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Filtering by Tag: Holacracy

Reinventing Fronteer

Anna Swinkels

Fronteer embraced Holacracy – but not overnight

Fronteer – a 20-strong strategy agency focusing on positive impact – embarked on an ambitious journey in 2016. We felt there was a need for change.

Were we a perfect company? No. Not at all
We found out that not all was great at the Fronteer. There was a lack of trust in the company. Management and the rest of the team felt disconnected from each other. People complained about.. almost everything. All in all: we sounded like a normal company. We could have continued the way we worked. But we did not want to. We felt we could do more, and work better, we could be nicer, and more honest. We could achieve much better results. We could be a much better team.

Organic process
The way we approach it proved to be a cornerstone of our future way of working. We did it organically. We designed a four-step approach to finding out what was wrong exactly, and where we the answer might lie. People automatically formed groups based on shared interest, a timeline was made and sessions were organized. Progress was made. By itself almost. Like magic. We used co-creation as we advise our clients to do.

Reinventing Fronteer
Firstly, we decided to open the can of worms and get all negative experiences out in the open. We called it the ‘museum of old sentiments’. During a session we collected all our input and literally hung it on the walls, we also visited the art pieces and discussed them. We highlighted what we wanted to solve going forward.
Secondly, we dove deep into ourselves. We focused on each individual unique personality and created an understanding of each other’s weaknesses and strengths.
Thirdly, we used one of our own tools called Parallel Perspectives and visited inspiring companies who already had a rather fresh way of working. We learned about self-managing teams, Holacracy and about purpose-driven organizations. This tremendously triggered our own thinking.
Lastly, we created the ‘ultimate pirate ship’ and redesigned Fronteer, from the ground up. We felt we needed a clear purpose, an organization built on trust and a model in which anyone can thrive based on his talents. In order to make our lives’ easier we decided to take the ultimate step: we became a holacratic organization and signed the constitution. There was no way back.

In a nutshell: Holacracy is a system in which you organize work based on personal preferences and ‘tensions’. It is holistic and autocratic. If no-one feels the need to solve a problem or capture an opportunity, the work simply won’t be done. Everybody fulfills multiple roles in multiple circles, who all belong to an ever-changing system. People can switch roles, and redesign the system. One of the most important rules is: take the Ferrari. Just do what you think it needed. It is more difficult to stop someone than to execute a new idea.

Sounds difficult to implement? Yes, it is, at first. is it a serious investment? For sure. Worth it? Yes! There is no way I am going back to the old Fronteer.

by Martijn Pater

Bullfrog: attention points in GlassFrog

Pieter Wijkstra

If you practice self-organization, you'll recognize that allocating time across responsibilities can be challenging. Whether for your roles or other roles in the circle, having guidelines on how much time to spend on ongoing duties can help divide time and set priorities. This blog introduces a solution to organize this as well as a software tool to support it. 

Little over a year ago we supported The Mobile Company, an Amsterdam based developer of mobile apps, in implementing Holacracy. They are picking up speed, a testimony of which is an in-house developed app that connects to GlassFrog. One of the tensions TMC wanted to process is the allocation of resources. We shared the concept of 'Attention Points' which allows Lead Links to allocate attention points to roles, acting as a guideline on how much 'effort' Partners should spend on each role. See below example (part of OB governance) of such a policy.

The TMC tool connects to the Glassfrog API to download all People, Circles, and Roles. A web interface allows logged in users to administer and review Attention Points per RoleFiller and Sub-Circle. As GlassFrog does not foresee in this functionality, and manual administration is cumbersome, this tool is the perfect solution. The tool is available from GitHub where installation instructions are also listed.

OrganizationBuilders Attention Points policy

This policy defines a new type of currency for the organization, called "Attention Points" (or AP's for short). Attention Points will ultimately get allocated to a role, to "fund" the role with partner attention. A role allocated 100 Attention Points indicates the ideal attention for that role equals one full-focus partner in total; 200 AP's means the ideal attention is that of two full-focus partners, while 50 means the ideal is half of a full-focus partner's attention. 1 point is equivalent to roughly 1-2 hours per month.

No partner may dedicate more focus to a role on a sustained, ongoing basis than is called for by the allocated Attention Points and is requested to signal the difference to the circle's Lead Link. 

Only the Lead Link of the circle adopting this policy may create new Attention Points, and once created they become a resource of the circle, similar to a cash budget. The partner or role that owns/controls Attention Points may allocate them to a role to fund desired attention within the role or may transfer them to another partner or role to so allocate. Once allocated to a role/circle, Attention Points may be unallocated and reallocated by whatever role/partner allocated them in the first place.

