Recommendations for readings, websites, videos, and anything else that might be interesting to people interested in sociocracy. Topics are wide ranging in relation to democracy, sociocracy, governance, organizational structure, decision-making, power, politics, etc. An answer is often found in a seemingly unrelated thought.
¡La traducción al español de Nosotros, el Pueblo ya está disponible!
La edición actualizada y ampliada de Nosotros, el Pueblo: Acordando una democracia más profunda, de John Buck y Sharon Villines, ahora está disponible en una ediciones digitales.
Nosotros, el Pueblo: Acordando una democracia más profunda, traducido por Romina Piscione, está disponible en varios ebooks como Barnes & Noble, Tolino, Kobo y Scribd. Amazon aún está procesando, pero debería estar disponible en cualquier momento.
Referencia estándar para comprender la sociocracia
Desde la publicación de la primera edición en 2007, We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy se ha convertido en la referencia estándar sobre sociocracia. Es una presentación completa de la historia y la aplicación de los principios y las prácticas sociocráticas, explica para qué están diseñados. A medida que las organizaciones adaptan la sociocracia a su estructura y cultura existentes, algunos cambios pueden parecer necesarios. Comprender “el por qué” es esencial para realizar cambios sin negar los beneficios del original.
“Nuestra comprensión de cómo funciona el mundo se alteró fundamentalmente cuando el modelo mecánico de sistemas lineales cerrados fue reemplazado por cibernética y teoría de la complejidad. La sociocracia es un método de gobernanza que utiliza estas nuevas ciencias para diseñar organizaciones que son tan poderosas, autoorganizadas, y autocorrección como el mundo natural, incluidas las abejas melíferas “. – Desde la portada del libro.
La guía definitiva para la gobernanza colaborativa
Nosotros, el Pueblo sigue siendo el manual definitivo para aprender sobre sociocracia y su método para diseñar y organizar colaborativamente organizaciones exitosas, y respetar la inteligencia y el compromiso de todos en la organización.
Collection of Readings and Resources
Nosotros, el Pueblo también incluye una cantidad de recursos no disponibles en otros lugares: información sobre “cómo hacer”, reimpresiones de textos históricos, guías breves para reuniones, un glosario y una bibliografía seleccionada. La edición impresa está completamente indexada.
La nueva edición también incluye muchas más fotografías, diagramas, gráficos y tablas.
Los temas incluyen:
la historia y la teoría de la sociocracia,
su base en cibernética,
el razonamiento detrás de los principios esenciales,
la relación del método del círculo sociocrático con la teoría de gestión tradicional,
el proceso de implementación,
ejemplos de estatutos para empresas y organizaciones sin fines de lucro,
guías breves para reuniones y toma de decisiones,
un glosario, y
Ver también: Errata y Materiales Suplementarios
Ver también: Tabla de contenido
Ver también: Extracto del libro
Dónde encontrar Nosotros, el Pueblo
Nosotros, el Pueblo: Acordando una democracia más profunda, de John Buck y Sharon Villines. traducido por Romina Piscione – 2nd edition 2017
A New Edition of the Standard Reference for Understanding Sociocracy
Since the publication of the first edition in 2007, We the People has become the definitive handbook for learning about sociocracy and its method of collaboratively designing and organizing successful organizations. The principles and practices are designed to ensure that all members are respected so the commitment of everyone in the organization is enhanced.
The updated and expanded edition of We The People: Consenting To A Deeper Democracy by John Buck & Sharon Villines is now available in both print and digital editions.
The Portuguese edition, Nós o Povo, Consentindo a uma Democracia mais Profunda was translated by a team of translators coördinated by Diogo Cordovil S. Cordeiro. It is available from the ebooksellers below.
We the People includes a number of resources not available elsewhere: “how to” information, reprints of historical texts, short guides for meetings, a glossary, and a selected bibliography. The print edition is fully indexed.
The history and theory of sociocracy
Its foundation in cybernetics
The reasoning behind the essential principles,
The Sociocratic Circle Method’s relationship to traditional management theory
The implementation process
Examples of bylaws for businesses and nonprofits
Short guides for meetings and decision-making
Many more photographs, diagrams, charts, and tables.
The paper and digital editions of the English edition are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell Books, and other online booksellers. Specialized works on governance are often not stocked by brick and mortar bookstores, but your bookstore can special order them through Ingram, the major distributor of books to bookstores. (And please encourage them to stock the book.)
Searching for the book in online databases is complicated. After months of complaints about online booksellers not carrying the book, I spent a day—yes, all day—searching online bookstores for each of the four versions. Since the title “We the People” is common and the name “John Buck” is far from unique, I have suggested that people search for the book by its ISBN or “Villines.” However, complaints persisted. After visiting each site and searching for each title, I discovered there is no one way to find the book.
Even on each of the Amazon stores around the world, one keyword doesn’t work but another one does. The ISBN doesn’t either. “Villines” returns no items but “Sharon Villines” will find six or seven. “We the People” won’t work, but elsewhere “We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy” works for all three language versions. Or it only works for the English edition and the Spanish and Portuguese versions have to be searched by their titles. In some countries, the authors may not be listed at all, only by the translators. It’s not so easy as I thought.
