Holarchy is a repeating cycle of functions – chapter meetings, squad retrospectives, and representative councils – that aligns teams and streams peer to peer without intermediary managers. There is no need for an alignment to be ratified by all teams – only those that participate in it.
Holarchic structures are based on the principles consensus decision making. Although it has many advantages, in the Iroquois Confederacy this decentralised form of governance maintained several hundred thousand participants in a peaceful society for over five centuries, holarchy is in most cultures regarded as too difficult to reach a unanimous consensus, and so majority rule is employed instead. Under majority rule, actions are taken that need not satisfy everyone’s interests. Majority rule decisions are often not in anyone’s interests. For this reason most businesses have found it advantageous to delegate authority to hierarchies of managers in practical matters.
Nevertheless there are cultures where consensus decision-making is the norm. The Dutch Polder Model of democracy is a modern example. In matters that must be resolved quickly or remotely the Dutch still fall back on delegating authority to individuals. For most purposes, however, they work to establish unanimity in making business decisions.
The same was true for the historical Iroquois, whose war chiefs were authorized to make decisions whenever time didn’t permit consensus decision-making. As such decisions often resulted in violence or treaty violations, they were squared away after using a ceremony to re-establish consensus.
The Iroquois-inspired method we describe as Leadership as a Service uses a threat of delegation of a decision to an individual to motivate teams to make trade-offs to reach consensus, and leaders to communicate by influencing consensus rather than preempting it.
This protocol is not the mindset of consensus decision-making, however, which is essential to ensure that decisions made represent collective rational thought.