Holacracy: A Distributed Authority System to speed up your Decision Making

Interview of Mike Foulds, B&Q Brands Director, who has decided to roll Holacracy out with iGi Partners for his department

Transcription of the video:

Mike Foulds: If you don’t know who has the right to take a decision you do get anarchy or you get chaos because no one therefore takes any decisions…

I’m Mike Foulds, I work in the Brand Team at Kingfisher.

I was actually part of one of the first teams that was introduced [to Holacracy] at Kingfisher.

One of our directors, who is a big believer in Holacracy, thought it would be a great way for us to try to speed up our decision making process.

We had some very talented people in our teams but we didn’t necessarily
know how to get the best out of them because it wasn’t clear what decisions they could take and they couldn’t. Their often block was they waited for authorisation, or validation from the right manager

And there are an awful lot of people with very detailed, difficult to understand roles. And it made our decision making process quite complicated and therefore quite slow.
So we wanted something that was very clear, that would allow people to take
decisions autonomously and really speed the all business up.

What Holacracy is giving us is a very clear structure so everybody’s role is very clearly set out, it’s accessible, it’s visible so you not only are very clear about what you’re supposed to do but you can also see what each of your colleagues does and also know who has the absolute decision making authority on any specific point.

What I can see and what everyone who’s working in Holacracy can see, is that we are able to take decisions far more quickly. So previously a project which might have taken months to deliver can be delivered in weeks and people are able to take decisions far more swiftly because they’re confident that they have the decision-making authority themselves.
There’s no need for them to try and meet with three or four different people in order to take that decision.
What that means is that people have really been given the opportunity to show how good they are and to show what expertise they’ve got.
And because of that, we’ve been allowed to identify some real stars in our team that we maybe didn’t know about in the past so we maybe wouldn’t have found through a traditional system.

I have people in my team, who know more about PR (Public Relations) or more about Marketing, than I’ll never know.
In a old hierarchy system of management, potentially they would come to me for approval on decisions they wanted to take about Marketing or about PR.
In this system, they have explicit authority to take whatever decision they want which will act in the best interest of the company which will deliver the purpose of their roles.

What we’ve done is, we just made people really clear on what their role is and what they’re there to deliver. The way in which they choose to do that is entirely up to them. But rather than being freelance, it’s more
this idea of delegation in a truer sense.
We agree on what the objective is, we agree on what the purpose is, and we agree on whatever regularly accuring accountabilities might exist. But after that we trust our people to deliver that and do their job in the best way they can, there’s no need for them to check the way in which they’re doing it.

In a old hierarchical management system, if your boss asks you to do something, you would do it because he or she was your boss.
In this organisation because we don’t have that idea of a boss or a manager. If somebody asks me to take on a task which has got nothing to do with the role that I’m doing and that person will be much better served asking someone else in the team to do it, it’s absolutely right that I should say:
“I’m not the right person to talk to about this, please go and talk to whoever it is”.
I don’t see that as people refusing to do the job, it’s more a question of directing your request or directing activity to the person who’s best suited to deliver.

Initially when we started to roll this out with the few pilot teams, in a few pilot group within the organisation, we got a lot of help, we got a lot of external help from iGi Partners who came in and not only trained us, but also facilitate us on our first meetings so we could get used to the process.
Now as we roll this out more and more throughout the business, we’ve actually started increasing the number of people who are practicing Holacracy and those who have more experience, can now start training those people who was just starting.
And we are slowly but surely becoming self sufficient and we’ll roll this out entirely internally.

For me, the major benefit of Holacracy is clarity.
I don’t understand why any company wouldn’t want to roll Holacracy out, it makes the working environment more structured, more clear and it makes it easier to do your job.

That surely is the goal of any company.
“What I can see and what everyone who’s working in Holacracy can see, is that we are able to take decisions far more quickly.”
- Mike Foulds
Written by:
Mike Foulds's picture
Mike Foulds
Mike Foulds is Brand Manager at B&Q (UK).
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