Available from these Booksellers
Now an expert in bad search engines in many countries, I have included below the links to each of the language versions at each of the online stores. Amazon’s websites are only listed first because there are so many of them and not all countries allow purchases to be made from outside their borders. (Reasons I’ve been given include protection against money laundering and political unrest.)
The English, Portuguese, and Spanish translations are available as indicated below, but as availability grows, a Google search on the full book title will may you find other booksellers.
ABE Books is a resource for finding new and used books from independent booksellers. They have a good search engine and service is predictably prompt and reliable.
Powell’s City of Books claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world, probably true. They have had almost everything I have ever looked for, used or new, but they don’t carry digital editions.
Trainers, consultants, schools, and organizations can order 20+ copies of the English print edition at a significant discount directly from Sociocracy.info Press: Bulk Orders.
Kees Boeke was an internationally known peace activist and educator. During WW II when he was arrested for harboring Jews, in his pocket he had an early draft of a declaration entitled “No Dictatorship.” It could have cost him his life, but he was released. It described a plan for a truly democratic society and was first published in May of 1945 as Sociocracy: Democracy as It Might Be. This version was edited by his wife Beatrice Cadbury Boeke and included here with the permission of his daughter Candia Boeke.
We are so accustomed to majority rule as a necessary part of democracy that it is difficult to imagine any democratic system working without it. It is true that it is better to count heads than to break them, and democracy, even as it is today, has much to recommend it as compared with former practices. But the party system has proved very far from providing the ideal democracy of people’s dreams. Its weaknesses have become clear enough: endless debates in Parliament, mass meetings in which the most primitive passions are aroused, the overruling by the majority of all independent views, capricious and unreliable election results, government action rendered inefficient by the minority’s persistent opposition. Strange abuses also creep in. Not only can a party obtain votes by deplorably underhanded methods, but, as we all know, a dictator can win an election with an “astonishing” majority by intimidation.
The fact is that we have taken the present system for granted for so long that many people do not realize that the party system and majority rule are not an essential part of democracy.
The fact is that we have taken the present system for granted for so long that many people do not realize that the party system and majority rule are not an essential part of democracy. If we really wish to see the whole population united, like a big family, in which the members care for each other’s welfare as much as for their own, we must set aside the quantitative principle of the right of the greatest number and find another way of organizing ourselves. This solution must be really democratic in the sense that it must enable each one of us to share in organizing the community. But this kind of democracy will not depend on power, not even the power of the majority. It will have to be a real community-democracy, an organization of the community by the community itself.
For this concept I shall use the word “sociocracy.” Such a concept would be of little value if it had never been tried out in practice. But its validity has been successfully demonstrated over the years. Anyone who knows England or America will have heard of the Quakers, the Society of Friends. They have had much influence in these countries and are well known for their practical social work. For more than three hundred years the Quakers have used a method of self-government that rejects majority voting, group action being possible only when unanimity has been reached.
I too have found by trying out this method in my school that it really does work, provided there is recognition that the interests of others are as real and as important as one’s own. If we start with this fundamental idea, a spirit of goodwill is engendered which can bind together people from all levels of society and with the most varied points of view. This, my school, with its three to four hundred members, has clearly shown.
As a result of these two experiences, I have come to believe that it should be possible some day for people to govern themselves in this way in a much wider field. Many will be highly skeptical about this possibility. They are so accustomed to a social order in which decisions are made by the majority or by a single person, that they do not realize that, if a group provides its own leadership and everyone knows that only when common agreement is reached can any action be taken, quite a different atmosphere is created from that arising from majority rule. These are two examples of sociocracy in practice; let us hope that its principles may be applied on a national, and finally an international scale.
Before describing how the system could be made to work, we must first see what the problem really is. We want a group of persons to establish a common arrangement of their affairs which all will respect and obey. There will be no executive committee chosen by the majority, having the power to command the individual. The group itself must reach a decision and enter into an agreement on the understanding that every individual in the group will act on this decision and honor this agreement. I have called this the self-discipline of the group. It can be compared to the self-discipline of the individual who has learned to set certain demands for himself that he obeys.
Three Fundamental Rules
There are three fundamental rules underlying the system. The first is that the interests of all members must be considered, the individual bowing to the interests of the whole. Secondly, solutions must be sought which everyone can accept: otherwise no action can be taken. Thirdly, all members must be ready to act according to these decisions when unanimously made.
The spirit that underlies the first rule is really nothing else but concern for one’s neighbor, and where this exists, where there is sympathy for other people’s interests, where love is, there will be a spirit in which real harmony is possible.
The second point must be considered in more detail. If a group in any particular instance is unable to decide upon a plan of action acceptable to every member, it is condemned to inactivity; it can do nothing. This may happen even today where the majority is so small that efficient action is not possible. But in the case of sociocracy there is a way out, since such a situation stimulates its members to seek for a solution, that everyone can accept, perhaps ending in a new proposal, which had not occurred to anyone before.
