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An Impersonal Process

May 26, 2010 - 12:54pm

Holacracy Governance Meetings use a structured decision-making process to rapidly integrate multiple perspectives, called the Integrative Decision-Making process (you can find the mechanics of the process in a handout in our Resource Library).  Despite the simple look of the process, learning to facilitate it effectively is quite a challenge.  It often takes building new and counterintuitive habits, while unlearning current habits that made sense in the past but no longer serve within this new context.  I think much of this counterintuitive shift stems from three factors:  the impersonal nature of the process, the rules embedded in the process for the sake of dynamic steering, and the need to understand the process in the context of other Holacracy systems and processes.  Let’s explore the first of these challenges a bit further: the impersonal nature of the process.

Shift from facilitating the people to facilitating the processDone well, the process has a profoundly impersonal feel to it.  This stands in stark contrast from most facilitation techniques; we’re used to facilitating the people, but to be an effective Holacracy facilitator you must shift to facilitating the process.  You hold the process as sacred, and invite the people to take care of themselves.  You don’t try to evoke input, and you don’t try to get to agreement.  As long as the process is honored, you really don’t care how anyone feels, at least not in your role as facilitator.  When someone violates the process by talking out of turn, you ruthlessly crush the out of process behavior without emotion or judgment, and you do it before they finish a single word.  As far as you’re concerned, the process is all that matters – it will take care of everything else.

The process also supports this impersonality:  An "objection" is about workability from the perspective of the Circle as an entity and its purpose; it is not a personal objection.  The process helps people speak from this space about what is actually needed and workable; it acknowledges and honors whatever emotions are arising via the reaction round, and then shifts the focus beyond them.  Once we’re no longer stuck in our personal perspective, we can use our emotions as clues to why a proposal may really be unworkable given the purpose at play.  Personal emotions become sources of valuable information, but not decision-making criteria in and of themselves.  No one’s voice is crushed, yet egos aren’t allowed to dominate.

Facilitating this kind of impersonal process can be extremely counterintuitive, especially for us facilitators who are used to working at the personal level and have learned to do so to good end.  Yet it’s equally as transformative once we’ve built the capacity to hold this impersonal space and allow an evolutionary process to work its magic.  It’s difficult to go back once we’ve experienced the power and embrace of this impersonality, and, ironically, once we’ve found a deeper and more authentic intimacy on the other side.


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