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