Does the Customer Experience Matter to Holacracy One? No.

Holacracy One (HO) provides consulting, training, software and subscription services to companies and certified HO facilitators to embed a new operating system in organizations. I attended their mandatory Experiential Workshop (which wasn’t) and their 5-Day Certification Program (which did not fulfill it’s promise). I asked for a refund, which was denied.
The email request thread leading up to this post appears in Holacracy One’s Patterns of Customer Disservice.  Most are between the CRM role and me.  When the CRM role was beyond its capabilities, the training lead who is also company founder took over  the conversation.
From:     Brian Robertson
Subject:     RE: Welcome- Bay Area Holacracy Certification Training
Date:     February 28, 2011 6:43:53 PM EST
To:     Marci Segal
I’ve read your message and blog post, and I respectfully disagree with your conclusions; I see no major quality issues that we have missed or should address.There’s always room for continual improvement, however I believe this training is on a solid foundation already.
The teaching modalities are a balance of different methods, with a blend of lecture, exercises, simulations, etc., and slides that use both short summary text bullets as well as graphics and animations.  And the overall training design and setup are aligned with good training principles for events seeking to deliver transformative learning beyond just incremental skill development.  Overall, I see a solid training with no major issues.
Our experiential data is aligned with this conclusion as well.  We consistently have positive reviews from people of all different types and learning styles.  We’ve received feedback from most attendees of this recent event in particular, and aside from your experience we have received no negative comments or poor reviews.  We’ve also solicited critiques in the past from many professional trainers who have attended our Certification Training, and we frequently hear it is among the best training setups and deliveries they’ve ever encountered.
Given this data and analysis, we respectfully disagree that the cause of your bad experience stems from design, setup, or delivery flaws in HolacracyOne’s training.  You stayed for the duration of the event and consumed services HolacracyOne delivered in good faith and to reasonable standards that meet or exceed the expectations of the vast majority of our participants.  HolacracyOne thus declines to extend a refund of your training fee.
Regards,
Brian J. Robertson
Commentary:
1) The blend of lecture, exercises and simulations is uneven.  80% of the 5-day program is lecture.  Brian talks to each bullet point on every slide every day.  Even though there are other Certified Trainers in HO in the room, none present.
2) Less than 20% of all 116 slides in the program have graphics. There is one animation.
3) Training design is relies on their experience of what works rather than training principles. Skill mastery is not on the agenda. The program is intended to transform, although that is not mentioned in the course deliverable list. I asked Brian about this in a later email.
3) In conversation with other participants, their dissatisfaction was mentioned to me.  Apparently, not to HO.
4) Have asked for names of the professionals mentioned, no names were furnished.
5) The email does its best to absolve the context HO initiated and maintained of its influence on my experience for which I paid $3,495.00.  I did not sign up to have my trust betrayed nor to become confused, bored and disappointed.
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From:     Marci Segal
Subject:     Re: Welcome- Bay Area Holacracy Certification Training
Date:     February 28, 2011 10:28:49 PM EST
To:     Brian Robertson
Hi Brian
I am asking you to reconsider your position with regards to a refund.
Did a little research for your promise that the Certification Training would be conducted using Transformative Learning Principles. I found none (see copy below). Further, when I asked you early in the program what learning structure was being used, you did not respond with ‘transformative learning’. Had you have said this, I would have inquired to learn specifically how you would be proceeding.
With regards to my being present for the full session, I was physically in the room, yes, and not receiving your services. When I am engaged in learning, I ask questions, as you experienced at the beginning of the program. The final three days were a waste of my time. My learning was not engaged. If you had been attentive, you would have seen how I occupied the time – Facebooking, playing Bejewelled, etc. I did not receive your services during the final three days of the program.
Transformative Learning is a practice with recommendations from its developer Jack Mezirow – have italicized points for your attention. (Brackets hold my comments.)

