Controlling management models are losing space to auto-management and auto-accountability styles. How might we create collaborative, human-centred environments without negating natural hierarchies?

In recent years, I have been becoming more convinced that we are walking towards a social model that is collaborative, ecosystemic, with human-centric businesses, and people searching for something bigger than themselves, also known as “purpose”.

Centralised, Decentralised and Distributed Networks (Paul Baran 1964).

In collaborative companies that adopt a horizontal hierarchy, people feel more connected to one another, whether they are solving problems individually or in groups. Beyond personal change, this new “network society” requires new paradigms when it comes to organisational structure and management. 

Although these new practices go against traditional management, they have been generating gain within companies that have adopted them. As these models are chaotic, how can companies prepare to perpetuate them in an organised way? Would the abolishment of hierarchy be the answer? The answer is yes, but it is also no.

Hierarchy x Holarchy

According to the philosopher Ken Wilber, the term “hierarchy” became impregnated with negative meaning because people confused the two possible kinds of hierarchy – dominant hierarchies and natural hierarchies (also known as holarchies). Dominant hierarchies are based on command and control; on micromanaging and domination; they mitigate creativity and proactivity. 

In this type of hierarchy, we don’t create change visions or access our highest creative potential; we also don’t work for the wellbeing of the whole system. 

That does not mean we should despise hierarchies.

A living system, nature auto-organises itself to maintain harmony.

Nature is full of hierarchies; all of the growing processes happen collaboratively. Holistically speaking “the whole picture is bigger than the sum of its parts” – meaning that the “whole” is also the glue that keeps the parts coherently together. Therefore, the “whole” represents a deeper level of organisation when compared to the isolated parts; and the isolated parts understand that the “whole” should be more important than them.

By negating the natural hierarchy of things, we become hoarders. That’s why many organisations that have tried to be completely horizontal failed. We cannot forget that order – or verticality – is necessary; and that without it, performance, collaboration and abundance within a company will suffer.

Holacracy in companies

Holacracy started by the reassurance of creativity and individual purpose within companies, with an implicit understanding of the necessity to respect a natural order in the process of management.

This set of structures and practices was first developed by American entrepreneur Brian Robertson.

Click below to watch his talk “Holacracy: Unleash Entrepreneurship” at #AgileInIndia2019:

 

*This is a fragment of the article “Holacracia: a organização para colaboração” published on Medium in 2018, by Raoni Pereira. This version of the article has been translated, edited and adapted by Rani Ghazzaoui Luke.

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Raoni Pereira

Raoni uses the power of design to generate solutions and experiences that speak to people’s needs in our contemporary world. For the past ten years, Pereira has worked as a multidisciplinary coach, helping entrepreneurs, creatives and change-makers funnel their energy in the best way towards designing desirable futures and creating fast change. Raoni belongs to Echos’ team of Design Thinkers, and he is also a collaborator to the Echos’ blog.

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