Organization FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Holacracy?
  2. Where can I see the Temple Guardians Organization?
  3. What’s in it for me?
  4. What’s the philosophy behind Holacracy?
  5. How can I learn more about Holacracy?
  6. What do you mean by governance?
  7. Why do we need a constitution?
  8. What is Meta Decision Making?
  9. How does self-organization work?
  10. How are Roles different in Holacracy?
  11. What do Facilitators and Secretaries do?
  12. How do meetings work?
  13. What are Tensions?
  14. What are Objections?
  15. Who decides on the validity of an Objection?
  16. “Roles vs. Souls”… Objections are from Roles, not People – what??
  17. Who represents the work of the circle?
  18. What happens when roles are unfilled?
  19. How do we make sure the work gets done?
  20. What’s the difference between Holacracy and Sociocracy?
  21. What the heck do Agendas have to do with Immediacy?
  22. How do Holacracy Elections work without voting? Elections don’t sound like consensus…
  23. How have Temple Guardians modified Holacracy to work for us?
  24. Why does the Role Assignment policy choose three years as the timeframe for reelections?
  25. What happens if people don’t show up for the meeting?
  26. When can an election be called in Holacracy?

What is Holacracy?

Holacracy is a method of decentralized management and organizational governance. We distribute authority and decision-making through self-organizing and self-governing teams called Circles. The rules of the game (authority, structure, decision making, governance) are defined in a ratified constitution.  

Holacracy distributes power through a hierarchy of nested Circles (a “holarchy”). Each Circle has a defined collection of Roles whose Purpose and Accountabilities describe the ongoing activities needed to manage our work.  

Where can I see the Temple Guardians Organization?

Our structure and governance are transparent and always available to view here.

What’s in it for me? 

This structure will help you be clear about how to get more involved in supporting the Temple Guardian organization and participate in evolving the organization. There will be a lot to learn for all of us. You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What’s the philosophy behind Holacracy? 

Holacracy was created to address the fact that the traditional way of managing organizations is outdated.  Holacracy is designed for humans. Holacracy is a management practice for the modern era. It embraces our humanity, autonomy, and creative problem-solving capacities. You hear more in a video chat here.

How can I learn more about Holacracy? 

You can learn more about Holacracy on their website here

What do you mean by governance?

For some, the term “governance” might bring top-down “government,” power, and authority to mind.  In holacracy, governance is about who has power and authority – the crucial difference is that authority is distributed directly to each role, not owned by anyone “on top.”  As a Role Lead, you have the authority to take any action or make any decision to enact your Role’s Purpose or Accountabilities, as long as you don’t break a rule defined in the Constitution.  How this works in practice is detailed in the constitution in Article 4.  Governance also refers to Governance Meetings: Everyone in a circle participates in evolving the Temple Guardian organization.  In these meetings, everyone in the circle participates and has equal authority.  Read about how Governance Meetings work here.

Why do we need a constitution? 

The constitution is the written-down agreement on how we organize and make decisions in a way consistent with our principles and independent from the personal influence of individuals.   It’s the Temple Guardians’ chosen Meta Decision Making process.  The constitution was designed to allow organizations flexibility in how they work while being true to the principles of Holacracy. You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What is Meta Decision Making?

Meta Decision Making is the choice of the rules that should be applied when making decisions about some subject or issue.  Within Burning Man, we are committed that “everyone who is party to a discussion agrees to a course of action” and that “some form of guiding policy” be in place to reach a decision that works for everyone. These are extracts from Larry Harvey’s essay “Consensus, Collaboration, Hierarchy, Authority and Power.” 

How does self-organization work? 

In Holacracy, everyone participates in the evolution of the organization through Governance meetings.  In these meetings, you are encouraged to propose changes to the organization (roles, policies, changes for clarity, etc.) that you see would make the organization better.   You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

How are Roles different in Holacracy?

Traditionally, one person would have one role, where the role itself is a job description for one person’s contribution to the organization.  In Holacracy, roles are typically smaller elements of “traditional roles” so that one person may play several roles in an organization – also, one role may be filled by several people.  

When you take on a Role in holacracy, you have the authority to take any action or make any decision to enact your Role’s Purpose or Accountabilities, as long as you don’t break a rule defined in the Constitution. 

You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What do Facilitators and Secretaries do? 