While under the party system disagreement accentuates the differences and the division becomes sharper than ever, under a sociocratic system, so long as it is realized that agreement must be reached, it activates a common search that brings the whole group nearer together. Something must be added here. If no agreement is possible, this usually means that the present situation must continue for the time being. It might seem that in this way conservatism and reaction would reign, and no progress would be possible. But experience has shown that the contrary is true.
The mutual trust that is accepted as the basis of a sociocratic society leads inevitably to progress, and this is noticeably greater when all go forward together with something everyone has agreed to. Again it is clear that there will have to be “higher-level” meetings of chosen representatives, and if a group is to be represented in such a meeting, it will have to be by someone in whom everyone has confidence. If this does not prove possible, then the group will not be represented at all in the higher-level meeting, and its interests will have to be cared for by the representatives of other groups. But experience has shown that where representation is not a question of power but of trust, the choice of a suitable person can be made fairly easily and without unpleasantness.
The third principle means that when agreement is reached the decision is binding on all who have made it. This also holds of the higher-level meeting for all who have sent representatives to it. There is a danger in the fact that each must keep decisions made in a meeting over which he has only an indirect influence. This danger is common to all such decisions, not least in the party system. But it is much less dangerous where the representatives are chosen by common consent and are therefore much more likely to be trusted.
A group that works in this way should be of particular size. It must be big enough for personal matters to give way to an objective approach to the subject under discussion, but small enough not to be unwieldy, so that the quiet atmosphere needed can be secured. For meetings concerned with general aims and methods a group of about forty has been found the most suitable. But when detailed decisions have to be made, a small committee will be needed of three to six persons or so. This kind of committee is not new. If we could have a look at the countless committees in existence, we should probably find that those that are doing the best work do so without voting. They decide on a basis of common consent. If a vote were to be taken in such a small group, it would usually mean that the atmosphere is wrong.
Of special importance in exercising sociocratic government is the leadership. Without a proper leader unanimity cannot easily be reached. This concerns a certain technique that has to be learnt. Here Quaker experience is of the greatest value. Let me describe a Quaker business meeting. The group comes together in silence. In front sits the Clerk, the leader of the meeting. Beside him sits the Assistant Clerk; who writes down what is agreed upon. The Clerk reads out each subject in turn, after which all members present, men and women, old and young, may speak to the subject. They address themselves to the meeting and not to a chairman, each one making a contribution to the developing train of thought.
It is the Clerk’s duty, when he thinks the right moment has come, to read aloud a draft minute reflecting the feeling of the meeting. It is a difficult job, and it needs much experience and tact to formulate the sense of the meeting in a way that is acceptable to all. It often happens that the Clerk feels the need for a time of quiet. Then the whole gathering will remain silent for a while, and often out of the silence will come a new thought, a reconciling solution, acceptable to everyone.
It may seem unbelievable to many that a meeting of up to a thousand people can be held in this way. And yet I have been present at a Yearly Meeting of the Quakers in London, held during war-time (the First World War), at which the much vexed problem of the Quaker attitude to war was discussed in such a manner, no vote being taken. So I believe that if we once set ourselves the task of learning this method of co-operation, beginning with very simple matters, we shall be able to learn this art and acquire a tradition that will make possible the handling of more difficult questions.
This has been confirmed by my experience at Bilthoven in building up the school which I called the Children’s Community Workshop. Very early on I suggested that we should talk over how we should organize our community life. At first the children objected, saying they wanted me to take the decisions for them. But I insisted, and the idea of the ‘Talkover,” or weekly meeting, was accepted. Later I suggested that one of the children help me with the leadership of the meeting; and from that time on it has become an institution, led by the children, which we should not like to lose.
When I began to hold these Talkovers, I was aware that I was using the procedure of the Quaker business meeting, and I saw in the distance, as it were, the great problem of the government of humanity. It was also curious to discover whether the art of living together, understood as obeying the rule we had all agreed upon, would be simple enough to be learned by children. An experience of some 20 years has shown me that it certainly is.
But something more is necessary before this method can be applied to adult society. When we are concerned, not with a group of a few hundred people, but with thousands, even millions, whose lives we wish to organize in this way, we must accept the principle of some sort of representation. There will have to be higher–level meetings, and these will have to deal with matters concerning a wider area. Higher-level meetings will also have to send representatives to another higher body, which will be responsible for a still wider area, and so on.
After my hopes for the success of school meetings had been confirmed by practice, I was very curious to know if a meeting of representatives would work also in the school. One day when the number of children had grown too large for one general meeting at which all could be present, I suggested the setting up of a meeting of representatives. At first the children did not like the idea; children are conservative. But, as often happens, six months later they suggested the same plan themselves, and since then this institution has become a regular part of the life of the school.
Neighborhood and Ward Meetings
Of course such meetings, if ever they are to be used by adults for the organization of society as a whole, will have a very different character from those of our children’s community. But how in practice could such methods be introduced? First of all, a Neighborhood Meeting, made up of perhaps forty families, might be set up in a particular district, uniting those who live near enough to one another, so that they could easily meet. In a town it very often happens that people do not even know their neighbors, and it will be an advantage if they are forced to take an interest in those who live close by.
