Holacracy (turquoise or free company), defined as a company where employees are self managed, is a much more effective and flexible form of leadership than generic top down management. This is what allows us to respond better to a dynamically developing world. But how does one move a company towards holacracy? Find out what all the aspects we had to define and solve and why we believe the best way of transformation is always uniquely related to your own company.
There is no exact guide to transition into a holacracy
Our transformation into a hierarchy free company, which we mentioned in our previous article advantages and disadvantages of holacracy, started at the beginning of 2021. We asked Michal Šrajer from Happiness @ work and HR consultant Veronika Krejčová to help set up a series of workshops for us. They aided us with setting up the company structure and processes.
There is probably no precise guide to becoming a holacratic company, so we wanted to build on the foundations we already have.
Michal Šrajer has a similar opinion:
“Based on my observations and contact with many companies, I think the best way is the one uniquely theirs. The paths lead to the same peak, but from slightly different sides of the mountain, from the one on which the company is currently standing. For me, it’s better to take what’s working now and build on it, rather than try to tear everything apart and start over.”
SYNETECH CEO Vratislav Zima adds:
“The whole process was a lot about discovery. We always thought we’d try it some way - support the integrity of the company - and then we simply went for it. We defined the individual parts of the company, the principles they stand for and how they should communicate with each other.”
Step #1: Where is Synetech now and where does it aim to be?
If we aim to get somewhere, we must first find out where we are currently. And so the co-founders and the executive group defined where SYNETECH currently stands, what our roles are, what we are exceptional at, what is holding us back and what we want to achieve. Two workshops took place, where we presented our ideas using, among other things, lego, mind maps, movie posters and a large number of post-it notes.
The result: We now know where the company stands and what our strengths and weaknesses are. We have defined our goals and have the blueprints of the new company structure. The members of the group know their role and know where they want to progress.
Michal Šrajer explains why it is important to start with the vision of the founders:
“The founders are still bearers of culture and direction, so it would be wrong to start from the other end. The transition wouldn’t work if it went against their vision.”
Step #2: What does it look like inside the company?
Interviews with people from the team were conducted alongside the workshops. Why? We wanted to know whether people were enjoying working for us, how they perceive SYNETECH, whether they are satisfied and what they would like to change. It was clear to us that someone from outside had to ask these questions. And this role was filled by our external HR support Verča, who has chatted with 11 people from different teams and with different roles across the company.
The result: SYNETECH is a group of friends that enjoy each other’s company. We have a similar moral code and we help each other move forward. Unclear definition of roles and responsibilities can throw a team off balance. We want to set up processes more precisely, formulate a set of values and determine who is responsible for what.
Step #3: What are our values?
If SYNETECH were an animal, what would it be like? Which illustration best describes SYNETECH? Those were some of the questions we addressed during our company-wide workshop focusing on our common values. We brainstormed what we value in others, what makes our company unique and what our clients value about us.
The result: From some specific examples of behavior that we experience at work and decided are important to us, we have discovered 6 values that define our culture and we think are worthy of following.
6 fundamental values of SYNETECH:
- transparency and fairness,
- love for what we do,
Step #4: Vision and what does purpose mean to us?
A difficult task for us was to define the company’s vision. The workshop on values led to us discovering that the purpose of what we do is important to us. But what does this mean to each individual? These days the word purpose is used so often, it could already be considered a buzzword. So we asked everyone in the company what a project with “purpose” means to them.
The result: For us, working on a project with purpose means it benefits not only the developers, but especially the end users - the projects that bring joy, make life easier, help or do something exciting and new. What is also meaningful to us is when we get a chance to enjoy the process of developing. We love that 🙂
Step #5: Work principles and corporate structure
In addition to common values, we have determined the principles on which we want to build our work. This process began with a workshop where we met in virtual cafes and in groups discussed topics related to conflict resolution, feedback, decision-making and our transformation. Last but not least, we also discussed a new organizational structure.
Result: We have defined 4 basic principles of our work and the processes which help us live up to them. The organizational structure of the company is flat and consists of autonomous and self-sufficient teams, which we divide according to their expertise and workload.
Designing a new organizational structure for the company was probably the biggest challenge of the whole process.
As Vráťa himself confirms:
“The most difficult thing for us was to create the company structure. To be united, even if there is one group of people who associate more with the craft of developing and another group, working on the project that is different within that project and specialization. To think of a link between the guarantor of the House and the project manager, because these are the two people who can be responsible for the same person, but for different aspects of their behavior.”
Step #6: What can each House offer?
The following workshops were organized individually within each House. We talked about why the House was founded, what are its aims, what are the strengths of each individual member, their roles and how they want to progress. We thought about what information we lacked within our work and how to obtain it.
Result: Clarification of roles and responsibilities within the House. We have defined how often we will meet within the House and what outputs we need from other Houses for our work.
Step #7: API between Houses
How is the cooperation going to work between the Houses? What do we need from each other? And does it make sense to us? This is what we talked about during our various house meetings. Each guarantor of each House met the other guarantors and shared their requirements.
Result: We have defined an API between Houses, i.e. what exactly each house needs from each other, why they need it, and in what format and when they will exchange information with each other. We set up clear processes and responsibilities which, as we found out in step # 2, we were lacking.
Step #8: Let’s practice what we preach, and reiterate the process all the time!
Can we say we’re done? Definitely not :) This is just beginning… We are learning to apply new principles, we understand what makes sense to us, where we still have gaps and are making mistakes. It is a constant process of learning and moving forward together.
As Michal adds:
“The next period will be interesting, because we are starting to apply everything we’ve learned and we will see what comes from it. Then comes the test of whether we are ready to respond to the outcomes together and what will need to be changed. Because there will certainly be roadbumps. :) ”
Vráťa has a similar opinion:
“I think that we are still in the early stages. We already see the outlines of how we want to work, we are trying to apply everything, but we’re still not fully there. But even talking about it is crucial. If we only just took the information and applied it, then the learning wouldn’t happen. It’s important to give everyone time to take everything onboard.”
The transition to holacracy: great work that never ends
We’re not going to lie, the transition into being a holacratic company without a hierarchy was sometimes a bit painful, sometimes we didn’t enjoy it, but it was worth it. Thanks to Verča and Michal for the well-thought-out workshops that were definitely not boring, and to the whole SYNEteam, that embarked on it with passion and a unique sense of humor. :)
Now we are continuing in the newly setup company environment, we will continue to learn and move forward. We know it’s work that never ends, but we’re determined to keep on…
Do you want to know more about holacracy (turquoise or free company) or do you have any other questions? Feel free to contact us.