3. Why Holacracy Differentiates Role and Soul

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Why does Holacracy put so much emphasis on the difference between roles and people?The answer is because we all do many different things — and if you don't get clear about who is doing what, all sorts of weird things can happen.Have you ever experienced lots of meetings with exhaustive discussion and few real decisions? Or, emails cc’d to everyone, often for unclear reasons?These painfully familiar symptoms point to a common cause — lack of clarity. When we’re not clear who needs to be involved in a decision or who has the authority to make it, we often default to getting everyone involved.In Holacracy, a role is like a uniform. You can put it on and take it off as needed, to help gain perspective on whether or not your role “cares” about a particular decision. In organizations where we don't differentiate the individual from the role, it can feel like having your uniform glued to your body.


The solution is organizational clarity. In the

, we define roles that are designed to serve the purpose of the organization. We can trust and use those definitions day-to-day to help guide our decisions.

Organizational clarity frees each of us to be a good leader when we’re filling a role and need to balance input with speed. It frees us to be a good follower when another role owns a decision and shuts down discussion to make a judgment call.

Hopefully, the first habit gave you a chance to see where referencing roles (and then checking governance) can actually speed things up.

Here are some more suggestions for how to bring clarity to your day-to-day work:

  • When a discussion seems to take forever, ask: “Is it clear which role holds the authority to make this decision?When lots of people are pulled into a meeting (or email thread), ask: “Which roles need to be involved and why?

By practicing the habit of naming the role that feels the tension, you get into the habit of asking if your roles should be involved in a meeting, or cc'd in an email. You also practice asking yourself if a problem is something that one of your roles cares about, or if it’s something (salary, career development, etc.) you need to deal with as a person. We will be returning to some variations of this habit in the future, so for now, just do your best.