Holacracy Constitution 4.0 released

March 9, 2013 - 3:04am

In the works for several months, the Holacracy Constitution v4.0 has now been released and formally adopted by HolacracyOne. More than just a document, this release signifies that Holacracy itself is now in version 4.0, and has integrated the learning from practicing Holacracy 3.0.

Version 4.0 is a major rework, including a simplified structure and some language tweaks to ease digestion of the legalese. The release notes are available if you wish, and this blog post offers a rough overview of the changes based on my interview with Brian Robertson in our Community of Practice about version 4.0. You can also watch the full interview below.

How does the Constitution evolve? The evolution of the Constitution is tension driven — similar to how Holacracy itself works. Through practicing Holacracy, we note what doesn't work smoothly, or the subtle ways people can still dominate the system, and changes are experimented with to address those issues. The potential changes are mentally tested when similar issues occur in real practice. When there's a clear sense that a proposed change would address a core issue, it's incorporated into the Constitution.

Who's in charge of evolving the Constitution, which has such a critical influence on Holacracy? There's a role at HolacracyOne for that: Constitution Steward, filled by Brian Robertson to date. The process to evolve the Constitution is a path of continual differentiation — itself also tension-driven. In the early days, there was no Constitution; the rules of Holacracy were only in Brian's mind. Constitution v1.0 was written by Brian, who at the time was still holding this function "heroically", outside of any organizational role. By the time of Constitution v2.0, a role in charge of updating the document had been created at HolacracyOne. In the most recent step toward differentiation, a new Accountability was added onto the role evolving the Constitution to define a process where other Holacracy practitioners can feed input to further evolve the Constitution. Further differentiation is likely to continue, driven by tensions...

What are the main changes in version 4.0?

  • New rules to test Proposals in the Integrative Decision-Making (IDM) phase (article 3.2.1). With version 3.0 and earlier, the Facilitator could test only Objections. Version 4.0 introduces a parallel between testing Proposals and Objections, with two key criteria for Proposals to be valid: 1) they must be about the proposer's Role(s), as opposed being driven by purely personal tensions, and 2) they must be grounded in concrete work, as opposed to being theoretically designed from mind to improve the organizational structure, without being grounded in concrete tensions from doing the work. The latter situation in particular, although rare, was really difficult to integrate around when it came up. (discussed at 6 min 55 sec in the interview )
  • New rules for the "Integration" phase of IDM ( article 3.3.8). These new (optional) rules are available to the Facilitator for use during the Integration phase if the discussion gets stuck. Under Holacracy 3.0 and earlier versions, anybody could speak freely in Integration — it was a "free for all". This worked most of the time, but could get bogged down — for instance, when an Objector would decline any suggestion to update the Proposal to address their Objection. The new rules in 4.0 instead place the "burden of seeking an amendment" on both the Objector and the Proposer alternatively. The goal is to help the tension-holder carve out the piece of their Proposal or Objection that's useful for the organization from what's simply a personal need, while at the same time preventing them from blocking the process. (discussed at 15 min 13 sec in the interview )
  • Inclusion of the board (article 5). Before 4.0, the board was simply absent from the Constitution, and adopting Holacracy at the board level required adding an ad-hoc contract referring back to the Constitution. With version 4.0, the board is defined as a circle with Cross-Links, representing the different stakeholders (instead of a Lead Link), and with some special rules. This is a welcome change for organizations that want to adopt Holacracy up to the board level. (discussed at 20 min 32 secin the interview).


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Interview of Brian Roberston in our Community of Practice about the Constitution v4.0.

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Submitted by Nick Osborne (not verified) on April 11, 2013 - 4:20am. #

Great work Brian! I'm just starting to work on learning the new constitution. I understand there is a plain language version in development which will be most welcome!

But for this version, to navigate, it would be helpful to have a hyperlinked contents at the front. Is there a reason this hasn't been done, or if not, then this is a request for it. Thanks, Nick 

Submitted by Olivier Compagne on April 11, 2013 - 2:44pm. #

Hi Nick, 

Thanks for dropping us a line. You're in luck, I happen to be the one in charge of creating this "Plain English" version of the Constitution 4.0, so I can tell you where it's heading. The content of this plain english version is almost done, actually, now it's a matter of formatting it to an appropriate format & medium. 

I still have to decide on the specifics, but part of the plan is to have a simple, linkable, table of content, which will give an overview of the content developed in each article. I'm hoping that this will address your need here. If you have more specific suggestions, they're most welcome!

Thanks, Olivier

Submitted by Nick Osborne (not verified) on April 13, 2013 - 7:43am. #

Thanks Olivier, looking forward to it!

Hopefully I can use that as my reference most of the time and not the full one!