Facilitators run Tactical and Governance meetings in Holacracy.  They make sure the meetings are run by the rules of holacracy to ensure that everyone is heard and decisions are made effectively.

Secretaries schedule meetings, take care of all documentation and interpret the constitution if there’s a disagreement.

Both these roles are filled by agreement of circle members, typically by a holacracy election.

You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

How do meetings work?

In Holacracy, meetings are run in a specific and disciplined way, ensuring all roles are heard, and all tensions are processed thoroughly. There are two types of meetings:

  • Tactical Meetings: These are focused on a team’s operational work. Read about how Tactical Meetings work here
  • Governance Meetings: The focus of these meetings is to modify the structure of the Circle. This is where organizational evolution happens by processing tensions one at a time. Read about how Governance Meetings work here.

What are Tensions?

In Holacracy, a “tension” is a gap you sense between what exists now and what you see is possible. It can be positive or negative. There is a detailed approach to process tensions in meetings. By processing tensions, we gradually and consistently evolve the organization. You can learn more about tensions here and hear more about this in a video chat here.

What are Objections?

In Holacracy, an objection is an expressed logical reason a proposal causes harm. There are criteria to determine a valid objection. The goal is to amend the proposal, not cause the objection and still address the proposer’s tension. It’s the objector’s responsibility to work with the proposer (supported by the Facilitator) to resolve both the tension and the objection. This is Integration. Read more about Objections here

Who decides on the validity of an Objection?

The facilitator of the meeting decides based on the criteria to determine a valid objection. You can hear more about this in a video chat here

“Roles vs. Souls”… Objections are from Roles, not People – what?? 

In Holacracy, we diligently focus on Roles vs. Souls.  Souls are the individual people who energize Roles in the organization.  When one has any objection, it must be made by a role to a role – NOT by person to person.  Any personal issue is managed through conflict resolution.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

Who represents the work of the circle? 

Each circle elects a representative to the “super-circle” (the circle that includes yours). In traditional organizations, this would be the Circle Lead – not so in Holacracy. You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What happens when roles are unfilled?

Whenever a Role in a Circle is unfilled, each Circle Lead is automatically considered a Role Lead of the unfilled Role. You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

How do we make sure the work gets done?

Holacracy represents a big shift in trust and autonomy compared to traditional organizations.  As a Role Lead, you don’t report to the Circle Lead – you are trusted to take whatever action you see as most appropriate to fulfill your Role’s purpose and accountabilities.  You also have the responsibility to communicate your actions and priorities to others when asked.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here. We discussed how roles are held to account in this video chat here.

What’s the difference between Holacracy and Sociocracy? 

They are very similar and come from the same fundamental principles of self-management and collaboration.  The key differences are in specific tactics in management and organization.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What the heck do Agendas have to do with Immediacy? 

Meeting agendas are created in the moment – not before the meeting.  This allows members to sense and raise topics as they arise.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

How do Holacracy Elections work without voting? Elections don’t sound like consensus…

The term “Election” is usually associated with voting – where the majority wins, and the minority loses.  There is no voting in Holacracy.  In Holacracy Elections, we do take polls in which everyone participates, and there is 100% transparency.  A proposal is created from the poll and is then processed to ensure objections are reviewed and integrated.  You can hear more about this in our video chats here and here.

Read the Integrative Election Process clause in the constitution here.

How have Temple Guardians modified Holacracy to work for us?

We have modified our approach to Holacracy with the Role Assignment policy. We did this to ensure that the Temple Guardian Leader and Council members are all elected.  Otherwise, in Holacracy, the Temple Guardian Leader could choose to remain indefinitely and solely appoint Council members.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

Why does the Role Assignment policy choose three years as the timeframe for reelections? 

We chose this to allow three-event cycles: one to understand the role more deeply, one to make changes, and one to see the impact of changes.  It is important to note that any Circle Member can call an election for any role at any time.  Also, there are no term limits.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

What happens if people don’t show up for the meeting? 

The meeting happens with whoever shows up – there is no quorum in Holacracy.  You may send a representative if you cannot make a meeting; this person should not already be in the meeting as they will need to represent their own perspective independently from yours.  You can hear more about this in a video chat here.

When can an election be called in Holacracy?

Any circle member can call an election within their circle at any time. You can hear more about this in a video chat here.