The Holacracy constitution is like a rulebook for a game. The game of work. But how do you know when you’re playing the game and when you’re not? There’s no whistle. No uniforms. So, before we even get to the rules, we need to clarify when we’re “playing” and when we’re not. After all, if you’re playing soccer you can push and shove people, but if you do that on your way home you could be arrested for assault.
So, we need two things: 1) a clear default assumption about which context or space we will operate in; and 2) ways to clarify when we’re playing the game. So, first use the default assumption: “We are just people unless otherwise specified.” Because when doing the work of the organization, we use the rules. We talk about roles. We request projects. We look at accountabilities. But what about when you’re in the breakroom? Or walking down the hall? What roles are you in then? You’re probably not in any role. And that’s the important point here.
Now, let’s say you actually want to use the rules of Holacracy. Well, you need a way to clarify your expectation. You can do that in a few ways:
And remember, “No,” is always an acceptable answer. Holacracy gives you the ability to shift into and out of role-space whenever it’s needed. And the only time it’s needed is when you’re making decisions or taking action on behalf of the organization. Otherwise, let’s just be human.
Practicing Holacracy is a group effort. I help you — you help me. So, what happens when the former manager starts mandating things? They just expect things to happen. Well, the truth is, they’re 100% allowed to do that. It’s not great, but hey, we’re all imperfect. Since you know you don’t have to comply — there’s no issue. So, if you’re going along with their demands, without asking “Is that an official Lead Link prioritization, or are you just making a pitch for me to consider?” then the only person you should be worried about is you. It isn’t pushing back — it’s getting clarity. And it’s an extraordinarily supportive thing to do.
Now, of course it’s great if former power-holders practice good habits like saying, “I don’t have the authority to decide that for you,” or, “I’d like to pitchyou on revising the report…” Yes, that is a great habit. Yes, it helps. But we can’t expect everyone to be perfect all the time. Therefore, the only strategy that makes sense is, “It’s always up to me to get the clarity I need.”
Meaning, when I am communicating something, I should provide whatever clarity I think relevant — after all, I want to make it easy for others to respond to my messages (like mailing a letter to the right address). But I can’t possibly expect to always get it right. So, help me by asking clarifying questions. I want the right to be an imperfect human. If you don’t know what role I’m speaking from, or which role of yours I’m engaging, then for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-and-pure-in-the-world, please ask me.