The path of Santex guided by Holacracy

In order to implement a significant change in our organization regarding our culture and values, we decided it was necessary to implement a Holacratic way of management. We are practicing and improving in this area every day, that’s why we spoke with our stakeholders to answer some questions in order to fully understand how this concept works and how we experience it at Santex.

What challenges did you face while implementing a Holocratic structure in the company?

Adopting Holacracy as part of our organization’s culture did not come without challenges. By the time we decided to adopt Holacracy, the core team was pretty much aligned. However, bringing new talent from other organizations and bringing them up-to-speed was a real challenge. It took time for them to believe and embrace the concept while trusting that their peers would follow. We had to deploy additional supporting mechanisms such as outside help to empower our teams to further develop some of the necessary skills to self-manage an initiative from head to toe.

Another challenge that we faced was opening all of the information about our company to all of our members. We created two boards with our people: one of them to transfer our culture to all the internal teams and another to manage technical decisions that had to be made. Both boards took decisions that were implemented by Santex without needing authorization from the C Level management.

Changing the mindset of all our members was a huge challenge for us. We had to translate all the concepts from the holacracy book to tangible activities that changed our organization. This brought a lot of uncertainty for most of our managers, so learning how to deal with that was something new that we had to face.

What would you have done differently when implementing it? 

Nothing. This is one of those things where you know you will never be “ready” so you have to go for it with a mindset that will allow you to understand that. It will always be an evolving and improving effort for the greater good of the company.

What advice do you have for other companies? 

Just do it. Yes, it is scary to think you will not have the control of every decision anymore, but have to think it as a necessary evolution to enable people’s talent to flow, grow and push the boundaries. Something you as the leader of the organization will never do quite as successfully.

The implementation has to be designed but you also have to start all the actions quickly, to be prepared for the changes. It’s very important to have strong communication around the organization in order to help the implementation go smoothly and easily.

Another piece of advice that we can give is that all the teams in the company should know about agile methodologies as well as lean and design thinking.

When do you think holacracy should be implemented?

When you have a stable team that has been working together for quite some time and there is basic common ground about the understanding and important criteria as to how the organization should be run and why. Setting a common goal, regardless of the areas of the company, brings great benefits.

What does it look like for you today?

Amazing. Today we are really pleased with the results we are having. We are around 85% in the holacratic way of management. We measure retention rates, completion rates, customer satisfaction and we share all of this information with everyone in our company.

We believe that an important part of holacracy is that a person can make decisions without having to wait for authorization from someone above them, — and that is something that we live every day in Santex.

What are the pros and cons?

There are a lot of pros. We gain in employee engagement, and in these years we’ve had the best retention rates in our history. That is uncommon and a huge benefit in the market that we are in. Also, we’ve reduced our fix costs. If you don’t need that many managers, then the company can work really well by trusting and encouraging employees to embrace their roles and be responsible for them. Our team members can make decisions in real-time, without needing unnecessary authorizations or meetings that we had previously. 

We couldn’t find any cons thus far with the approach. We have a few situations, really few, where some decisions need a more directive style so there are some cases when a Manager has to stand up and make the hard choice by himself, but all of that is also integrated with the holacratic way of thinking in the organization so even that is not a con.

Who is this not for?

This is not for an ego-centric boss, who doesn’t want to share responsibilities and doesn’t trust their members. You have to be willing to share all the information and take away all the culture of gossip that some companies still have. Holacracy is about trust, between all the members, and that is the definitive change maker.

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