How Lead Links lead

Pieter Wijkstra

A Circle’s Lead Link inherits the Purpose and any Accountabilities on the Circle itself, and controls any Domains defined on the Circle, just as if the Circle were only a Role and the Lead Link filled that Role.
— Holacracy Constitution 4.1, article 2.2.1


Seen from above, the Lead Link is the person to whom a Circle assigns a set of accountabilities for him/her to organize. In this context, organizing means assigning roles: the Lead Link is the only one in the Circle who can assign roles. The Lead Link can do so at his discretion.

In practice

A Lead Link is the closest you can get to a traditional manager in Holacracy. He behaves similarly to a traditional manager in many things:

  • Establishing performance metrics

  • Maximising Circle performance

  • Monitoring Circle member performance

  • Defining Circle strategies

However, a Lead Link has only two unique tools to help him. First, he can reshuffle Role assignments if he believes moving Roles between team members will improve performance. Second, he can publish Strategies which serve as a guideline for each Circle member in prioritizing work. Other than that, the Lead Link can use the tactical and governance process just like any other team member may. 

Filling a Lead Link Role is hardly ever a full-time job; usually, a Lead Link fulfills one or more 'regular' Roles in the Circle too, placing him far more in the midst of the team rather than above. 

Additional information

Contrary to the traditional manager, a Lead Link has far less authority. First, a Lead Link may only influence the prioritization of Circle Members' activities; he cannot step in and direct how Circle Members should work. Nor does the Lead Link have any explicit authority to 'sign off' or 'approve'  any work done by Circle Members.

Note that, to safeguard the Circle from (accidentally) transforming the Lead Link to a traditional manager, no accountabilities may be added to the Lead Link Role. Period. For similar reasons, a Circle's Lead Link may not be elected as Facilitator or Rep Link. The Rep Link in itself is also meant to 'balance' the Lead Link; it is the Lead Link who represents a Circle in the Super-Circle. Think of the Rep Link as the 'upward channel'  whereas the Lead Link is a 'downward channel'.

For the Lead Link, assigning Roles is an ongoing activity, and he can do so outside of Tactical and Governance meetings.

The Lead Link is assumed to fulfill any unassigned roles. Remember: The Lead Link is assigned with the accountabilities of the Circle, so if he opts not to assign a Role then who else is accountable?

A Circle's Lead Link is assigned by the Super-Circle's Lead Link. (seen from the Super-Circle, any Sub-Circle is a Role)

Relevant articles: 2.2, 2.4, 2.5.1, 2.6.3 


Pieter Wijkstra

Things the Role may exclusively control and regulate as its property, on behalf of the Organization
— Holacracy Constitution 4.1, article 1.1(b)


A circle can establish a domain if it wishes to regulate access to something within the circle's control. It can be anything: an asset (all the heavy-duty machinery), segments defined by the organization (customers located in the Netherlands), activities (maintaining IT hardware), intellectual property (Logo) and other things. 

National parks are open to the public, provided they pay entry fee and comply with park regulations. Park rangers ensure visitors adhere to this. 

National parks are open to the public, provided they pay entry fee and comply with park regulations. Park rangers ensure visitors adhere to this. 


In practice

Controlling and regulating does not imply no one may use/access the domain other than whoever holds the domain. It means he/she oversees the access and usage of this item and anyone wishing to access/use it must ask his/her permission. A domain holder has the duty of processing such requests, even over executing other work. 


Granting permission on an individual basis can be cumbersome and may introduce unnecessary delays. Hence the opportunity for the domain holder to publish policies which stipulate the conditions under which (certain) people may access the domain without domain holder approval.

Additional information

Within a circle 'All functions and activities' is also considered a domain. This implies the circle can establish policies regarding the work that the circle does. (Sample: 'all social media outings must mention the name of the organization'). 

If a domain is delegated to a subcircle that chooses not to delegate it to a Role within this subcircle, then the following applies:

  • Establishing policies for all circle member is done via governance in the subcircle
  • The circle's lead link may establish policies in the Supercircle

Relevant articles: 1.1.(b), 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 4.1.2(c), 4.1.3(a)

Tactical meeting variations

Pieter Wijkstra

We frequently get feedback that Tactical meetings follow a strict process. Which is true – you can read it here (Article 4.2.3) as it is defined in the constitution. And it is not true – in this blog post we want to share a couple of variations you can use within this process.

Let's take the meeting process step by step. And remember it's up to you to decide how you want to fill the tactical time you have as a circle.

