Interview With The "CEO" of David Allen Company

April 3, 2013 - 3:58am

People often want to know, “What companies are using Holacracy? Do you have any case studies?” We have plenty of anecdotes, and I wish we had more documented stories with comprehensive research and analysis. As Story Writer, I am currently working on some simple(r) ways to produce client stories, and I’m excited to have recently interviewed one of our long time clients: David Allen Company.

If, like me, you practice Getting Things Done®, you may have heard of David Allen Company. What you may not know yet is that they have been practicing Holacracy for about two years. I spoke with Mike Williams, their GCC Lead Link, and I really enjoyed getting his perspective about Holacracy and GTD. We spoke a lot about the value of Tactical Meetings, as well as how Holacracy can be challenging. You can find the complete interview here.

I have one other such interview in progress now and intend to produce more stories to add more dimensionality and visibility to the actual practice of Holacracy. Here are some effects of Holacracy at the David Allen Company:

  • Holacracy allowed a significant restructuring of the David Allen Company smoothly and with little politics, and the work continued along the way. Tensions were created by how ‘stuff’ move through the company, so the members evolved the structure. This created more clarity about the value streams, better experiences for customers, and improved capacity for the business.
  • At the David Allen Company,Tactical Meetings allow integration at the team level. Role-fillers can sync up and get the information needed to expedite their work. According to Mike, Tactical Meetings are a vehicle for continuing to refine how you want to hold accountabilities and illuminate how things are going.
  • Holacracy brings a rhythm and a framework that’s useful to the entire organization. For example, with the Tactical Meeting (and its checklists, metrics, and project lists) that feed tensions to process throughout the company in an ongoing rhythm, there is less thinking about how to have the meeting and what the purpose is. It simply becomes part of the fabric. It’s the same with Governance Meetings -- everyone knows the rules and how to play. Holacracy runs in the background.
  • Adopting Holacracy was similar to being acquired by a different company. There is a learning curve when people are trying to figure out how to step into accountabilities. It can feel like we’ve lost our old rhythms, habits, and behaviors, and we now have to figure out new ones. Mike is continuing to explore what this means for the David Allen Company.
  • Distributed authority sharpens focus, visibility to key company data, and transparency. The David Allen Company has had an increase in the quality and accuracy of conversations,, thanks to the ready availability of concise, accurate financial information, and clear authority about who owns that information. With no confusion about the information or how it’s derived, there is less overall noise in the system.

Finally, a big thank you again to Mike for working with me on this project! Check out the interview and let me know what you think!

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Submitted by David Slade (not verified) on September 29, 2013 - 11:35pm. #

That is a great blog post Karilen, I love hearing a "seasoned" perspective and I appreciate the points you culled.  Do you have any revenue and profit numbers to compare the outputs of the David Allen Company pre and post Holacracy?  Also, a human relations measurement would be cool to add to revenue and profit.  I guess in Holacracy we will be measuring expression of purpose.  What metrics do you use at H1?

I'd love to help collect stories or catalize a case study.

Submitted by David Slade (not verified) on September 29, 2013 - 11:53pm. #

Can you change the title to Interview with the Lead Link of the David Allen Company GCC?

Submitted by Karilen Mays on September 30, 2013 - 2:16pm. #

Hi David,

We do not have access to financial metrics of DAC. At HolacracyOne, we track many different metrics such as registration metrics and financials like revenue. It just depends on the circle and its work and needs.

Even though Holacracy helps support an organization to express its purpose, metrics of all kinds are important indicators. I'd suggest that they be pull-based; in other words, let tensions (such as a need for visibility) drive them instead of artifically defining them. Even so, it does take some experimentation in my experience to find what metrics are useful.

We have plans for case studies too and more stories in the future. 

Thanks for reading!