Strategizing and 2015

As the fervour and anticipation of 2015 approaches, the optimistic traditionalists among us are dutifully setting goals and strategies for the year ahead. An activity the realists abhor for a fear of failure and a desire for rebellion.

Regardless of whether the pressing nature of the impending New Year has significant meaning for you or not, planning is an essential ingredient for the success of any organisation. But before you go crazy making lists, let’s take a moment to celebrate your victories and acknowledge your shortcomings from this past year. This is extremely important in understanding the strengths and constraints of your business and let’s face it, you as its leader. Don’t worry, you don’t have to walk alone and as you approach those forks in the road, the decision of which way to turn will soon become clear.

Holacracy is a social technology used for organisations providing a distributed authority system built around an organic structure and grounded within the organisation’s purpose. Consider Holacracy as the anti-thesis of traditional management hierarchies to create a management-free environment focused on getting things done. Holacracy provides a different take on your annual strategy and planning sessions by providing a guiding light through the overwhelming decision making process. I challenge you to make a difference to your strategy process by adopt a dynamic approach to manoeuvring your way through the minefield of running a business. Once you’ve strategized using this different method all will be revealed about where to invest your time, money and resources.

Here are some examples of the strategic outcomes born from this process, they provide a clear direction when making decisions throughout the year:

Focus on:

  • Stabilising the environment over hunting out new opportunities
  • Satisfying core stakeholders over entrepreneurial zeal
  • Organisational coherence over inspired individuals


Internal meetings held within an organisation are not about winning friends and influencing people, they are about getting things done. I’ve attended meetings and found myself in the middle of a power struggle or relationship maelstrom and left questioning the outcome and purpose.


Internal meetings can be frustrating, confusing and a waste of everyone’s time. Or they can be satisfying, clear and productive if a structured process is applied where the main focus is on getting work done.

Here’s how:

  • A ruthless meeting process defining exactly how the meeting will be structured by using a strict set of rules everyone is aware of.
  • Allocate a facilitator to ensure the rules are adhered to and the meeting stays focused.
  • Document clear outcomes and instantly distribute.
  • Have a specific purpose for every meeting.

Operations (tactical) and Governance meetings are two types of meeting processes. Tactical Meetings deal with the operational aspects and focus on specific actions and projects. As outlined in the insert, this type of meeting can have the most immediate effect on an organisation when run correctly. A strictly process-driven tactical meeting creates clarity on what work needs to be done while allowing the team to synchronise quickly and effectively. Governance Meetings are directed at power, authority and structure.

Holacracy is a real-world-tested social technology for organisations where Tactical and Governance meetings are just part of the process. It drives agile and purposeful organisations by radically changing the structure, altering how decisions are made and redistributing power.


Tactical Meeting Process

Check-in Round

Goal: Notice what’s got your attention, call it out, let it go.

Sacred space: no cross-talk. Get present, here and now; grounds the meeting.

Checklist Review

Goal: Bring transparency to recurring actions.

Facilitator reads checklist of recurring actions by role; participants respond “check” or “no check” to each for the preceding period (e.g. the prior week).

Metrics Review

Goal: Build a picture of current reality.

Each role assigned a metric reports on it briefly, highlighting the latest data.

Project Updates

Goal: Track updates to key projects of the circle.

The Facilitator reads each project on the circle’s project board and asks: “Any updates?”

The project’s owner either responds “no updates” or shares what has changed since the last meeting. Questions allowed, but no discussion.

Agenda Building

Goal: Build an agenda with placeholder headlines.

Build agenda of tensions to process; one or two words per item, no discussion.

Triage Issues

Goal: Get through all agenda items in the allotted time.

To Resolve Each Agenda Item:

  1. Facilitator asks: “What do you need?”
  2. Agenda item owner engages others as-needed
  3. Capture any next-actions or projects requested & accepted
  4. Facilitator asks: “Did you get what you need?”

Closing Round

Goal: Harvest learning from the meeting.

Each person can share a closing reflection about the meeting; no discussion.


Lack of Clarity = Meeting Overload

Do any of these symptoms show up in your organization?

  • Lots of meetings with lots of discussion to reach consensus on things
  • E-mails fly around with lots of people cc’d, often for unclear reasons
  • People check-in with everyone before making decisions, and expect others will too
  • People have lots of ideas about what “we” should do… but “we” doesn’t do itThese are all symptoms of lack of clarity, and many organizations suffer from them.  When we’re not clear who needs to be involved in a decision or who has the authority to make it, we often default to getting everyone involved for lack of a better option.  That at least allows a decision to get made (sometimes), and no one’s toes get stepped on (usually), though it sure has a price.  It also points to a much deeper issue – a lack of clarity of what roles (not people) are needed given the organization’s purpose, what work each of those roles (not people) needs to do, and what authority each of those roles (not people) needs to do it.  Until we have differentiated the organizational roles from the people doing them, we will have a fusion of the people and the organization which limits both.Once we have this clarity – or better yet, a trusted process for continually generating this clarity over time – we can then find relief from the symptoms above.  We no longer need meetings for everything, as we know exactly which other roles to involve in various activities and decisions.  And when we do engage in a discussion we can do so without creating an expectation of consensus, because everyone is crystal clear on which role owns the decision.  We no longer need to cc everyone on e-mails or check-in with everyone before making a decision, as we now know which roles should be involved in what and to what extent we should involve them…  and just as important, to what extent we should just use our best judgment and make a decision autocratically.  Organizational clarity frees us to be a good leader when we’re filling a role and need to balance input with expediency, and a good follower when another role owns a decision and shuts down discussion to make a judgment call.
  • So, how can you move towards this kind of organizational clarity?  Here are a few of my techniques:
  • The medicine for this fusion is organizational clarity – a defined structure for how the organization will pursue its purpose.  This structure has nothing to do with the people, and it is best defined without reference to them – people come in later, to energize the Roles the organization needs to pursue its purpose.  To define a Role without reference to the people, give the Role a descriptive name, and one or more related activities which the person filling the Role will energize for the organization.  This Role-holder must have authority to execute upon and make decisions around those activities, and may also have defined limits of authority or constraints which ensure other Roles can do their work effectively as well.  With Roles defined around what’s needed for the purpose, we can then look at our available talent and assign the best-fit to energize each Role – and most of us will fill multiple roles quite naturally.  (Done well, this is quite different from a conventional job description exercise – more on that in a future post.)
  • When Seeking Consensus:  When a discussion seems to be seeking consensus among the people about what decision to make, I ask “Is it clear what Role holds the authority to make this decision?”
  • When Involving Everyone:  When lots of people are pulled into a meeting (or e-mail chain), I ask “What Roles need to be involved and why?”
  • When There’s Fusion:  When a given human is habitually referenced by name as someone to check with or work with, especially if it’s a founder, I ask “What Role is it that needs to be consulted, and what Role is asking?”
  • These questions begin to highlight the lack of clarity and habitual fusion that necessarily exists in the early-stages of any effort – and often still exists quite a bit later, despite fancy job descriptions and org charts that pretend otherwise.  And it is in answering these questions that something emerges beyond just the group of people – only then is a true organization born, as its own differentiated entity.