This is a guest post by Magalena Tula from Tooploox team on their journey to adopting the Holacracy practice.
The story begins …
Once upon a time, three talented developers decided to create a company like no other. Pawel, Damian and Krzysztof wanted to work in an exquisite, creative work environment with cutting edge technology. This is how Tooploox was born. During the first two years, we grew with a slow but constant pace, many people came on board and we found new partners to work with. At that time you could easily fit everyone into one conference room. After three years we had to expand development and non-development teams to such an extent that between 2016 and the middle of 2018 Tooploox crew grew from 25 to 130!
If we still wanted to put 135 people in one room, we would definitely need a lot of space. The communication within Tooploox became way more difficult. Also, the structure became more complex because we had to open many new non-tech roles that would help the organization function. When a company grows organically along with its partners, it’s virtually impossible to plan the growth and to overcome the growing chaos. We honestly didn’t know what would happen when so many people joined. More and more problems started to be noticeable and increasingly frustrating.
What were the issues?
Paweł Sołyga (co-founder): We’re not the same company that we used to be. We now have 140 people on board and we are still growing. It’s not easy to delegate anymore, it’s not clear who is responsible for certain areas and it’s not always clear who has the authority to make what decisions. And if people don’t know, they turn to us.
Many decisions still went through founders — This was the natural way of doing things at the beginning of Tooploox. However, we had reached a moment when founders were not able to go on vacation without paralyzing some important parts of the organization. This problem had two aspects. One was teams not knowing if they have the authority to make certain decisions. The other was the founders struggling with giving away the power that they are used to have.
Lack of clear responsibility in areas that impacted the whole organization — We’d noticed that lack of clear responsibilities had two main consequences. Different groups of people began working separately on solving the same issue (not knowing about each other’s efforts). Or just the opposite — at times, it seemed that no one felt responsible for some less interesting areas.
No effective way of making important decisions — We had been trying to seek consensus before any action was taken. Of course, asking people for an opinion and consult is a great way of getting to know different points of view, yet, reaching consensus among over 100 people is just a fantasy.
We didn’t give up without a fight!
It’s not like we didn’t try to do anything to solve those problems on our own. Before seeking out Holacracy, we formed a special task force to defeat chaos. We took several actions that had a positive impact on Tooploox:
Founders started to delegate some of their responsibilities to other people. Yet the level of delegation was still a work in progress across the company. They still had to decide on many, many things.
For major projects that impact the whole of Tooploox, we introduced “Drivers” — people responsible for coordinating the whole effort. This helped us solved a couple of major issues. Read more about this effort in the blog post. Although we were able to address some problems, drivers struggled with lack of authority to make decisions and it turned out that we were still sinking into chaos. And it left many initially engaged employees exhausted and unmotivated.
It’s good to seek professional help
Slowly it became clear that we had to let our founders go from our teams. We needed to give full autonomy to our teams and get rid of the decision-making process based primarily on the founders. We also got to the realization that although we wanted to a flat structure, we also needed SOME structure.
Krzysztof Tarnowski (co-founder): The organization layer is the foundation of Tooploox and it had to evolve, so we could drive the vision for the company. Adopting Holacracy is like giving Tooploox a better operating system, one that is better suited for our current and future needs.
We came across Holacracy a few years back when Zappos committed to it. At the time, we were looking for a different organizational structure, with “no bosses”. However, until recently we were certain that we could make necessary changes ourselves.
Well… clearly, we were wrong.
This is why we turned to dwarfs and Giants to effectively guide us through a Holacracy transformation.
We’re about to begin this adventure…
Damian Walczak (co-founder): We’ve considered a couple of different options when we were choosing the right structure for Tooploox. We’ve chosen Holacracy because it’s well-documented and has the best know-how when it comes to training and adoption methods.
Holacracy is rooted in the idea of an evolution of organization. Technology around us changes constantly and has significantly developed during the last century. Organizations, on the other hand, have not. In other words, Holacracy is the next step in how we manage decisions and power within a company.
In our particular case, adopting Holacracy is a process of moving from organization with no clear decision-making process to self-organizing circles, with clear areas of responsibility and with 100% of decision making power. The first step of this process is the Holacracy Practitioner Training where our pilot group learned the fundamentals of theory and Holacracy practice. Next, we moved forward with a Discovery Session, where the initial Holacracy structure was formed. Workshops were followed by the official signing of the Holacracy Constitution, which is a symbolic act of starting the transformation from top-down hierarchy to Holacracy.
The Holacracy trainings begin…how will people like more freedom and more responsibility that comes with it? But that’s not all! Watch the real struggle of giving away the power.