Best Practices for Adult Educators Regarding Transformational Learning Theory

There are numerous ways in which adults can be taught. Thus, there is not one correct way in which this learning theory should be applied. Taylor(1998) promoted several keys points to apply Transformational Learning in practice. They are as follows:
•    “Ideal learning conditions promote a sense of safety, openness, and trust” (Taylor, 1998, p. 53).
•    “Effective instructional methods that support a learner-centered approach” “Promote student autonomy, participation and collaboration” (Taylor, 1998, p. 53).
•    “The importance of activities that encourage the exploration of alternative personal perspectives, problem-posing, and critical reflection” (Taylor, 1998, p. 54).
(Note: Safety was not built in the room – see blog post referenced in an earlier email for comments in that regard; student autonomy, participation and collaboration was assumed to be taking place, the stringent rules surrounding the practice of your processes influenced this; there were no activities that encouraged student exploration, instead, they were geared toward following your direction, or responding to questions from your client group in attendance.)
There are also several ways for the teachers to work and communicate with their students, which can provide the students with a quality learning experience within Transformational learning. Some of these attributes for the teachers to have are “trusting, empathetic, caring, authentic, sincere, and demonstrating a high degree of integrity” (Taylor, 1998, p. 54). Also it is important to provide “feed-back and self-assessment” to the students when using transformational learning theory(Taylor, 1998, p. 54).
(I did not experience empathy for my experience in the program from you or Holocracy One personnel. No one approached me with regards to my frustrations with the program.)
Similarly, Imel (1998) stated several roles that the students and teachers should have in class in terms of transformational learning. First of all, he claims the teacher should foster a learning environment of trust and care, in which the learners and teachers have a sensitive relationship with each other. (Did not occur) Secondly, the students also should share the responsibility for establishing a learning atmosphere, in which the “the transformative learning can occur”(Imel, 1998, p. 4). (Not overtly stated in the class).
According to Mezirow(1994),the roles of the educators are
• Help the leaner focus on and examine the assumptions that underlie thier beliefs, feelings and actions.For example, the adult educator should do an exercise in class that allows learners to spend time exploring their beliefs on the topic of discussion. Educators can use the “think-pair-share” exercise to discuss in small groups feelings, beliefs, and actions regarding to topic (There was no opportunity to process our feelings and thoughts to help bridge into the new paradigm)
• Assess the consequence of these assumptions. For instance, the adult educators can have conversations in class to know the students’ assumptions about one topic. Then group the students who have similar assumptions together, discuss one single event and compare how different their perceptions are. Or they can check some existing systems, like communism and capitalism, and what’s the consequences are.
• Identify and explore alternative sets of assumptions. Through discussions,group sharing,and debate, they teachers can help the students opening their minds to different beliefs and feelings underlying the different assumptions.
• Test the validity of assumptions through effective participation in reflective dialogue. The teachers should encourage dialogue to reflect and review what have happened to them and check if their original assumptions are correct in these events.
(If you were using Transformative learning, these tenets were not in effect, nor were they evident in practice.)
References
Taylor, E. W. (1998). The theory and practice of transformative learning: A critical revicw. (Contract No. RR93002001). Columbus, OH: Center on Education and Training for Employment. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423422)
Imel, S. (1998). Transformative learning in adulthood. (Report No. EDO-CE-98-200). Columbus, OH: Adult, Career, and Vocational Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423426)
Mezirow, J. (1994). Understanding transformation theory. Adult Education Quarterly. 44(4), 222-232.
Mezirow.J.(1997). Transformative learning: theory to practice.New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education.no.74, summer 1997. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Choy.s. (2010). Transformational Learning in the workplace. Journal of Transformative Education.7(1).65-84.
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S. & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. 3rd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc. ISBN: 0787975885.
Holocracy One Certification Training copy – you will notice that there is no mention of Transformative learning, only learning. My expectations for learning were not met. I maintain my request as forwarded in the earlier email, my fees, less your out of pocket costs.

