A short journey through a responsive framework driven by empowerment and self-organization

It seems like anyone can do flat hierarchy nowadays. But is a flat hierarchy always for the best? Maybe you’ve heard of Holacracy in context with Mercedes-Benz.io, maybe you’ve read that we don’t have the usual hierarchy around here. At Mercedes-Benz.io we don’t have the traditional hierarchy, but we do have quite the structured organization. In this article we invite you to get to know Holacracy, what the rather unusual framework is all about, why we are using it and how employees can benefit from it.


Holacracy is a “non-classical” framework which is representing our operating system within the company (like others have the pyramid or a network organization). Our setup is based on purpose, circles, roles and accountabilities which the roles and circles have. It’s also a hierarchical structure, which, however, is not based on people but on purpose of roles and circles (a circle can be seen as a role with broader accountabilities too).

What made us decide to build a holocratic organization?

Founding Mercedes-Benz.io (formerly known as CINTEO) was an experiment from the very beginning. The idea was to try new setups and ways of thinking and to experiment with the organizational structure. Mercedes-Benz.io was born as a little start-up, questioning what leadership might look like in the future and what’s essential to succeed in a VUCA-world. We chose the framework of Holacracy because we were convinced it would be able to keep up with our tremendous target of growth and mesh with the agile frameworks in our products.

What benefits do our employees have from working with Holacracy?

Our colleagues are free to make decisions based on their roles and escalate if necessary not through people hierarchy but directly within their products. We are empowered by clarity in roles and respective accountabilities and our correspondent enablement circles (similar to communities of practice). Our freedom shortens long decision-making processes and communication through various people. We can develop through our strengths and competences and get into leading positions without necessarily having to take on disciplinary responsibilities.

What do I need to fit into this kind of framework?

You need to be highly self-organized which means you take over the ownership of your personal path within the company. You also need to be very flexible and happy to deal with changes in your working environment. In addition to that, you will have to often apply the pull-principle if you need to acquire some information, especially about processes which are not clear yet. If this is not a problem for you, it will empower you in new ways and give a lot of freedom and fun in your work life.

Interested to explore more about our distinctive organizational model Holacracy?

After the last few years of living on the holacratic side of life we learned many lessons regarding how to structure work and teams in new ways, and how to ensure effective collaboration across distributed teams. If you’d like to hear more about Holocracy and the adventures we made until now visit us on our panel discussion at WeAreDevelopers in May 2019 in Berlin or check out https://www.mercedes-benz.io

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