Holacracy supports the journey to Teal

By Dorothee Bornath and Gertraud Wegst for Enlivening Edge

For more than 4 years now, Die Wertschätzer (The Appreciators) Coaching, Training and Consulting organization has used the Holacracy® “operating system.” Some people have said using Holacracy ignores the “wholeness” aspect of Teal. This is not our experience.

At the beginning

We resisted the strict formats. They seemed to reduce sharing and free discussions. And we were unsure about what was permissible in which meeting format. Yes, Holacracy IS challenging, at first.

Brian Robertson acknowledged this when he said “Slow down to speed up!” Like any new skill (like typewriting,) it’s strange at first, and slower. But, with perseverance, it becomes natural, and offers new levels of performance.

We have been through this. And now we are “writing blindly with ten fingers” with pleasure. We now experience benefits in focus and efficiency. Our advice? “Slow down.” Patience is rewarded.


Holacracy works for us. Best of all is the ease with which we develop goals and actions.

And it fits our culture of appreciation. The respect we share is well-anchored now. For example, the consent principle[1] and dynamic steering[2] underpin our decision processes. They are both complex and agile. They encourage acceptance of both responsibility and potential.

What serves us grows; what hinders us ceases. The best possible outcomes unfold continuously.

A pleasing result for us is the end of ceaseless discussion. We now enjoy relaxed and fruitful meetings.

We don’t need permission from others to act. Each can act independently, secure in shared purpose. Because this was created jointly, we now rely on each other’s decisions.

We are each responsible for the tensions that arise. Knowing everybody is aligned with purpose allows us to appreciate the tensions. They deepen cooperation. They create “friction gains.”

Disagreements aren’t a problem, as roles and accountabilities are jointly developed.

Work is not subject to personal preferences, because we have learned to distinguish them from work-related tensions. We trust the process of the circles where everyone has a turn to make his/her voice heard.

If we feel a loss of interpersonal exchange, we note this as a tension. Coherent solutions follow.

The consent principle supports flexibility, transparency, positive experience, shared goals, and a trusting team culture.

Structural elements for the three breakthroughs of Teal

All three “Teal” breakthroughs – Wholeness, Evolutionary Purpose, and Self-Management (see Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations) – are anchored in in holacratic practice.  .                                                                                                                                                   


“Check-in” to start each meeting

During the starting round, everyone shows up in their actual being. We acknowledge individual conditions without disturbing our work.

The “Tension” Principle

A tension is defined as a person’s felt sense that there is a gap between the current reality and a potential future.

People and their tensions are sensors for the organization. Each has access to unique information.

Tensions are welcome

Thus, all tensions are valuable because they highlight possibility. Organizational tensions are distinguished from personal preferences. All work-related tensions are handled via Holacracy.

The tension principle is very appreciative! Individual perceptions are valuable. Any shared tension (a notice that something is not serving us,) will be integrated into a suggested solution.

Circle communication

Communication in the meetings is ritualized; each of us speaks in turn. Each voice and tension is equally important. This appreciation of individuals grants space for all, and relaxes us.

Reaction rounds

During decision-making, there is the “reaction round.” Each person shares reactions to the proposal, one at a time.

All thoughts are expressed. All emotions are valued. All benefit.

“One tension at a time”

Each tension is processed to a solution or a next step. Every perspective is appreciated.

Integrative Decision-Making

This maximizes creativity and decision-making. All are involved. Each has the opportunity to offer solutions.

Integrative Election

Integrative elections show appreciation “in action.” All candidates hear the potential others see in them. Acknowledgment of the elected person can be felt.

Evolutionary Purpose

Purpose of the organization

A holacratic organization knows its purpose. It is at the heart of everything that happens. It informs decisions on all levels.

The questions “What has this organization to offer to the world?” and “What does the world want from the organization?” spark the evolution of purpose.


Dynamic Governance and consent instead of consensus

The focus is practical. Solutions need not be “perfect.” This reduces the time normally squandered in conflicts, or over fears.

All are involved via their role, not their mood. This encourages pragmatism and allows space for views on the shared, the common, and the essential.

By including all perspectives, the maximum information is harvested via animated participation.

Organizing in circles

Each circle has the authority to self-organize to best achieve its goals. Each circle has a purpose, and the power to assign roles and accountabilities.


Holacracy meetings give each member the chance to initiate change. Concerns cannot be blocked. The meeting process ensures solution-oriented processing – without long-winded group discussions.

All meetings are facilitated

A facilitator holds the space, clear and focused, as defined in holacratic principles. This promotes relaxation and clarity for everyone. The facilitator is elected via consent, and enjoys the approval of the circle.

All aspects

Thus all aspects of Wholeness, Purpose and Self-Management can be included here, too.

The role of tensions is important, again and again. Using a holacratic approach, they promote continuous development of the organization via meaningful action.

Whilst this is an incomplete look at our learning process, we are pleased to share our experience with you.

[1] Dynamic Steering is based on experiment and adapt, where you hold an aim in mind, stay present, get real data, and adjust.