The Neighborhood Meeting might embrace about 150 people, including children. About 40 of these Neighborhood Meetings might send representatives to a Ward Meeting, acting for something like 6000 people. In general it will be true to say that the wider the area the Meeting governs the less often it will need to meet. The representatives of about 40 Ward Meetings could come together in a District Meeting, acting for about 240,000 people.
District and Central Meetings
In approximately 40 or 50 District Meetings the whole population of a small country might be covered. The representatives would bring the interests of all the Districts to a Central Meeting. It is an essential condition that representatives have the confidence of the whole group: if they have that, business can usually be carried on quickly and effectively.
Functional Groups: Industries and Professions
As the whole sociocratic method depends on trust, there will be no disadvantage if, alongside the geographical representation of Neighborhood, Ward, District and Central Meetings, a second set of functional groupings be established. It seems reasonable that all industries and professions send representatives to primary, secondary and, where necessary, tertiary meetings, and that the trusted representatives of the “workers” in every field should be available to give their professional advice to the government.
I have here used the word “government”. It is not my intention to put forward a plan according to which the government itself could one day be formed on sociocratic lines. We must start from the present situation, and the only possibility is that, with the government’s consent, we make a beginning of the sociocratic method from the bottom upwards; that is, for the present, with the formation of Neighborhood groups. We, ordinary people, must just learn to talk over our common interests and to reach agreement after quiet consideration, and this can be done best in the place where we live.
Only after we have seen how difficult this is, and after, most probably, making many mistakes, will it be possible to set up meetings on a higher level. If leaders should emerge in the Neighborhood Meetings, their advice would gradually be seen to be useful in the existing Local Councils. Later, in the same way, the advice of leaders of Ward Meetings would be of increasing value.
The sociocratic method must recommend itself by the efficiency with which it works. When the governing power has learnt to trust it enough so as to allow, perhaps even to encourage, the setting up of Neighborhood Meetings, the system will be able to show what possibilities it has, and then the confidence of the governing bodies and of people at large will have a chance to grow. I can well believe that trusted leaders and representatives of Neighborhood Meetings may be allowed, or even invited, to attend Local Meetings.
These men and women will of course take no part in the voting, for sociocracy does not believe in voting; but they might be allowed a place in the centre between the “left” and the “right”. After a time it may even be deemed desirable to ask them for advice about the matter in hand, since it would previously have been discussed in their Neighborhood Meetings, and a solution sought acceptable to all. It is conceivable that, as confidence grows, certain matters might be handed over to the Neighborhood Meetings with the necessary funds to carry them out. Only when the value of the new system is realized, could the higher-level meetings be begun.
Democracy as It Might Be
Is such a development as this a fantasy? When we consider the possible success of government on the sociocratic principle, one thing is certain; it is unthinkable unless it is accompanied and supported by the conscious education of old and young in the sociocratic method. The right kind of education is essential, and here a revolution is needed in our schools. Only latterly have attempts been made in them to further the spontaneous development of the child and encourage his initiative.
Partly because the stated aim of the school is to impart knowledge and skills, and partly because people regard obedience as a virtue in itself, children have been trained to obey. We are only beginning to realize the dangers of this practice. If children are not taught to judge for themselves, they will in later life become an easy prey for the dictator. But if we really want to prepare youth to think and act for themselves, we must alter our attitude to education.
The children should not be sitting passively in rows, while the schoolmaster drills a lesson into their heads. They should be able to develop freely in children’s communities, guided and helped by those who are older acting as their comrades. Initiative should be fostered in every possible way. They should learn from the beginning to do things for themselves, and to make things necessary in their school life. But above all they should learn how to run their own community in some such way as has already been described.
A World Meeting
Finally we must return to the question of representation. We have not gone further than the government of our own country. But the great problem of the government of mankind can never be solved on a national basis. Every country is dependent for raw materials and products on other countries. It is therefore inevitable that the system of representation should be extended over a whole continent and representatives of continents join in a World Meeting to govern and order the whole world.
Our technical skill in the fields of transport and organization make something of this kind possible. Finally a World Meeting should invite representatives of all the continents to arrange a reasonable distribution of all raw materials and products, making them available for all mankind. So long as we are ruled by fear and distrust, it is impossible to solve the problems of the world. The more trust grows and the more fear diminishes, the more the problem will shrink.
A New Spirit of Reconciliation and Trust
Everything depends on a new spirit breaking through among men. May it be that, after the many centuries of fear, suspicion and hate, more and more a spirit of reconciliation and mutual trust will spread abroad. The constant practice of the art of sociocracy and of the education necessary for it seem to be the best way in which to further this spirit, upon which the real solution of all world problems depends.
(Subtitles and additional paragraphs have been added to improve readability on computer screens.)
“These trees are friends,” he said, craning his neck to look at the leafless crowns, black against a gray sky. “You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.”
Trees Take Care of Each Other
Trees in the forest are social beings. “They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web.” They keep ancient stumps alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.
