Agility is now more than just a phenomenon in IT. For a long time, agility has also prevailed outside it, sometimes even throughout the company. For example, the first IT service providers are trying to present themselves as agile companies and are introducing a concept called “Holocracy”. But what exactly is it all about? As part of research on agility in companies, I deal with holocracy as one of the frameworks for agility. In this article, I would like to describe to you the principle and its relevance to Agiiltät in more detail.

The agile company

In principle, the agile company is a company that has committed itself to the desire to adhere to the agile principles. In the sense of research, it is also a company that is also agile outside it. An overview of agile departments can be found in another article on my blog. Agility, however, is not yet precisely defined, so I try to define the term more precisely and clearly in the course of my investigations. But in short, an agile company is ready to scale the traditional agility and its principles in the company.

What does holocracy mean?

The concept of Robertson (2015) is currently on everyone’s notice. It regulates the leadership of organisations despite transparency, which allows us to get involved through all levels. It focuses on the purpose of the organization, not profit. Robertson impressively shows how managers in a holocracy do not take the manager’s position and pomp, but the role and responsibility of the manager.

I don’t want to just reproduce the next definition from Robertson’s book(here the current Amazon Link), but try to explain the holocracy using the example of the illustration of Pfläging (2014, p. 59) using the interviews that have emerged in the course of the research. As a reading tip: Pfläging published 2014 “Organizations in Complexity” and the 2nd part in 2015: Complexity Methods. Imagine a small 8-person consulting house.

Own presentation based on Robertson’s idea.

HolokratieAt the centre of this little holocracy, we have a management group that manages all activities and problems. Anyone who wants to get involved in the company is allowed to participate in it and plays a role there. Various other roles are built around the management group, e.g. the business developer or the consultant. These roles can consist of one or more people and change constantly. Should an external effect, i.e. from the customer, come, the respective circle (the persons concerned) shall react in this way and decide on it autonomously and independently. For example, the customer wants to place a new order and person X changes from the Consultant role to the Sales role. The management group may now support this person if desired (e.g. finding a suitable employee). As soon as the situation is resolved, this person will again assume the role of IT consultant. However, a new circle has now been formed, consisting of 2 persons (person X and the new consultant for the order) and is clearly assigned to the customer. Abstractly, this model is illustrated once again in the illustration by Robertson (2015, p. 64). So we have different circles in the company that deal with a particular topic that helps the organization. The whole organization is also to be understood as a circle. Away from the circles, there are many different roles. As an employee, I can be in several circles and always contribute to the purpose of the organization.

In this way, the company is dynamically controlled and primarily oriented towards the purpose of the organization. Roles replace positions and hierarchy, and a living structure is above rigid organization charts. We are therefore always able to change our current organization and respond to any changes. Somewhere we already know this form, right? Exactly – from biology. The holocracy consists of different circles, so-called holons, that enclose other things. Thus, in a holon are several molecules (rolls) and one molecule has several atoms. The atoms and molecules in a holon do not change, but can open up new properties through a new composite. This has been working in nature for millions of years. Imagine that these molecules would first have to ask a management if they could reunite.

Reading tip: Extensive article on holacracy and sociocracy

Agile companies and holocracy

Thus, holocracy and agility have a lot in common – the former can in any case be seen as one of the agile frameworks. However, the model is still very abstract and requires some observation and use-case education. In the course of my research, I will continue to report on this at this point. The focus is on practical examples of implementation. An absolute reading tip for you is the book “Reinventing Organizations“. The author examines here how organizations have evolved over the last 50 years and at what stage we are now. I also discussed the key messages in another article and compared them to the concept of holocracy.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Robertson, B. (2015). Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World. New York: Macmillan USA.

Pfläging, N. (2014). Organization for Complexity. Munich: Redline Verlag.


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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