The impact of national cultural differences on implementing self organisation

Matt Hallmann
4 min readNov 19, 2020

One cannot help but wonder why self organisation in general and Holacracy specifically, does take off in one country but does not find a following in others In counties where self organisation does take off, very often you will find consulting companies offering help with the implementation, meetups and established practitioners sharing their knowledge. And then on the other hand, in countries where self organisation is virtually unheard of, there will be no resources whatsoever on how to self organise. To be fair: there is also a big amount of countries in the middle, with some elements of a thriving self organising community present and some missing. Why is that?

Is there a difference between countries, or maybe better said cultures, when it comes to implementing and working with Holacracy? Is a Dutch person better equipped for autonomy, than a Spanish, Korean or Japanese person? Do Americans have better skills in differentiating role from soul? Can the Chinese better sense tensions than Indonesians? And if so, why is that? And how does working with Holacracy in different countries compare?

National cultural variables

While there is research and writing available on this topic when we look at management in general, concrete cases about self organisation are still painfully absent. The movement is still relatively small and traditional scholars have only recently started to shift their focus to self organisation. When doing so, the focus is more often shifted to areas like productivity, employee output and structural analysis. Nevertheless, we can look at what has been published before and use that to our advantage. There is a thorough article by Mohammad Ayub Khan and Laurie Smith Law that researches “how national cultures influence the management cultures of organizations” and applies that question to three countries: the United States, Mexico and Pakistan.

Ayub Khan and Smith Law look at national cultural variables influencing the management cultures of organizations:

  • Religion
  • Social organisation
  • Language
  • Time concept
  • Power distance
  • Collectivist — individualistic
  • Masculinity — femininity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
Matt Hallmann

I help individuals, teams and companies grow.