Zappos and Holacracy: No Holy Grail and No Silver Bullet!

By Si Alhir (@SAlhir), Brad Barton (@Brad_Barton), and Mark Ferraro (@mark4ro)

Zappos has had an exciting history — inception in 1999, growth from 1999 to 2009, acquisition by Amazon.com in 2009, and continued success.

In 2010, Zappos’ Tony Hseih’s Delivering Happiness (and more) book shared Zappos’ story and lessons learned from its journey so others could benefit from Zappos’ experience (@TonyHsieh). In 2008, Zappos championed Tribal Leadership (2008) and fueled CultureSync’s Tribal Leadership book and CultureSync‘s success (@CultureSync and @DaveLogan1). And now in 2014, Zappos is championing Holacracy and may ultimately fuel some “Holacracy book” and HolacracyOne‘s success (@HolacracyOne and @h1brian [Brian Robertson])!

While these techniques are valuable, there is no “holy grail” or “silver bullet” for success! As Tribal Leadership gained popularity, it often became the end versus a means to an end for far too many people! And now as Holacracy gains popularity, it may also often become the end versus a means to an end for far too many people! Additionally, as valuable as these techniques may be for Zappos, they may not necessarily be as valuable (in the same form) for other organizations!

Success and transforming to becoming more successful requires a journey of discovering what works best for an organization or enterprise, its various collective groups, and its individual people. Success and the transformative journey to become more successful cannot be reduced to a mere few bodies of knowledge or experience but may practically leverage the wisdom of many — for example, Judith E. Glaser (@CreatingWE) (WE-Centric Leadership and Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ)), Leandro Herrero (@LeandroEHerrero) (Viral Change), Peter Fuda (@PeterFuda) (Transformation and Leadership Framework/Model/Cycle), William Isaacs (Dialogue), Edgar Henry Schein (Humble Inquiry), David Rock (@davidrock101) (NeuroLeadership Institute), Barbara Trautlein (@btrautlein) (Change Intelligence (CQ)), Tim Kuppler (@TimKuppler) (Build the Culture Advantage), Carol Dweck (@mindsetworks and @Brainology) (Mindset), and many others (Human Leadership, Human Enterprise, etc.) — while embracing the imperative of being open versus closed in that journey of discovery around a community.

For example, CultureSync’s “process” and Holacracy’s “implementation” approaches are rooted in their perspectives and philosophies versus being open to discovering what may be best for their clients, etc.

To be clear, we are not against or for any perspective (Tribal Leadership and Holacracy (with roots in Sociocracy), etc.) but are for being agnostic and embracing an all-inclusive viewpoint, integrating relevant perspectives yet keeping the “human element” paramount (rooted in “human nature”), and embracing a journey (Conscious Agility (Conscious Capitalism + Business Agility = Antifragility) and A Brief Introduction) to discover what works for an organization or enterprise or community, its various collective groups, and its individual people — “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (Aristotle) and “Life is a journey, not a destination” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)!

Self-organization cannot be engineered but context may be designed for its potential emergence!

One thought on “Zappos and Holacracy: No Holy Grail and No Silver Bullet!

  1. Very good point, remind me of the zealot emulation around methodologies in the 90s or the OO in the 2000s. Splitting hairs on detail and losing sight of the goal. Just a mean to an end . Very important to iron out differences and have truth emerging.
    Also great, as it references many of the current trendsetters and buzzwords …

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