Facilitating a Holacracy Tactical Meeting

The meeting card will help you on the fly, but to get good at facilitating tactical meetings, you’ll need to know the following distinctions.

1. Use the tactical meeting card. As Facilitator, you can read aloud the description provided on the card to frame each step; e.g. “The rules for the Check-In Round are… ‘One at a time. Call out distractions; get present. No discussion.’”

2. Explain “timeouts.” The best way to understand the meeting process is to experience how it works. So, encourage participants to request a “timeout” to questions, because as Facilitator you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) explain everything up front.

3. Explain what the meeting isn’t. Unlike a typical meeting, this space is only for the roles in this circle to process their current tensions. It isn’t a space to build team spirit, process personal tensions, or loosely discuss topics. While those things may be necessary or desired, we do them outside of the tactical space.

  • Framing: “One at a time. Call out distractions; get present. No discussion.”
  • Start with yourself and role-model what a good check-in sounds like.
  • [After everyone has done their check-in:] “We’re about to launch into what we call the ‘preamble steps’ — first checklist, then metrics, and then projects. They’re about surfacing data, which may then generate some tensions to resolve during the triage step.”

NOTE: Any requests for action (explicit or implicit) should be redirected to the triage step (e.g. “Let’s add that as an agenda item for you.”)

  • Framing: “The Checklist Review is for surfacing data and providing visibility about whether recurring actions are getting done.”
  • “As facilitator, I’ll read the checklist of recurring actions to each role and then each role can respond by saying either ‘check’ (mean you completed it for the previous period) or ‘no check’ if you didn’t.

NOTE: If asked: Any circle member can request checklist items added to the list as long as they are already accountabilities of the role. No new expectations.

  • Framing: “Metrics Review is for surfacing a slightly different type of data. Anything quantitative about the heath and success of the circle.”
  • Allowed: Clarifying questions about the data.
  • Disallowed: Opinions, requests for action, or discussion. Encourage participants to bring any of these to triage.

  • Framing: “Projects are outcomes a role is working toward. One huge project may have several sub-projects — each is reported by the role listed.”
  • “I’ll read each project and ask the role-filler “any updates?” You have two choices, you can either say “no update” (meaning that since the last time that we met, nothing has changed) or you can share just what’s changed. Not the whole history of the project, but just what’s changed since the last time that we had a tactical meeting.”
  • “Again, clarifying questions only. If you want a discussion, add an agenda item.”

NOTE: Clarify that the “preamble” is now complete and you are shifting into triage.

  • We build an agenda on the fly to remove any current barriers to getting work done.
  • Solicit agenda items from the group by saying, “For agenda items, just give the Secretary one or two words for you as a reminder.” Cut it off if someone starts going into details; e.g. “[interrupting…] OK, so how about ‘New Venues?’”
  • If the group doesn’t generate many items, prompt them with the following phrases: “Remember, anything can be an agenda item,” or “To generate some more agenda items, ask yourself, ‘Did everything work perfectly last week?’”
  • Once it seems like you’ve got them all, remind them that they can add new items during the meeting.
  • Do a quick calculation of the time remaining divided by the number of agenda items (e.g. 1 hour left with 7 items, so that’s about 8–9 minutes an item. Should be plenty.) Remember to adjust your estimates as you go, but you only need to share it with the group if you’re concerned you won’t have time to get to them all.
  • Finally, tell the group that as facilitator you have the authority to select the order of agenda items. Then solicit information from the group depending on the circumstance. For example, “I want to make sure we get to any burning or important issues — anyone have an item they want me to prioritize?” or, “Let’s start with a simple one…how about ‘Lunch Time?’” Remember, you can reorder at any time.

  • Start each item by identifying the agenda item owner (AIO) and asking, “What do you need?
  • Remember, no matter what happens, you are just listening for the AIO’srequest. If they say, “Yeah, I’d like to request a project…” then their request is obvious. But if they just start talking (which they should be allowed to do), just listen for what they’re trying to ask for.
  • A simple version of how to triage any tactical item is provided on this post: Process for Triaging a Tactical Item.
  • There is a rather comprehensive list of important phrases to use when triaging a tactical item: Holacracy® Tactical Meeting Phrase Book.
  • For simplicity, remember you can always reference the back of the meeting card with the 5 pathways: request next action, request project, request information, request space to share, and try to set an expectation.
  • Remember, the facilitator doesn’t need to resolve the tension— they just need to create space for the AIO to process their tension.
  • To close an item, always ask the AIO, “Did you get what you needed?

Read “Introducing the Holacracy Practitioner Guide” to find more articles.