"People have lots of ideas about what "we" should do.. but "we" doesn´t do it". Brian Robertson
Picture the scene: a group of people of goodwill, concerned about the twin spectres of climate change and species extinction, or it could be any issue, have organised a meeting to determine what they can do..
"What as a group can we be doing together to address this global crisis? As separate individuals we are weak... but together we are strong. Let´s join our forces into a unified effective initiative. What shall we do?"
- Roland Red:
"Well it´s clear that we must persuade the government to address this issue as a matter of urgency. No other strategy can work. We must elect the Tories out of office !!"
- Betty Blue:
"No Roland... politicians have created this mess. What we need instead is a revolution of love. We must reach out to business leaders and ask them respectfully to recognise the truth and change their practices."
- Pete Purple:
"They can´t change!!!! We must organise ourselves to be the change we wish to see."
- Olivia Orange:
"Actually Pete, it´s a well known fact of academic psychology that, confronted with crisis, people can and will change. All the comments I´ve heard so far have been based on myths and beliefs, not the hard facts of science. We need rationality, not just stuff we´ve read in the newspapers that feed our own unenlightened prejudices."
- Yanis Yellow:
"Good God, I don´t believe I´m hearing this!! We all know the problem is capitalism. What´s wrong with you all? Smash the system... now !!"
- Greta Green:
"Education is the answer."
".... erm.... thanks for all your contributions. We need to move onto the next agenda item, so we´ll have a vote on it....."
Sound familiar? In this present scenario, 6 individuals, each with a clear vision of change based on their own unique perspective, experience and skills, have presented 6 completely different strategies for creating that change. In a traditional organisational structure, several differing and conflicting viewpoints mean that a problem requiring resolution is present. Depending on the ethos of the organisation, that resolution might take several forms. The Chair, or whoever is in charge, an individual or a "steering group", might decide to simply dictate, or persuade, which of the alternatives the group will pursue. In this case, often the views of the most powerful and/or articulate individuals will prevail. Alternatively, the Chair might decide to call a vote, meaning that the majority view will prevail. However, in the above fictional scenario, each of the viewpoints are arguably equally valid and deserving of representation and expression. By trying to create a group cohesion in this way, a number of negative consequences are inevitably created; individuals are marginalised, disempowered and made to feel that their truth doesn´t matter. This reflects in the output of the group; frequently a pale shadow of it´s true potential and often achieved only by an exorbitant expenditure of effort, with most of the work falling on the shoulders of just a few. Why is this?
Part 1 of this Regenerative Group Development series discussed the way that our present models of organisational structure derive from the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century; a period when education and access to the world´s store of arts, cultural and intellectual treasures were limited to a privileged few. Initially, hierarchical structures focussed around the purpose of the organisation, and later, systems of participative democracy, also hierarchical in nature, developed incrementally and increasingly accompanied by a growing chorus of discontent, personal stress and outright hostility from an increasingly educated and informed wider population. That process has now reached its climax, as evidenced by the inability of the "world organisation" to adequately respond to the global environmental crisis; inextricably linked to all aspects of our individual and collective lifestyle, values, social & psychological needs. A new way is needed.
The rapid rise of Extinction Rebellion; an international alliance of committed and concerned individuals, has exploded into public awareness with a never before seen output of actions, characterised by extraordinary levels of imagination, creativity, impact, individual commitment and organisational integrity; all this within a ridiculously short time-span, of just a few months from inception to coherent planet-wide expression. The scope of the group´s purpose offers one explanation for this, the way that it has resonated within the hearts & minds of people of goodwill another. However, of much greater significance is its adoption and demonstration of a new model of organisation structure: Holacracy.
The idea was originally developed by Brian Robertson, a software entrepreneur, around 2007, in an endeavour to create greater autonomy, purpose-orientation, rapid decision-making, and evolution within his company. At it´s core are 3 guiding principles, that can be adopted, amended or adapted by any organisation. Firstly the principle of "devolved autonomy", where individuals/small groupings are encouraged and allowed to develop their own unique response to the PURPOSE of the organisation, rather than being managed & limited by the traditional hierarchical structure of that organisation. In our imaginary meeting scenario, Roland Red, Betty Blue and all the others would be encouraged & empowered to simply develop and work on their own ideas with total freedom and support. This in turn leads to the 2nd holacracy principle of "innovative meeting practices", designed for rapid execution and creative expression, rather than time & energy consuming debates, discussions and decisions. Many such techniques already exist and have been widely adopted, notably by Extinction Rebellion to develop a model for how a Citizen´s Assembly might effectively function. Both of these principles demand and also naturally lead to the 3rd principle of an "evolving organisational structure". Evolution & Diversity are natural principles throughout all of nature, whereas organisations can sometimes be hampered in their evolution by a fixed and inflexible structure. In such cases, the creative potential of the organisation is severely hampered by a focus on maintaining and following the existing structure rather than allowing it to naturally change & develop, driven by the creative diversity of the individuals comprising it.
No one single solution exists to the climate & environmental crisis. Neither is that crisis separate from the multiple other crises, social, psychological & structural, in our global society; all demanding of radical change. Rather, the solutions, in all their diversity, already exist within the hearts and minds of millions of people of goodwill everywhere. In almost all cases, the obstacles to those solutions being enacted are within the inflexibility of "The System" itself. Holacracy represents a simple yet completely radical way to both transform organisational systems and empower us all to create "the more beautiful world we know in our hearts is possible".
"If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then... we should change the system itself." . Greta Thunberg
See also Regenerative Group Development Part 1.
Self-management practices for organisations. Holacracy empowers people to make meaningful decisions in pursuit of your organization´s purpose.
Long-term environmental activist and founder of Resurgence magazine. "The path of peace is celebrating our diversity, not division." Short film: 01.53