“Trees, like people, wrinkle as they age. Sometimes, pairs like this are so interconnected at the roots that when one tree dies, the other one dies, too.”
Wohlleben applies anthropomorphic terms liberally, describing how trees talk rather than communicate. “Scientific language removes all the emotion.… When I say, ‘Trees suckle their children,’ everyone knows immediately what I mean.” He wants to reawaken a childlike fascination of the forest. Hidden Life has sold 320,000 copies and has been optioned for translation in 19 countries (available in the US in September).
The literature on the behavior of trees explains how trees are less like individuals and more like communal beings. They are stronger when working together in networks and sharing resources. Artificially spacing out trees so they get more sunlight and grow faster can disconnect them from their resilience mechanisms. They need more insecticides to maintain themselves..
Increasing Social and Economic Value
In private forests in Switzerland and Germany, the wood produced is more valuable. In one forest, “When they wanted to buy a car, they cut two trees. For us, two trees would buy you a pizza.”
Ten years ago, Wohlleben left the forestry service discouraged. He had led a successful program in which people could adopt a tree and for a contribution, bury cremated remains beneath it but the forestry service was not supportive or this or similar efforts. As Wohlleben planned to move to Sweden, the city of Hümmel in the Eifel forest also left and hired him to manage their trees.
Now in fully in charge, Wohlleben replaced heavy machinery with horses, eliminated insecticides, and experimented with letting the woods grow wilder. “Within two years, the forest went from loss to profit, in part by eliminating expensive machinery and chemicals.”
A Symbol for Sociocracy, and Metaphors in Practice
The opportunities for metaphors are obviously numerous and I suspect it will be a fruitful joining of ideas based on the biology of trees.
Peter Wohlleben’s website list the many books he has written on biology, nature, and the forest. This is just the latest. I look forward to reading the book in September. Some of you will get to it faster.
Several articles have appeared in the last month or so on the implementation of self-management at Zappos. After having adopted Holacracy, which is based on the principles of sociocracy, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, sent a memo on 24 March 2015 to employees offering three months of salary to any employee who would read a book on Holacracy and quit if they were still not happy in an organization based on self-management.
It was a long complex memo, and not a simple command to “self-organize or leave” as it has been portrayed. Hsieh said:
Our main objective is not just to do Holacracy well, but to make Zappos a fully self-organized, self-managed organization by combining a variety of different tools and processes.
Zappos has regularly paid new employees if they decided the new job wasn’t for them and quit in the first month or so. But for this offer 14% of Zappos employees, 210 people, quit. Undoubtedly many were planning to leave for other reasons, like the move in 2013 to downtown Las Vegas. This was just a convenient time to leave. Thus far there hasn’t been an analysis published on why the employees left. It may well have been poor implementation and confusion, not the expectations to self-manage and self-organize.
And we also don’t know why the 86% of Zappos employees stayed. It may also have nothing to do with liking the new system.
Why Self-Organizing and Self-Management Are So Hard
Why Self-Organizing is So Hard is a blog post by Bud Caddell, a founding member of the NOBL Collective. NOBL is a consulting network that works with organizations to empower “the creativity and capability required for a world of constant change.” They work to “to re-align teams, refocus products, and re-imagine work for the 21st century.” Caddell has worked in an organization using Holacracy and NOBL uses elements of sociocracy, Holacracy, and other self-governing methods in their work.
Caddell’s analysis compares Holacracy to a game of Dungeons and Dragons:
Holacracy, itself, is too complex, dogmatic, and rigid. It feels like playing a game of Management Dungeons and Dragons. Everything you already understand about working in teams is reinvented with confusing language (e.g. circles, tensions, IDM, etc.) and a confusing process. Because of this frustration, some companies are trying to pioneer a cognitively slimmed down version. Blinkist, for example, calls theirs Holacracy Lite.
The same can be said of sociocracy when people begin emphasizing structure before purpose, playing the language card—go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200—when someone says agree instead of consent. Or insisting on the distinction between a top circle and a board of directors. It diverts the emphasis from “a more humane way of organizing” to “the right way.” As if the right language will produce accomplishment of the purpose.
Unless the right word means the accurate and commonly understood word that conveys meaning naturally, it is an impediment to those who are trying to get their work done.
Too often, right means “our word or your word but only in the way we define it.”
Ordered or Programmed?
It’s a thin line between order and homogenization.
An organization isn’t an operating system. It is like an operating system in that all the parts need to work together without conflict so they all contribute to achieving the same purpose. That doesn’t make people plug-ins for a software program. A big difference.
The Place to Start
Caddell has four recommendations for the implementation of governance methods based on self-organization:
Focus on self-management first.
Adapt your own model.
Dedicate a Complexity Reduction Officer (CRO).
Tell more human stories.
The last recommendation is a nice one. In the articles on Hsieh’s so-called command to self-organize and the people who left, there are no personal stories from the people who left and those who stayed. Maybe that comes next.
More articles related to self-organization and management:
Is Holacracy Succeeding At Zappos? by Steve Denning on the Forbes website. An excellent discussion of the contradictions in the implementation of Holacracy given the difficult language of the constitution and the many, sometimes contradictory premises. One being the ability of the CEO to take back his power as a CEO Includes links to several other articles.
