The “Holacracy”: A New Approach to Company Hierarchy or Nonsense?

culture_managementImagine a company where bosses do not exist. Sound crazy? At online retailer Zappos it’s now part of their competitive strategy to sustain its winning culture as the company grows.

According to a recent article featured in the Washington Post, Zappos has implemented an unusual approach called a “holacracy,” which “replaces the traditional corporate chain of command with a series of overlapping, self-governing ‘circles’.” The objective is to give employees more of a voice and keep the company from becoming too rigid or bureaucratic. Zappos has always been a leader and innovator with its culture and employer brand. As a future-focused company, it’s implementing holacracy at a time where companies are becoming cross-collaborative and abolishing traditional top-down environments.

By definition, holacratic companies are organized around the work that needs to be done instead of around the people who do it. Job titles do not exist. Expectations are clearly defined and employees perform multiple aspects of several job descriptions in order to deliver. Therefore, employees are not part of one single team, but collaborate cross-functionally within multiple ‘circles’ that perform different functions. Employees are given exponentially more exposure to their coworkers, which allows them to learn and gain new skills they may not encounter within one single team.

The article also reveals that while a holacracy may abolish the idea of a ‘traditional manager’, there is still structure and employees are still held accountable for their work. Decisions are made by lead people in each governing circle. Other employees are designated as “lead links” and have the ability to assign employees to or remove them from roles within circles—but they do not have the ability to tell them what to do.

While the overarching idea of holacracy may sound crazy, it is actually intended to empower more employees to take charge and emerge as leaders. Since April, the article cites that Zappos has moved 10 percent of its employees to this new system. It’s no easy task to move away from traditional corporate hierarchy, but Zappos certainly is on its way.

What do you think about holacracy? Do you think it’s a refreshing new approach to the workplace or total nonsense? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!



Profile image of author: Tatiana Beale

Tatiana Beale is a Senior Marketing Communications Specialist at Achievers. She is passionate about changing workplaces for the better and inspiring Employee Success™ through insightful content. Tatiana believes that employee happiness is the key to a wildly successful company. She feels lucky to be part of the unique Achievers culture and means it when she says “I love my job.”


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