Holacracy: Lunacy, fallacy or we’ll see

PB-logoHere is my March Management Matters column in Prairie Business Magazine:

For the past few months the blogosphere has been alive with chatter about online retailer Zappos’ decision to become a holacracy. According to www.holacracy.org, “Holacracy is a real-world-tested social technology for agile and purposeful organization.”

Is this idea just more untested hype that will lead to anarchy, perhaps an organizational unicorn, or might this be the next big thing?

Proponents of the new organizational structure (or lack of structure) argue that a holacracy eliminates much of the bureaucracy that tends to slow decision-making, stifle innovation and centralize power. Many leaders shudder with horror as they read about attempts to distribute power and speed decision-making, as they are very content with the status quo. Nevertheless, the holacracy champions cite examples of nimble organizations of empowered team members working in harmony to achieve greatness. The naysayers have been asking to see proof that the idea really works in practice and over the long term.

As many interested leaders are turning to the deserts of Nevada to watch the Zappos’ live holacracy experiment, a pioneering firm with northern Plains roots is already leading the way. The Nerdery is headquartered in the Twin Cities and very ably led by Mike Derheim, a North Dakota native. This high-tech company is extremely unique because everyone is a co-president. The Nerdery is not an experiment, but rather proof positive that, given the right leadership, innovative structures work very well. To learn more, watch Derheim’s recent TEDx talk at www.tedxminot.com.