Holacracy is a system based on horizontal, rather than vertical, decision-making, as opposed to the traditional model. Keepler adopts and applies the principles of holocracy and sociocracy 3.0 as part of its corporate vision. This system relies on self-managed, but not self-directed, circles. The system is born in Keepler from the bottom up, oriented to individual improvement and seeking the joint growth of the team.
It is now 80 years since the creation of the Special Air Service or SAS, the famous British commandos. This unit was born with the aim of harassing the Germans in their African expansion. Organized in autonomous units and collaborating in a directed effort to complete the assigned mission, they were the only beacon of hope in 1941.
The selection process in the SAS is demanding and violent, physically and mentally. They pick the best of the best, without compromise, to do a job that no one else is willing or prepared to do.
What would lead a soldier to submit to such tests voluntarily? Culture, understood as a set of practices and policies that are consolidated in “Here we do things this way and we are faithful to this creed.” The elite attract the best.
Culture is the most powerful driver an organization has in the long run. As Tom Peters says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Strategy is important, of course, but it is ineffective if it is not supported by a strong culture.
Leading a group of soldiers belonging to a unit that is considered the best in the world is no easy task. Knowing you are the best, belonging to the best, is not easy to manage.
They are ACE teams, where ACE means:
- Autonomous: The team and its members act independently, so they can manage VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) effectively. An Agile team can react better to problems because they are the eyes and ears on the ground.
- Creative: Each member looks for solutions to obstacles, solves problems creatively, differently and effectively.
- Entrepreneurs: Each member acts directly and voluntarily, takes ownership of decisions that may affect the outcome and strategy.
In a unit such as the SAS, which is holacracy-oriented, leadership is not monolithic, but it exists because it is independent of hierarchy. Leadership is not a position, it is a merit. It is a label, a SEAL.
- Shared: Anyone can lead, depending on context, experience and skills. High-performance teams are adults, only experience and skill count, not rank.
- Engaging: Every team and member is involved as soon as possible and at the earliest opportunity, so that they can offer suggestions and new points of view. Communication is more effective because any deficiencies are detected and addressed as soon as possible.
- Advocacy: Everyone has a say. Collective intelligence is more effective than individual intelligence. Consensus is reached through constant participation.
- Legitimate: The values and culture of an organization determine what decisions are made and how they are made. Every act must be evaluated against that moral base.
At Keepler, communication is fundamental, as well as transparency, and they’re two of the basic skills. The value of communication is the feedback you get. For a team to reach its potential, goals and purpose must be clearly shared.
Hierarchy in highly competitive teams can lead to a battle of egos. This is combated by creating small, self-managed groups of 6 to 9 people. All human systems are based on relationships, through co-dependent, counter-dependent and interdependent processes. This level is decisive. Interpersonal dynamics create solidarity networks and optimal emotional states for work.
Continuous improvement develops in this intimate relationship that fosters emulation and a sense of belonging. In a changing environment, continuous improvement is the enemy of complacency.
Teams work towards a common goal when that goal is shared and communicated. Each team in a holocratic system and each individual member must have a sense of belonging and ownership.
Continuous improvement, self-management, treating people as adults, small, excellent and motivated teams are the recipe for success in a chaotic environment where only imprecision, indefiniteness and uncertainty are safe. Horizontal organizations, based on leadership rather than hierarchy, are the expression of the passion that belongs to us and should guide our efforts.
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