nrg circles beyond holacracy

This company moves beyond Holacracy to meet its purpose

It was a rainy afternoon in October when we landed in Papendrecht (the Netherlands) with our Responsive Org Meetup community. We visited a small company trying to speed up the transition in the Oil and Gas industry, nd they do so in a remarkable way. We visited NRG Circles and learned a ton and got inspired to take action ourselves. We love to share our highlights with you.

Back in 2016 the managers of NRG Circles did a buyout and became the owners of the company. In the same year, they realized that the way they were working wasn’t how they wanted to work. In their search, they learned about Holacracy. Not much later, the founder Raëma de Lange signed the Holacracy Constitution. And that was just the beginning of their journey to becoming a For Purpose Enterprise.

The powershift

In the warehouse of NRG Circles, Jasper Rienstra (the Holacracy coach they hired) laid out the companies timeline on the floor. And took us with him on their journey through the years. Guided by the most remarkable moments in the recent history of their transformation to Holacracy and beyond.

The most remarkable moment for me was the powershift (realization). While they were on their way to becoming more self-managed, using Holacracy, Raëma sighed and said something like “I’ve got so much to do, and besides that, I have to do Holacracy”. As honest as he was, this called for an intervention by the Holacracy Coach and the other Shareholder at his house. This made him realize that he was the one holding back the powershift that was needed. After this talk, Raëma became the promoter for Holacracy, in and outside the company.

For purpose Enterprise

NRG Circles truly invest in their employees and puts aside egos. You can feel that there is a safe work environment to thrive in. They transformed their purpose by using Holacracy and the shareholders were not able to intervene. The purpose changed from “Speed up the transition in the Oil and Gas industry in delivering an exceptional service experience” to “By creating perfect supply chain solutions we change the oil and gas industry towards zero waste production”.

However, they aren’t there yet and in order to get there, they are now transitioning from a for-profit to a for-purpose enterprise, changing the legal and people context. and will keep using Holacracy to reinvent themselves and the way they work.

“People are not part of the cost, they are part of the profit”

The NRG Circles alternatives

NRG Circles is doing a lot of things differently from the regular companies. For example a couple of responsibilities that are normally part of the HR portfolio. Hiring, Salary, and Firing. Charlotte Vergouwen shared their experiences and learnings.

Hire for purpose

It starts at the beginning, the hiring process. They are not hiring for skill alone. Otherwise, it won’t get them ‘to’ their purpose. Therefore it is needed to have people on board who can help them move faster. To find these people they have a few principles to go by and which they have incorporated in a hiring process. Learn more about this in the practice Charlotte shared on this platform:

A salary formula

NRG Circles has a new way of looking at salaries. They came from the traditional scale setup based on your age, your salary increased. This was ridiculous and they implemented a new way that the salaries are build from.

The three layers:

  1. Base salary for all employees
  2. Purpose contribution, how much do you contribute to reaching the purpose. Quantified in three levels with a fixed amount per level.
  3. What skills do you bring to the table? They work with roles instead off functions and roles require skills. The skills are benchmarked and evaluated when needed. Within the skill, you again have three levels that represent a fixed amount per level. Every employee can start the process to claim he/she reached a new level. In the process, an advisor and expert are in place to objectively confirm or challenge the claim. If needed, an expert from outside is consulted to help with this process. Performance management isn’t attached to the salaries. And there are no annual increases.

Firing procedure and Pay to leave

When it comes down to the most unpopular decision (although at NRG Circles it is actually celebrated if you decide to leave), NRG Circles has a very decent process. Learn more on the practices Charlotte wrote about this:


The evening started in a huge circle with a Check-in, and of course, ended with a Check-out.

NRG Circles started on an amazing journey. Their employees created and invented new ways of working and already have three years of experience in Holacracy. They are really ahead of the curve and a pioneer in the Netherlands and probably in the world too.

A big thanks to opening up and share their inspiring learnings with us. The hospitality was excellent and much appreciated.

One last quote as a give-away, for you to think about:

“Work doesn’t define you, it’s what you do!”

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