46. Review: Debunking Governance Meeting Myths

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

As you know, the Habit Support program will soon end and you’re already in the final stretch. We decided to make the last habit, “Educate Yourself,” to remind you that just because this program is ending, it doesn’t mean your education (or support for it) will stop.

Holacracy takes time to learn and no one can do it for you. The point of the habit is to learn from those around you, but also trust your own inner skeptic. Holacracy is nothing more than the rules in the Constitution, so no matter how convincing an answer, you can always verify it for yourself.

Of course, some answers aren’t there, but the rules do provide a way for you to figure it out for yourself. Which is why it’s critically important to maximize the governance meeting process because that is how each organization creates and evolves its own unique structure. So, let’s revisit some governance meeting myths and make sure we’re all on the same page.

“The meeting process is too rigid.”

True and not true. It’s definitely more rigid than most meetings (e.g. structured steps, who can talk, etc.), but we’d challenge the belief that it's too rigid. The rigidity exists because the bar is very high because it’s the only space where you define the authorities you’ll use the rest of the time. That’s serious business.

Second, governance meetings don’t happen every week. With limited time to make these updates, and with everyone taking time out of their day, we need to focus on the task at hand.

Think of it this way, if you were paying an expensive lawyer by the hour, you probably wouldn’t want to spend time casually chatting either. And wasted time doing anything we don’t need to, is potentially another change we could have made. Working with the structure rather than fighting it means you’ll get more processed more quickly, which could mean = meeting ends early = more casual chat time.

“Governance is a place to work on solutions.”

No. Governance is the place to process tensions. That distinction may seem pedantic, but if your meetings are low on agenda items, some people may be assuming they can only bring an item if they already have a solution in mind. Not true. Just bring up an issue and lean on the process (and your fellow circle members) to work it out for you.

Here are some prompts to generate agenda items (otherwise we’ll assume everything worked perfectly in the past month):

• Want something done in a particular way?

• Does someone keep doing things that impact your work and make it harder?

• Do you need people to stop doing something?

• I wish I knew who made the final decision on...

• I wish someone was paying more attention to...

• I wish I didn’t have to think about...

• We keep having the same problem and it’s not getting solved.

So, don’t think of governance as a place to propose solutions, think of it as a place to process tension. Note: This is why it’s more important to record what happened (i.e. the tension) rather than what change you’d propose. That is, instead of writing down, “Propose new accountability for Marketing,” write, “Customer’s social media questions often go unanswered.”

“The Reaction Round is where I help the proposer.”

Nope. Well, you can use them for that, but reactions are more for you to gather your thoughts, not influence the proposer. The reason is because the process needs the proposer to stay grounded in their own tension, not worry about integrating tensions felt by others. And if anyone thinks the proposal causes harm for any reason, they need to raise an objection.

What often happens is that circle members collectively (and unconsciously) make a bargain to avoid causing and raising objections. When this happens, the Reaction Round (and therefore Amend & Clarify) become an implicit and attractive objection-workaround. The implicit expectations being:

1) Proposer should be paying attention to reactions;

2) Reactors should be trying to help proposer. Nope. Not true.

The Reaction Round is really for reactors to call out what has their attention, get clear, and figure out whether or not they’ll have an objection. They needn’t filter themselves. They aren’t expected to help the proposer. It’s their space -- don’t give them a job to do. (Sure, some people may do it and may do it well, but don’t make it an expectation.) Everyone has the right to their own experience. Allow the proposer the right to take a mental vacation and ignore any and all reactions, and all reactors the right to speak their experience.