Holacracy began with a question: what gets in the way of people working together as effectively as possible? in the most efficient way possible?
In 2001, Brian Robertson left a stable job and founded Ternary Software, a start-up software company that became a laboratory for experiments designed to answer that question. The principles and rules encoded in the Holacracy Constitution reflect learning from the subsequent years of trial and error.
The experimentation began with a deep dive into the realm of organizational culture, values, and consciousness. As the company grew, it confronted structural, process, and decision-making tensions that culture alone could not resolve. In 2003, in response to these challenges, the company began implementing the principles and practices of agile software development, the lean movement, sociocracy, and several other promising methods and models. Each of these explorations both yielded insight and revealed limitations. The method that Ternary was developing, iterated with on-the-ground feedback from everyone in the company, began emerging and crystallizing into something that allowed for greater autonomy, purpose-orientation, rapid decision-making, and evolution.
In early 2007, the experimentation shifted from Ternary to HolacracyOne, a new organization formed by Robertson and entrepreneur Tom Thomison to further mature Holacracy and package it for use by other organizations. Through training and implementation services, HolacracyOne began to help companies to learn and apply Holacracy to transform their operations. In 2009, HolacracyOne formalized the method into the first Holacracy Constitution and over the next several years, Holacracy’s development accelerated, as its core rule set evolved into a version 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, and 4.0. Versions 3.0 and 4.0 reflect insight gleaned from the integration of David Allen’s Getting Things Done method.
By its very nature, Holacracy responds with agility to the experience of practitioners. The Holacracy Constitution continues to evolve, driven by on-the-ground tensions within HolacracyOne and its client companies. And as long as there are companies interested in using Holacracy, tensions about its core rules will continue to surface and fuel its evolutionary journey.
For a long-form post on the History of Holacracy written by Brian Robertson, read this story on Medium: History of Holacracy.