An area I find people sometimes struggling with as they adopt Holacracy is the area of defining their tensions clearly and succinctly; of course, seasoned practitioners know that this is not necessarily required as the process allows for development but in terms of speeding up to slow down the agile growth for an organisation clarity on tensions felt can be very powerful.


Recently I came across a process that I know will help with this and, from my experiments, provides people with a lot more clarity and confidence in presenting tensions within the organisation. The framework is called the stack, and it is as simple as a set of questions that can help a person move from a feeling to a much more concrete action and, specifically, clarify how to process their tension. The stacking game has many forms allowing a self-reflection of different inputs into explicit action. Stacking helps people move from feeling to action, and as such, there are several forms it takes. These include:

  • Mega Stack (Rage)
  • Angry Stack
  • Irritation Stack
  • Happy Stack
  • Discover Stack
  • Idea Stack

As well as many others, I think the most relevant is the irritation stack. Each stack is helpful in specific situations, and I am happy to elaborate on them in future posts if it would be beneficial. Still, the Irritation Stack, I think, is probably one of the best in creating clarity for Holacracy tensions. The process allows for a person to get grounded on the situation and be better equipped to process their tension through tactical, governance or directly. The Irritation stack process is just answering the following questions: (I have taken liberties to tailor the process specifically to Holacracy)


  1. What role are you Stacking?
  2. Who/What are you Stacking?
  3. At this moment, why has [Who/What] triggered you to feel irritated?
  4. What is the story you’re telling yourself, created by this trigger, about [Who/What] and the situation?
  5. Describe the single word FEELINGS that arise for you when you tell yourself that story?
  6. Describe the specific thoughts and actions that arise for you when you tell yourself this story?
  7. What evidence do you have to support this story as absolutely true?
  8. What non-emotional facts about the situation with [Who/What] triggered you to feel irritated?
  9. If you ignore this current irritation, how will it lead to anger and eventually rage?
  10. Regardless of your irritation trigger with [Who/What] and the original story [Original Story] that you are telling yourself, what do you genuinely want for yourself in and beyond this situation?
  11. What do you want for [Who/What] in and beyond this situation?
  12. What do you want for [Who/What] and YOU in and beyond this situation?
  13. Let’s look at your original story [Original Story] and what you say you want [What you want for you]. If you keep telling yourself this original story, will it ultimately give you what you want? (Yes/No)
  14. Are you ready to let go of the original story, expand your mind and reality around this trigger, and create a new power story that will assure you get what you want? (Yes/No)
  15. Letting go of the original story [Original Story] and reviewing what you want [What you want]
  16. And knowing you can ultimately create any story you desire, what is your new DESIRED VERSION of the story?
  17. What evidence can you see to prove this desired story is accurate so you can weaponise yourself to move forward today?
  18. Stepping back and reviewing what you want [What You Want], will telling yourself this desired story [Desired Story] give you what you want? (Yes/No)
  19. Stepping back from what you have created so far, why has this irritation been extremely positive?
  20. Looking at how positive this irritation trigger has been, what is the singular lesson on life you are taking from this stack?
  21. What is the most significant revelation or insight you are leaving this irritation stack with, and why do you feel that way?
  22. Compared to how you felt when you started this irritation stack, what singular words would you use to describe how you feel now completing it?
  23. What immediate actions are you committed to take leaving this stack?
  24. (Possible Proposal or Tactical Action)
  25. Do you want to add this action to your glass frog tensions list?

Now that seems like a lot of work, and of course, it would be a requirement, but a tool like this can quite honestly unblock a tension and allow it to be processed in an obvious manner. The questions can be modified, and I have often stripped them down or expanded them if the tension is emotionally charged. In my experience, this type of self-reflection and deep thinking has elevated people’s ability to show up within the Holacracy process.


The stacking process requires some repetition and experience, but even people who don’t truly understand the idea of stories we tell ourselves still benefit from unpacking their tensions using tools like this to help the interface between human and process.