[2] Decision making by consent means that no-one has any objections according to very clear criteria for what counts as objections.

Dorothee Bornath Erfolgreich in stürmischen Zeiten – der Experience-Event für Erfolg durch Wertschätzung. 21.09.2013 in Bad Homburg. Foto: Rolf K. WegstDorothee Bornath Holacracy practitioner + Sociocracy training, Coach, Appreciative Inquiry practitioner + trainer and facilitator of large group interventions in organisations and public participation. Created together with Gertraud and other colleagues Die Wertschätzer (The Appreciators) – Coaching, Training, Consulting – with an AI process. Lead Link of Die Wertschätzer

E-Mail [email protected]   Phone +49 177 5417216

GertraudGertraud Wegst  Appreciative Inquiry practitioner + trainer, Master Coach and contributor to Reinventing Organizations Wiki and Teal for Startups group.
Led a dietetic centre for binge eaters, 4 nursing homes with 600 tenants with staff from more than 10 different countries and was Practice Leader Germany of an international management consulting firm. Lead Link of Customer Enrollment Circle
E-mail  [email protected]   Phone +49 170 5214080


Die Wertschätzer is a network of coaches, trainers and Appreciative Inquiry practitioners. We promote “appreciation” within people and organizations, and support them in their evolution.
www.wertschaetzer.com (www.theappreciators.com)

Read more in:
Reinventing Organizations
, Frédéric Laloux http://www.reinventingorganizations.com 
Constitution 4.1, Holacracy One http://www.holacracy.org/constitution


  1. I’ve been searching for a pattern in all these approaches as Teal, Holacracy, SCRUM to explain how self-management teams can lead businesses grow sustainably.

    Studying a bit of work coordination mechanisms (Mintzberg), it seems to me possible to notice that all these forms use mutual adjustment as the main coordination mechanism. But both Laloux as Mintzberg would not expect that mutual adjustment could reach large numbers of people.

    So I’ve been thinking that there may be another coordination mechanism that has enabled mutual adjustment becomes more organized and scalable. I think there is a sort of standardization of communication that directs the communication between people and organizes the mutual adjustment. Something like if you make people communicate, they will find themselves what should be done and how it should be done.

    To be effective, it seems that this communication has to direct people to think of three different perspectives: functional (how to do), market (what to do) and strategic (improvements and purpose).

    I think there is something like that in all these approaches.

    1. Thank you Mario,

      for your insights. And I am not sure if mutual adjustment is exactly the equivalent to dynamic steering. For me it occurs that there is that collective wisdom that listens into the collective purpose etc. And there is this individual – we could say entrepreneurial – spirit, inspiration, action that is only stopped and adjusted, if there is any cause that it will set us back or harm us as organization. And you are right that a structured communication is key. In Holacracy the perspectives are: strategic (in which way do we want to serve the purpose, structural (Governance), and tactical to get what you need and find a good new step for action.

  2. Wonderful to read about this topic from the perspective of practitioners at an org that has been operating with Holacracy for a relatively long time. I was introduced about 6 months ago, and I am curious about the relationship between attendance and wholeness at each type of Holacracy meeting. In the spirit of wholeness, when is it necessary to be present at a meeting? Are there times when it is not appropriate or necessary to be at governance or tactical meetings? For special issues meetings, is it most common to issue the invitation/invite input and see who feels called to attend?

    1. Hi Jenna,
      Thank you for your great feedback and your question.
      For any meeting form, we do not force the attendance of anyone. I think this is even a principle. If people want to have all on board then they might write an e-mail to say so or ask the scribe to invite this way.
      And speaking of wholeness, people have circumstances that don’t allow a regular attendance (illness, baby born…or other valid causes) we respect that and have the fundamental assumption that aligned in a shared purpose everybody is freely and gladly contributing to the whole such that everything gets done. It is a matter of being in communication.
      Actually we see the attendance as a felt measure where the energy is. And whoever is there is the right person. We had meetings with only 2 people that were very effective and leading forward. And sometimes everybody is there and it is a lukewarm meeting. Today as an example, we had 12 topics and within minutes each topic got what it needed and next, very clear, very effective – this is fun to facilitate and to participate. The more vibrant the energy in the organization is the more people show up and contribute. We are all equally trained as facilitator, such that everyone can jump in (as I did today), if the elected facilitator is absent. And trained as participants as well such that we are clear and focused on the meeting structure and on one tension at a time. And if anyone feels a tension with the attendance he/she will address it in and outside of the meeting form.
      Maybe I should mention that we are living in and working from different areas of Germany and Switzerland. So we don’t meet in person and have our meetings in telephone conferences as we work mostly over the phone, too.
      And it is crucial to have a very good transparent reporting structure which we do. One of our colleagues created this software, a platform where everything is in one place: circles with each the roles, purposes, strategies, checklists, measures, projects, and minutes of each and every meeting of any kind. This is now in the process to be further developed such that it can be used also for other consent oriented structures. http://consent.works

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