The check-in

  • Min: Just give a thumbs up, a quick nod, say “check”
  • Max: Meditate for a minute and then share what got your attention

The pre-amble: checklists, metrics & project updates

It's there to build together a 'radar overview' of where the circle stands. But actually, you could just skip-it. You have the option to include check-lists, metrics, project updates – but if they are not there then just let it go.


By constitution are just quick yes/no’s. If you need more then maybe add it as a metric? Or it benefits better to be on the agenda. You could just trigger that with a checklist saying something like “is there news on topic X which I will put on the agenda to process?”


  • Min: just share the numbers. Or not even that. Just show the dashboard on the screen and have people read it for a couple of seconds after which they can just by themselves add tensions to the agenda.
  • Max: role by role you give the metrics number from the dashboard and add a couple of comments to it why the number is the number – share what you believe is really interesting for the circle to know!

Project updates

  • Min: Say “no updates” or "will share info/need/action/... in separate agenda item"
  • Max: go project by project and share the highs/lows of the progress you made. Typically amazing things happen when you are transparent about things that are not going so well.

Processing tensions

  • Min: Say "I want to inform the group that I have taken the following action ... "  - no discussion.

  • Max: Use the time to facilitate a group discussion on a particular topic. For these discussions, it is very important to assure that spending this time adds value (is likely to) for all participants. If the topic only concerns a few of the participants, it is a better idea to book dedicated time for this topic outside of the tactical meeting.

Closing round

  • Min: "Great meeting"

  • Max: Lengthy reflection, possibly introducing new bits of information. 

Is this variation not yet enough for you? Then two more suggestions:

  • Anything that happens in the tactical meeting can be done outside the tactical meeting. You can share your metrics online, work out loud with a continuous stream of project updates on an open communication platform, and solve tensions as they occur between roles.
  • Check for example the Scrum app on the Holacracy Community Of Practice on how to adapt the tactical meeting to sync with a scrum way of working.

Holacracy Forum: Koen's takeaways

Koen Veltman


Amsterdam was the scene of the first ever Holacracy forum. A 100+ Holacracy pioneers from across the globe joining for a 3 days to exchange expertise and share their organization passions. And at the same time celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Holacracy. OrganizationBuilders founder Koen Veltman reflects on his main takeaways:

The diversity of Organizations applying Holacracy is incredible

This three-day event really strengthened the sense of community between Holacracy practitioners. Most of us have been exchanging ideas and messages online or haven’t seen each other since the first training.

Expertise is emerging AND there is so much more to experiment with

To just name a couple of examples: we had presentations on different compensation models, on onboarding new employees, on how to align resource allocation supported by great technology integrations and on links with well-known approaches like GTD.

At the same time this still feels like we are only at the start of all the possibilities there are to tailor solutions on top of the Holacracy operating system. We recognize we are all still pioneering and experimenting with developing the supportive “system” for a full self-organized organizational ecosystem. Sometimes this task feels a bit daunting, but most of the time its excited to tension-by-tension evolve our understanding of self-organization.

Implementation is my personal passion

Holacracy is a well defined model. Of course its just version 4.1 and 5.0 is already in the making. What attracts me the most is the approaches to make the transition from a traditional to a self-organized system. So many different organizations are on this path. And each organization taking a different approach to implementation. From the first meetings to how you anchor your formal processes into Holacracy as well and beyond.

"Holacracy allows me to treat people as adults"

Pieter Wijkstra

On Monday, engineers from the City of Amsterdam were offered a unique opportunity to learn from Michael DeAngelo, who leads the Holacracy experiment at Washington Technology Solutions. WaTech is the shared service center for the state of Washington, home to tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing, which makes it one of the world’s most important tech hubs.

Attracting talent in these places means making opportunities stand out against some of the most attractive and well-paid jobs of today. Exactly this challenge drove Michael, deputy director, to look for ways in which WaTech could turn public service work an equal alternative. Research on career attractiveness showed that for ±80% of today’s workforce autonomy was an important driver in choosing an employer.

At the same time, Michael learned about Holacracy from a local tech start-up and, although the ‘remember me’ post-it sat on his computer for over a month, he instantly felt it could allow him to ‘organize autonomy’ at WaTech. After several months of piloting with one team, WaTech started an experiment with 150 participants and support from Harvard University to measure the impact of a control group.

Michael showed us WaTech's current governance, which is open to the public ( link )

Michael showed us WaTech's current governance, which is open to the public (link)

At this moment, even though the quantitative data is still lacking, WaTech has already decided to entirely approve Holacracy as an equivalent to the management hierarchy, meaning any team is free to use Holacracy or not. The impact WaTech was able to measure is mainly operational: decision speed went from 20 down to 2 minutes. On the governance side, surveys show employees experience higher empowerment (up from 60% to 90%) and indicate a higher intent to stay. It’s too early to say whether the latter holds true in practice, but it’s definitely a promising step up.