At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion by Rachel Emma Silverman on the Wall Street Journal website. I wasn’t able to read this because I don’t have a subscription but it begins with a story from the personal experience of an employee at Zappos so it may be promising. (With all my software programs and online journals going to monthly subscriptions, my budget is blowing in the wind.)
A fabulous 3-minute video by Derek Sivers on how to start a movement.
The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself… The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.
The leader has to have the courage to stand alone, and then make it easy to be followed, to share openly. The leader must support the first followers as equals, not as subordinates.
Followers Make Movements
New followers emulate the followers, not the leader…. Nurture the followers because that values the movement, not the leader.
The lone nut becomes a leader because there are followers. The followers of the followers create the movement. Leadership, in this context, is over-rated.
A movement has to be open to attract followers.
About Derek Sivers
Derek Sivers was a professional musician when he started selling his own CDs on his website in 1998. Friends asked if he could sell theirs, too, and he founded CD Baby. It became the largest seller of independent music on the web, with over $100M in sales for over 150,000 musician clients. In 2008, Sivers placed his company in a foundation and now lives on 5% of the sales from the company. A minimalist, Sivers thrives on having less.
Sivers also started MuckWork, where teams of efficient assistants help musicians do their “uncreative dirty work.”
I sat in on a conference call with the SociocraticConsultingGroup-en last week on forming an organization for sociocracy. I found the discussion to be about the same issues we had several years ago, when Socionet tried to form. It’s the same problem that the NVC organization has had, and that the Austin Belly dance group discussed on the [email protected] list many years ago. The problem of conflicting aims and energies between professionals and enthusiasts.
The problem appears when trying to build an organization that can’t decide if it is promoting sociocracy for all or promoting professional consultants. The energy now is largely in the consultants. This is because the people who most see the need and opportunity often are consultants already or become consultants. That’s good because they can train people who will be most likely to apply the method in their organizations.
A Peer-to-Peer Sociocratic Movement
I’ve never seen mixing of professionals and enthusiasts work in one organization to serve everyone’s needs. It can’t be built around classes, mostly because enthusiasts and sociocrats don’t want to join an organization in order to be marketed to. But it is also because professionals have different needs. They need to ask questions at a more complex level than people who are just learning about sociocracy. They need to discuss professional issues relating to the implementation in situations that they may need to discuss confidentially. They need to ask questions related to building their practices as sociocratic professionals.
The general population may want classes but they also want peer-to-peer interactions and information in a different form. Written materials and tapes. DVDs. Ideas and experiences to discuss with each other, not in teacher-student interactions. Enthusiasts will pull away from professionals and professionals pull away from them.
Ironically, the sociocratic organization has not managed to produce equality in sociocracy.
Discouraging a Sociocratic Movement
The global organization has been supremely afraid of letting the method go viral and still has not released its norms. The fear is that the method will be badly applied by anyone except certified experts and thus reflect negatively on sociocracy.
Professionals have also not encouraged a movement of enthusiasts to form. One negative reaction from professionals to people seeking information and association as other than clients is that such people are asking them to work free. That kind of attitude will dampen any movement. A movement needs the support of experts, but enthusiasts want to join an organization of equals who share information and experiences freely.
What Associations Do
Associations are usually non-profit, dedicated to charitable and public service purposes. They form around a purpose and draw members in to help them accomplish their purpose. They may maintain a speakers bureau that will speak anywhere for low or now cost. They distribute flyers to the public at no cost. Generate books and other materials that can be purchased. Members receive benefits to encourage them to further the purpose, usually a discount on publications, invitations to meetings of various kinds, and a newsletter.
Public Dissemination of Ideas
Business people and government officials have informal groups that meet for lunch and have a speaker. Sometimes the speakers receive an honorarium and sometimes only a free lunch. If the roundtable is for business people, sometimes a gift or gift certificate donated by one of the members. These are networking lunches of highly committed and ambitious people.
How many people have been prepared to speak at such a gathering about sociocracy? What resources are available to help them do so? Outlines and public speaking guides.
When Tony Robbins was beginning his career, he spoke anywhere. Other speakers would only speak to certain groups or if they were paid. Because Robbins accepted any request he spoke several times a week. He was able to hone his message and understand his audience. This is one thing that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point: that success depends on the frequency of performing, speaking, running, etc., usually from a young age.
Bill Gates had access as a teenager to computers and programming. Access others didn’t have. The Beatles were performing on a circuit for years before they became famous. When Tony Robbins developed his motivational speaking skills, he was working as a janitor and , if I remember correctly, took the opportunity to discuss ideas with the executives whose office he cleaned.
Movements also need leaders. Extroverts who love talking to people and being out front. The skills that make good politicians. I don’t think such a person has surfaced in the sociocratic community. Possibly because such a person doesn’t fit in with the global organization which is fairly rigid and closed. The new website is a huge step forward but has been years in the making. The current version has been under consideration for over a year.
