Reinventing Organisations: Next steps towards ‘going teal’ at Hanno

I finally got around to reading Reinventing Organizations a month or two ago, having had it on my reading list since it was first released. And of course, now I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

My overwhelming reaction upon reading it has been pretty much “Wow, that’s just what we’re trying to do at Hanno, but this is the first time anyone has put all of these disconnected thoughts into words.”

As it has trickled through the team, I know that many of us are feeling exactly the same way. It’s giving us a lot of confidence about where our next steps need to be, to evolve Hanno to be where we want it to be.

Even before we started reading the book, we were pushing ahead very aggressively with plans to get ‘flatter’ and also to become a stronger and better functioning organisation But finally having a concrete idea of what it means to “go teal”, along with all of the case studies and explanations in Reinventing Organizations gives this whole process a big boost and suddenly introduces many concrete next steps to us.

We’re already heading towards self-management

Over the past 6 months, we’ve already spent a lot of time focusing on two very closely related goals:

  • Increasing our bus count: Removing the need for me to be a gatekeeper in any decisions. Making sure that more than 1 person is capable of performing any task within Hanno.
  • Delegating decision-making ability: Giving shipmates as much power and autonomy as possible, so that they are able to move Hanno in the direction they feel it needs to move.

But now, we have a challenge on our hands

Those goals have, until now, been more general things which have just involved a general push towards constantly being a bit better at this whole self-managing thing. But the upcoming review of our open salary formula, which has been scheduled for a while to be complete before Q3 of this year begins, presents our first big challenge.

On this one, it feels almost inevitable that no solution other than allowing shipmates to determine their own salaries, will fit within our ambition to become totally self-managing. And no formula, no matter how complex, is ever going to be totally perfect.

That situation demands that we take a bigger step, and come up with an accountability process of some sort, which will allow us to set these salaries.

So what’s up next?

I think the most important thing is to put in place the structure and guidelines we need, in order to begin the transition to deeper self-management without complete chaos ensuing. In the next few weeks, I’m going to be working on:

  1. Documenting the principles of self-management. Basic guidelines for how decision making happens, and a few fundamental rules for the whole system (these will have to be very simple and clear, of course). Perhaps a lightweight constitution (as Holacracy suggest, but ours would be way shorter) to give a definite set of initial rules for decision-making and advisory, and also to outline a zero tolerance policy for anyone who is dishonest and abuses the trust placed in them.
  2. Defining the salary setting process. Just a solid first iteration to carry us through the first salary review process and begin the transition. It’s not like salaries would radically change at this point, so we shouldn’t be putting tons of pressure on our new system. How should salaries and compensation be proposed by shipmates? How will the ‘advisory process’ work (as described in Reinventing Organizations), when it comes to periodic review of salaries?
  3. Documenting a simple procedure for day-to-day decision making. Once the slightly more complex salary process is figured out, we’ll have a good chunk of the foundation in place. We’ll then begin to push decision-making authority throughout the team by defining and writing down what’s involved in the day-to-day advisory and decision-making process, and see how this works out. This will include things such as how to consult your shipmates on a decision you want to make, and what grounds they will have for blocking that decision (very few). It’ll be more lightweight, but hopefully flexible enough to get us started, and protect us from major harm.

By the end of that, we should have a simple procedure in place, that will be enough for now. I’m sure I’ll end up spending a lot of time onboarding everyone onto this, and making sure people are totally comfortable with it. It’s going to be a challenge, but definitely a worthwhile one to persevere with.

And then we’ll be able to move on to the more ambitious stuff

We’ll then have to put more of the nuts and bolts of a better operating system into place. This is a bit more complex, so there’s no need to fully understand all of it right now. But roughly speaking, it’ll probably involve…

First, defining and assigning roles. We can borrow another important Holacracy concept and work to define roles needed within the team, so that people are able to ‘own’ primary responsibility for different areas of Hanno. These roles aren’t job titles, but rather, things that individual shipmates will take responsibility for. Since there’s no single person overseeing everything, this will help to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. Roles can shift often, and new roles can be created as needed.

  1. We’ll need to have a role-gathering workshop/discussion (most likely as recommended by Blinkist in their lightweight ‘Blincracy’ version of Holacracy)
  2. We’ll then need to allocate those roles amongst the team.
  3. And we’ll need to record the roles in Asana or the Playbook wiki. We probably won’t go as far as to use Glassfrog yet, because we won’t be doing full Holacracy.

Introducing more formal systems, as we identify them. At this point, we should have a ‘light’ version of Holacracy in place and as we feel the need for more structure, we can figure out which formal operating system would be best for us. Eventually, we are going to need more formal rules in order to prevent a power vacuum from occurring in their absence, into which certain personalities will begin to grab decision-making authority. We will have a better idea of how to gradually introduce certain elements of Holacracy (or other systems) such as governance meetings, as we become more familiar with the system.

This is a big step forwards for all of us, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty. I’m sure that I’m making plenty of false assumptions about certain things, in particular some elements of Holacracy. I’m definitely going to be corrected on these by myself (as I learn more) and also other people who are better informed. So this is all subject to change.

But this should hopefully form the basis of a plan and a more definite starting point. As we move along the road, we’ll be better informed and can make the changes to our course, as we need them.

Let’s go teal!