Well known startup Medium settled on some key tenets based on Holacracy. Since they closely match our own principles we adopted them as the starting off point for our own version of Holocracy. As we learn we expect to update these.

  • No people managers Maximum autonomy.
  • Organic expansion When a job gets too big, hire another person.
  • Tension resolution Identify issues people are facing, write them down, and resolve them systematically.
  • Make everything explicit From vacation policies to decision makers in each area.
  • Distribute decision-making power And discourage consensus seeking.
  • Eliminate all the extraneous factors that worry people So they can focus on work.

Pyramid vs. Circle

Since decision making in modern companies is no longer top-down the traditional pyramid structure no longer holds. The circle is the representation of structure. At Backspace we make decisions in a circle.

For a small organization like Backspace we keep the number of circles small. In fact the studio has just one general company circle, and a separate circle for each startup in the studio.

The startups themselves do not necessarily also use the Holacracy inspired organizational model.

Roles vs. Job Titles

Backspace uses roles instead of job titles to organize the responsibilities of team members. Everyone has their own interpretation of what a lead developer, illustrator or CTO title means. So instead we opt to assign each team member multiple roles. Roles are flexible and added or removed, as needed, in governance meetings.

Role Purpose

The purpose of the role describes what the role strives to succeed. For example; the purpose of a customer support role is not to answer the phone. The purpose is to supply customers with timely, friendly and correct answers to questions.

Role Accountabilities

For every single action needed for the company to be successful there needs to be someone responsible. From high-level accountabilities, to low level ones like making sure the office has coffee.

Accountabilities are all the actions that need to be taken for the company to succeed.

Examples include:

  • Generating demand for our products and closing deals for a sales lead role.
  • Coaching junior developers for a lead engineer role.
  • Approve blog posts for a web editor role.

You can find the roles as defined in Backspace in the Team Roles listing.


Want to read more about the Holacracy model? These are some interesting articles introducing the concept, and how it's used at some companies.

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