From his experience Michael was able to share many challenges and conclusions, the most insightful ones being:

Did all teams make a successful power shift? “Some did not: the key enabler here is the type of leadership practiced by the (former) manager, more so than the age.”

Did Holacracy make you more efficient? “For two circles it was decided not to hire generalists after managers left the company. One circle indicated they could do without and rather hire a specialist to add specific skills. The other circle still has a vacancy…” and “Before implementing Holacracy, I spent 80% of my time on ‘other’ stuff that required my manager input, now I spend 80% on content related material.”

Does Holacracy take extra time? “Technically, it does: Operational meetings replaced our regular meetings, so Governance is extra. At first, we spent considerable time here, but one year on governance is no issue anymore: we just do it.”

Do you find it harder to speak about careers (and underperformance) with employees? “Holacracy allows me to treat people like adults.”


Michael showed a graph that clearly indicated almost all WaTech teams experienced challenges at some point, but 'over time they all managed to climb out again'.

Michael showed a graph that clearly indicated almost all WaTech teams experienced challenges at some point, but 'over time they all managed to climb out again'.

David Allen: Getting Things Done in Amsterdam

Pieter Wijkstra

On Monday we attended a presentation by David Allen at the Municipality of Amsterdam, for a group of 80 employees from the engineering division. David introduced the five key elements behind his Getting-Things-Done framework:

  • Capture everything that has your attention
  • Clarify what this means and whether it is actionable
  • Organize all items to where they belong
  • Reflect on what you are doing/have to do on a frequent basis
  • Engage trust the above leads you to the right things to right now - and do them!
David introducing Getting Things Done

David introducing Getting Things Done

David is an extremely engaging speaker

David is an extremely engaging speaker

Hearing David reflect on his own framework was great: he is inspring, brings many examples and with a few quotes broadens your understanding, even if you're an active practitioner. A few examples:

Organizing is about meaning matching location: you need to decide on a place for the spices and then you need to put them there. If they are not, you're distracted and if they are you know things are right because if feels right:

"In my kitchen, spices are organized when they are where spices go."

In David's experience, reflecting is one of the most important aspects of Getting-Things-Done. Keep doing it on a regular basis in particular is essential, people often choose for weekly intervals but this is subjective:

 "Review as often as necessary to get it off your mind"

When David learnt the City of Amsterdam was experimenting with Holacracry, he offered to support 'his town' by introducing Getting-Things-Done: David and his wife moved to Amsterdam three years ago from Santa Barbara, California. They are very happy with their new home; David is even learning Dutch and he's recently launched a new Dutch edition of his book. We strongly suggest getting your hands on a copy! 

Copies of the new Dutch edition

Copies of the new Dutch edition

David Allen signing books.png

Taster Workshop in Amsterdam

Pieter Wijkstra

On January 27th, we held the first Holacracy Taster event of the year. The venue was Loetje aan 't IJ in Amsterdam which has become the standard venue for these events: reachable both by car and ferry from Central Station. Overlooking the port, the newly developed areas and all the way back to the old city, it's simply an inspiring location in itself. 

The group consisted of professionals from various backgrounds: a safety and quality manager, a CEO of a startup, an organizational consultant, strategists and web developers - all interested in introducing Holacracy to their companies or colleagues. 


Koen gave an introductory presentation on Holacracy and self-organization and gave all participants the opportunity to express their questions, remarks and ideas about the matter upfront. The group was then split into two smaller groups, each of which was given the assignment to build a city using Lego. Through Tactical and Governance meetings the groups experienced the basics of collaboration in a Holacracy.

When the construction had completed, there was a joint discussion and a Question and Answer session on Holacracy itself and on possible implementation processes for organizations. Finally, there were of course drinks at the bar for the final reflections.  


Holacracy supports growth at Web1on1

Pieter Wijkstra

Over the last months of 2016 we've supported Web1on1 implement Holacracy. Web1on1 is a fast growing web development company based in Amsterdam. Web1on1 develops technology that allows website owners to discuss with website visitors right inside the browser.

The company is undergoing a strong growth in customers which also implies its employee base is growing. To ensure their organizational structure remains on par with the ever evolving reality, they turned to Holacracry. After a full Holacracy implementation supported by OrganizationBuilders they are now confident their organisational structure is ready for the future.

Find the case of Web1on1's Holacracy journey here