45. Review: Debunking Tactical Meeting Myths

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

The habit of Educating Yourself doesn't just mean educating yourself about Holacracy's rules. It means remaining curious and skeptical. Keeping an open mind and asking yourself, “Wait, does this make sense for me?” To that end, let’s review some common assumptions about tactical meetings and see if our explanations make sense to you.

“In Holacracy, we only have governance and tactical meetings.”

No. You may need project-specific meetings, brainstorming meeting, or partner meetings that the tactical meeting doesn't replace. Holacracy separates them because each meeting has a different focus and energy. So, if you want to brainstorm something or have an informal discussion, schedule it. Holacracy only says these meetings aren't required for every organization, not that they aren't important for yours.

Check-ins are only to share our current feelings or thoughts.”

Not necessarily. You can also use another type of opening like, “Share something you are grateful for...,” or “Share something you did well last week and something you struggled with...” So if you want to mix it up, pitch your Facilitator on using a new prompt (or just use it yourself when it's your turn).

I need to show up to meetings and contribute.”

Please. Just because a meeting is scheduled, doesn’t mean you should go. Maybe you've got more important things to do. Do them. You don't need anyone's approval to miss a meeting. Let others process their own tensions (it's called trust). And if someone expected you to be there, they'll know to check with you first in the future. If someone needs you there, then let them explain why and then make your own decision.

There is something wrong with the meeting process because the meetings suck.”

Well, maybe. In the spirit of the Educating Yourself habit, we can’t ignore evolution. The challenge is that there are two kinds of problems -- there are the problems that are natural and ultimately a sign of progress, and then there are the problems that cause injury. It’s like physical exercise. Some pains are expected (e.g. muscle soreness), and others signal, “Stop! Something is wrong!” (e.g. joint pain). Knowing the difference requires some experience. So, if you hate the meetings at least be honest enough to admit it. That way we all learn something.

The process doesn’t allow discussion or feel human.”

True and not true. The process intentionally restricts irrelevant discussions (defined by keeping it grounded in roles). So, in a sense being in a tactical meeting is like being on the field actively playing a sport. While the ball is in play the players aren't chit-chatting about salaries or what they did last weekend. Conventional meetings mixed everything together, so it takes getting used to. And if you want some informal chit-chat time, great! Show up early, stay after, or schedule some partner-specific time for it.

We aren’t talking about the real issues.”

Maybe we aren’t. How would the group know if you don't tell them? Remember, you're a unique sensor for the organization. If people didn't want to hear what you had to say, you wouldn't be in the room. And if you’re so uncomfortable about speaking up that you stay silent, then that is a tension to process (though best outside the meeting). The biggest reason we don't get the help we need is because we don't ask for it.

“All of my projects should be on the project board.”

Nope. Just the ones you need to update the group on should be there. How do you know if you need to update the group? Well, take off all your projects and then let others request what they want transparency into. Circles sometimes end up with fluff because people want to share their contributions by going over everything they’re working on.

“Publicly taking meeting time to check governance shows everyone I don’t know something I should know.”

For the love of all that’s holy, no. We captured accountabilities in governance so you wouldn't have to remember. Do you get embarrassed when you check your grocery list? Of course not. Now, if you happen to be well-versed in a particular role’s accountabilities, great, but that isn’t the expectation. If you remember nothing else from this lesson, remember this rule-of-thumb, “Don’t Gov Shame."

“To bring an agenda item I should know what I need.”

False. Firstly, it’s perfectly fine to add an agenda because you feel something you can’t easily put into words. A simple way to communicate that might be, “I don’t know what I need, so I could use some help figuring it out.” Just talking something out is a perfectly valid way to use the process.

“I need to be notified when a tactical meeting is scheduled.”

No. Unlike a governance meeting in which the failure to notify a circle member may result in the outputs being erased, for a tactical not even advanced notice is needed. Which makes sense because a tactical meeting is just a fail-safe measure to ensure that you have at least that sync-up. It isn’t intended to be the answer to all of your co-operational needs.