Agile governance and the Iphone

I was wondering something lately. Can agile governance be compared to the Iphone ?

Let me explain.

In June 2007 the Iphone was launched. It took a radical view at what a phone should be used for, and was a game changer for a lot of industries. It has extended markets like gaming, music, videos, ... It has diminished some others like the pc market, and has completely transformed the communication industry. It propelled us even more rapidly into the digital age. It enabled us to access the internet from wherever we are, changing our ways of communicating, learning, playing, allowing a lot of new services through “apps”, enabling the rise of music and video streaming, and more.

In the same period (2009), Holacracy® was launched as a new organisational model. It took a radical view at the way an organization organizes itself. It brought some fresh air in a world where the vast majority of companies were run by quite rigid hierarchies, proposing practices allowing for radical autonomy at work. This inspired more organisational innovations such as Sociocracy 3.0, as well as new ways of putting agile principles into practice.

It was the start of what we’ll call here ‘agile governance’. And from my point of view this kind of social technology has the same disruptive potential for organisations as what the Iphone had for internet usage.

Agile governance ?

The most important and innovative dimension brought by Holacracy® is its governance practice. This is a precise way of visualizing roles of an organisation and of modifying them on a regular basis and in a peer-to-peer way. It considers an organisation as a set of dynamic roles evolving constantly instead of static job descriptions restructured in one go every few years.

This is huge, because for the first time authority and responsibilities are made agile in a coherent and transparent way.

A disruptive technology

Why is that “agile governance” so disruptive for organizations ?

  • The design of responsibilities, roles and authorities are no longer a “boss” thing. It suddenly becomes accessible to more people and allows team members to modify the way work is organized and to become “organisation developers”.
  • Being able to play with roles unleashes creativity and enables new roles, new forms of partnerships and collaborations, new business opportunities and quicker adaptation to change based on what is actually needed.
  • It makes possible for every partner/employee to be able to act freely and autonomously towards a common purpose, thanks to a clear set of rules.

Therefore agile governance allows companies to benefit from their employees’ full potential, previously constrained because of a hierarchical way of doing that didn’t change very much since 200 year.

By giving continuous clarity on “who is accountable for what”, this acts as a catalyst for organisations the way the Iphone did for the internet. It expands the use of roles and opens up for new practices (“apps”) we thought were never possible, for example in the way compensation is managed.


Agile governance started in 2009. 10 years later, it clearly hasn’t had the same kind of success or visibility as the Iphone, despite its great potential for organisations. It seems to take more time, probably because it’s a social technology. But the thing is, agile governance is now gaining ground as a serious management alternative. Organizations now clearly have a choice : riding a horse or riding a car.

Taking in consideration the governance layer of your organisation is the first and most  important step for achieving deep organisational agility.

If you want to step into that game and start riding a car instead of a horse, we can help. So feel free to reach out to us.