While a leader needs to understand the method, the requirement that they be certified is counter-productive and anti-movement unless the purpose is to organize certified people.
A sociocratic movement will not be successful until the needs of professionals as consultants are separated from those of enthusiasts and practitioners, and a leader emerges.
There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. … You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
How can people participate in decision-making if they don’t have access to information? Can those denied both education and knowledge of governance in any form be held responsible when they elect corrupt leaders?
Transparency is fundamental to accountability and an inclusive society.
Reading an article in the New York Times this morning on the lives of two women in Angola, Two Women, Opposite Fortunes, I discovered Transparency International. Transparency International was started in 1993 by Peter Eigen, a former director of the Word Bank programs in East Africa, Its purpose is to expose corruption in government and to reverse the practice of accepting government corruption as inevitable.
It is an accepted fact that if you want to do business with many governments, you have to pay bribes. In order to help provide medical care to the poor, you have to look the other way when most of the funds go into the pocket of the rich—even in a catastrophic emergency like the earthquake in Haiti.
Transparency in Government
Transparency International develops a wide range of resources for understanding and resting corruption:
Tools including business principles for countering bribery, a business integrity toolkit, corruption fighters toolkit and integrity pacts.
Research on corruption, including a Corruption Perceptions Index, national assessments, anti corruption helpdesk, and a Bribe Payers Index.
Numerous publications, programs, and other activities
It’s hard to understand how bad corruption is many countries. We are talking about corruption on the scale of billions of dollars, not a free trip to the Azores to study international progress in farming. Or the gift of a new mink coat. Or paying for your daughter’s wedding. Or the free cup of coffee offered to police officers.
With a Corruption Perceptions Index score of 19 with the lowest score being 100, Angola is an example of one of the most corrupt nations in the world. When the International Monetary Fund first studied Angola’s financial records for 2007-2010, $32 billion dollars was missing. Most of the $58 million allocated to renovate one hospital just vanished.
Angola’s life expectancy and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Income inequality in a country rich in diamond mines, oil, and other lucrative resources is extreme. After the decades long civil war ended in 2002, Angola adopted a nominally democratic government but lineages of kings still exist in some areas. The power is controlled by the president. According to an article in Forbes, the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, is worth $3 billion in a country where 70% of the people live on $2 a day.
The Effects of Corruption
The effects of corruption run deep. For diamonds sold on the world market to create billionaires, the poor suffer deep deprivation. A very small percentage goes to education, healthcare, or economic development for the bottom 70%.
The majority does not rule in all democracies.
Only 54% of Angolan women are literate; 83% of men. In 1995, only 61% of children are even enrolled in school and many rural areas had no school buildings or teachers. Those children uneducated in 1995 are now adults. Democratic ideals expect them to determine how their country will be governed.
Sociocracy would be a start.
Living on $1 a Day. A 53-minute documentary in which four college students live for two months on $1 a day in rural Guatemala. This award-winning film has been called “A Must Watch” by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus
The depth of such deprivation goes even beyond daily food. And daily food in some households is not sufficient to maintain normal activity. Available on Netflix and often shown my non-profit groups combating world hunger, economic development, and micro economies.
Guatemala is 115 on the Perceived Corruption Index with a score of 37 out of a perfect low corruption score of 100.
Literally, sociocracy means the sovereignty of the socius: I myself, the next person, the alter ego, the otherness. From a structural point of view this corresponds with the definition of sociocracy as a situation where the principle of consent predominates or is socially all–determining in the sense that it governs the making of decisions at all levels of society. The sociocratic circle organization is a cybernetic means of making this possible and then, as a dynamic balance, it maintains, regulates, and develops it.
From Sociocracy as Social Design by Gerard Endenburg (English Translation, 1998)
De christen-pacifist Kees Boeke (1884- 1966) wordt wel ‘onderwijshervormer’ genoemd maar hij beoogde niet minder dan de stichting van een nieuwe wereld. Toen de poging om die gemeenschap te stichten mislukte, besloot Boeke een school te stichten waar de ‘nieuwe wereld’ van de grond af opgebouwd moest worden. Deze unieke school kreeg na de Tweede Wereldoorlog een prominente leerling: prinses Beatrix. De koninklijke aandacht leek de kroon op zijn werk, maar luidde ook het begin in van de ondergang van Kees Boeke en alles waar hij altijd in geloof had.
A wonderful discovery today, “As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify,” a TED Talk by Yves Morieux. Morieux is a senior partner in the Washington DC office of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and director of the BCG Institute for Organization. He studies how changes in structure can improve motivation for employees.
“Smart Simplicity” uses six key rules that encourage cooperation to solve long-term problems. Not by just reducing costs and increasing profit, but also by maximizing engagement in all levels of the organization.
The focus of Morieux’s work is very compatible with sociocracy. He stresses collaboration over rule-making, self-organization over central authority, and effective action over complex, multi-layered planning.
A 350˚ Increase in Complexity
In his TED Talk, Morieux first critiques the increasingly complex designs for business plans that might have 5 headings with 25 subheadings under each one, resulting in 125 cogent topics, each with numerous subcategories. Combined with an equally complicated workflow and organizational structure chart, it produces a brilliant, mind-numbing, and wholly unimplementable plan. Impressive in good graphics but hopeless in practice.