Certification Training

The most in-depth Holacracy training available, this 5-day experience helps participants learn how to facilitate Holacracy’s meetings and processes in alignment with the principles of Dynamic Steering. Participants will practice under the guidance and coaching of experts, while learning how to address the many challenges and nuances that emerge during the actual application of Holacracy. Successful completion of this training conveys our Certified Holacracy Practitioner credential, and also serves as the first step in the Holacracy licensing program for professional consultants.
Learning Objectives
As a participant in this training you will:
Join an intimate group for 5 full days of exploring the leading-edge of human organization.
Engage with all aspects of the Holacracy™ operating system – structure, governance, operations, strategy, and leadership, all built around “dynamic steering” principles.
Learn new habits and practices to shift from “predict and control” to “sense and respond” – and how to bring others along for the ride.
Shift from “facilitating the people” to “facilitation beyond ego”, where process is sacred and the people are invited to serve a larger evolutionary purpose.
Practice, practice, practice – under the guidance of Holacracy™ masters you’ll get coaching and feedback you can put to use immediately.
Become a Certified Holacracy Practitioner™ and join a worldwide community of leading-edge change agents advancing Holacracy™ practice in the world.
Leave with a profound new experience of what’s possible in organization, and the concrete skills to embody it in your own work.
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From:     Brian Robertson
Subject:     RE: Welcome- Bay Area Holacracy Certification Training
Date:     March 1, 2011 2:22:33 PM EST
To:     Marci Segal
Hi Marci,
I was not referencing that work on “Transformative Learning” you found or any similar theory or body of work in my prior response.  We are not attempting to apply any specific theory or set of principles, but rather a general understanding of effective training principles and practices from our own experience delivering trainings to thousands of people within our target market, as well as all the feedback we’ve collected along the way.
I did read the further analysis you provided, and again our experience and feedback leads us to different conclusions.  We make reasonable efforts to create safety for participants, and have no reason to believe we have any general problems with creating safety in our trainings.  We disagree on other points you raised as well, and I’ll echo my prior statement:
Overall, I see a solid training with no major issues.  Our experiential data is aligned with this conclusion as well.  We consistently have positive reviews from people of all different types and learning styles.  We’ve received feedback from most attendees of this recent event in particular, and aside from your experience we have received no negative comments or poor reviews.  We’ve also solicited critiques in the past from many professional trainers who have attended our Certification Training, and we frequently hear it is among the best training setups and deliveries they’ve ever encountered.
I understand that you had a painful experience, however we respectfully disagree that the cause of your bad experience stems from design, setup, or delivery flaws in HolacracyOne’s training.  HolacracyOne thus maintains its position of declining to offer a refund.  In the interest of agreeing to disagree so that we can both move on, we will consider the matter closed to further reconsideration at this point.
Regards,
– Brian

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From:     MARCI SEGAL
Subject:     Re: Welcome- Bay Area Holacracy Certification Training
Date:     March 1, 2011 9:51:39 PM EST
To:     Brian Robertson
Brian
Holacracy One does bear responsibility for poor service and falsely representing the program.  It’s customer service is below accepted standards.
It is unlikely that 100% the thousands of people you say have taken this training have all been satisfied with their experience. You have likely received your intelligence regarding your program from those who were satisfied rather than those who were not.
Again, I ask you to reconsider your position.
Best regards,Marci

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From:     Brian Robertson
Subject:     RE: Welcome- Bay Area Holacracy Certification Training
Date:     March 1, 2011 10:50:01 PM EST
To:     MARCI SEGAL
Ø  Holacracy One does bear responsibility for poor service and falsely representing the program.  It’s customer service is below accepted standards.
We will have to agree to disagree on this one.
Ø  It is unlikely that 100% the thousands of people you say have taken this training have all been satisfied with their experience. You have likely received your intelligence regarding your program from those who were satisfied rather than those who were not.
There have been about 140 people who have gone through the 5-day Certification Training in particular, and we have gotten feedback in one form or another from every single one of them; we are thus very confident in our data and stance here.
Ø  Again, I ask you to reconsider your position.
Our position is firm; we consider the matter closed and will not engage around it further.  Please direct any further dispute you’d like to bring through formal legal channels.
Regards,
– Brian