When Agile, Self-Management, and Holacracy Fail

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree December 04, 2021

These days, there seems to be a massive interest in less hierarchical, more liberated approaches to work. “Agile,” sociocracy, Holacracy, “teal,” self-management, and other management techniques are now of great interest to a growing number of companies around the world.

4211 1140x0

As you probably would have expected, we believe this to be a very positive thing. These approaches—when done well—have the power to boost all sorts of good, desirable things, such as:

  • motivation
  • purpose
  • engagement
  • autonomy
  • productivity
  • profit

And the list goes on and on.

The popularity contest

Unfortunately, there is a downside to the growing hype surrounding these new ways of working. The problem is precisely that: popularity.

And because these methods are becoming more and more popular, tons of companies are becoming interested in them for all the wrong reasons—what a surprise.

They experiment with self-management because their competitors are experimenting with it too. They “implement” Holacracy simply because it's something many hip start-ups have done, and they want to be hip too. Or they set up “Agile” transformations because they've read about it in Harvard Business Review. You know how it goes. The same disingenuous bullshit, repackaged.

In other words: they do it because others are doing it. Nothing more.

As with many things in life, this is a piss-poor strategy to operate on. Maybe even more so when it comes to ways of working.

Belief in people

Here’s the deal. We have visited 150+ companies around the world that have successfully transitioned to self-managing ways of working. And they have done so because of one important reason: their genuine belief in people.

They believe that humans are good. They believe that people are trustworthy and responsible. They believe that people crave meaning, purpose, and autonomy.

Yes, even at work...

If you genuinely believe this, it doesn't make any sense at all to organize work in a command-and-control kind of way.

On the other hand, if you don't have a positive perspective on people, it's a complete waste of energy to experiment with new ways of working that are entirely based on that belief. Such new ways of working try to do the exact opposite of what you actually believe in.

So why the hell would you try it in the first place?

When Agile, Self-Management, and Holacracy Fail
Click to tweet

The goodness of people

The most important thing is to be true to yourself. If you experiment with Agile, Holacracy, sociocracy, self-management, or any such progressive management approaches, you should do so because you wholeheartedly believe in people’s goodness (and abilities).

If not, find yourself another hobby and stop wasting other people's time (and hope).

If you truly believe that people are good, you might be interested in learning how the world's most progressive organizations have liberated themselves from traditional command-and-control management. And what they experienced as a result.

We're running a 6-week course at the Corporate Rebels Academy where you can explore various highly successful case studies. The course is titled 'Understanding and designing progressive organizational structures', and the next cohort starts in March 2022.

Apply now.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
Share or join the discussion!
Our newsletter
Are you ready for more revolutionary content?
Join 50.000+ subscribers reinventing the way the world works
Read more
Feb 08, 2023
Obstacles On The Path To Self-Management
Lennard Toma Written by Lennard Toma
Becoming a self-organized/self-managed organization can be fun. You experiment, you learn, you celebrate what works. And you are noticed by…
Read more
Dec 10, 2022
"We’re All Leaders” Is A Better Way To Work
Ari Weinzweig Written by Ari Weinzweig
One of the most radical of all our approaches at Zingerman’s, we ask everyone in the organization, from the minute they start working with…
Read more
Dec 03, 2022
Become The Transformation Leader Your Company Desperately Needs
Pim de Morree Written by Pim de Morree
I'm proud of a lot of things our team has done over the years. But, there's one thing that truly stands out. Big time. So, what is it? It's…
Read more
Nov 09, 2022
What If Your Company Was Divided Up Into Countless Startups?
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
From a juggernaut with 80,000 employees to thousands of small companies with ten to fifteen employees. Haier, the renown Chinese…
Read more
Oct 15, 2022
The Great Resignation. Quiet Quitting. What The F***?
Pim de Morree Written by Pim de Morree
The Great Resignation was all the hype earlier this year. Then Quiet Quitting took over the headlines when hordes of people popularized…
Read more
Oct 12, 2022
Announcing Our New Online Course: “How Viisi Works”
Emma de Blok Written by Emma de Blok
Today, we’re launching a new Corporate Rebels Academy course: “How Viisi Works.” Viisi was the first financial services company to…
Read more
Read all articles