of the nature of organizations from me. I am not trying to make an obscure metaphysical point. I think it is important that we don't try and envisage organizations as something they are not. And Robertson's continual stress that the organizational goal is something different from the goals of the people in it or any of its stakeholders kept making me think - so what is this entity that has its own goals?

However, I don't think this spoils the book and may well say more about my way of thinking than weaknesses in Robertson's.
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2015 – Started Reading
September 29, 2015 – Shelved
September 29, 2015 – Shelved as: business-and-organization
October 2, 2015 – Finished Reading

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