The need for an emphasis on smart simplicity is supported by a study done by BCG that reported:
We’ve created an “index of complicatedness,” based on surveys of more than 100 U.S. and European listed companies, which measures just how big the problem is.The survey results show that over the past 15 years, the amount of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals needed in each of those firms has increased by anywhere from 50% to 350%.
A wonderful part of the video is when he recites an example of such business plans with their myriad of meaningless words. He has the memorization skills of an actor and the facility of a professional fast talker so he got himself through it without notes and within 12 minutes. If he had a teleprompter, speaking that fast would have burned out its circuits.
Feedback Loops & Decentralization
Morieux emphasizes that self-organization is dependent on feedback loops to make decentralization work. In a Harvard Business Review article from 2011, he says:
There are six smart rules. The first three involve enabling—providing the information needed to understand where the problems are and empowering the right people to make good choices. The second three involve impelling—motivating people to apply all their abilities and to cooperate, thanks to feedback loops that expose them as directly as possible to the consequences of their actions. The idea is to make finding solutions to complex performance requirements far more attractive than disengagement, ducking cooperation, or finger-pointing. When the right feedback loops are in place, cumbersome alignment mechanisms, ranging from compliance metrics to the proliferation of committees—can be eliminated, along with their costs, and employees find solutions that create more value.
This is has been an important point for theories of circular organization since the 1970s and for understanding sociocracy. Feedback loops are necessary to implement decentralization and impelling cooperation and self-organization.
Morieux’s Smart Rules
Rule 1: Improve Understanding of What Coworkers Do
Rule 2: Reinforce the People Who Are Integrators
Rule 3: Expand the Amount of Power Available
Rule 4: Increase the Need for Reciprocity
Rule 5: Make Employees Feel the Shadow of the Future
Morieux divides his time between leading research and advising senior executives of multinational corporations and public-sector entities in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific on their strategies and organizational transformations. Hehas been featured in articles on organizational evolution in Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Le Monde.
The link below is to a webinar, Introduction to Holacracy, by Brian Robertson, the founder of Holacracy. It is very well done, a good introduction to Holacracy—very clear and not obtuse theorizing. Since much of the structure of Holacracy is the same a sociocracy, it will also help in the understanding sociocracy.
As a former software programmer, Robertson uses the operating system as an analogy. Holacracy is the operating system and the specifics of the products or services the organization provides are the applications. Microsoft Word enables people using the Mac OS or Windows operating systems to produce documents. Adobe Illustrator allows them to produce drawings.
Unlike sociocracy, Holacracy does not have a compensation system. The compensation policies and structure would be an application that each company would design for itself.
Holacracy does not use consent but it also seems not to override objections. Each proposal must have a tangible example of how it will enable or prevent something from happening. The adoption of a policy is based on how the proposed action will negatively affect the team or individual roles within the team. Such negative effects and all other descriptions have to be tangible well-grounded arguments, not abstractions or hypotheticals. When there are no further objections, the policy is adopted but there is no consent round, which is inferred to be a vote.
Since roles and domains of decision-making are so clearly defined, it is easer to see that proposals “belong” to one person’s role or to a set of roles. It isn’t up to anyone else to decide whether a role needs this proposed action, only whether this action will negatively affect any other role.
In clear, humorous, commonplace situations, Meadows explains the use of systems analysis and how it can be applied in both large-scale and individual problem solving. She moves from simple to more complex examples ultimately explaining the complex ways that feedback loops are used to create self-organizing systems in nature and society. She also explains methods for fixing systems that have gone astray.
About Donella “Dana” Meadows
Dana Meadows (1941-2001) was a biophysicist and environmental scientist who taught at Dartmouth for 26 years following her research fellowship at MIT where she worked with Jay Forrester the creator of the study of system dynamics. She is author of one of the most influential essays on systems dynamics, “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” available for PDF download and reprinted in Thinking in Systems, pp. 145-165. She received numerous awards for her work including a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 1994. Her work is considered to have a formative influence in many fields and on many scholars. Unfortunately she died of a bacterial infection at the age of 59 and before completing Thinking in Systems. The manuscript had been circulating amongst students and faculty who added comments. The final manuscript was edited by Diana Wright of the Sustainability Institute.
In 1996, Meadows founded the Sustainability Institute or the study of global systems and practical demonstrations of sustainable living, including cohousing and ecovillages. The Institute was founded next to Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland, VT and has been renamed the Donella Meadows Institute and moved to Norwich, VT. Her papers were donated by the Institute to the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College in 2011.
One of the wrong-headed ideas discussed in Thinking Systems, pushing in the wrong direction on fixing economic growth, the subject of the landmark book, The Limits to Growth; A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind, for which she was lead author. Using a computer model, it projects the effects of continued growth. An extensive review appeared in The Nation in 2012: The Limits to Growth: A Book that Launched a Movement by Christian Parenti. Limits was first published in 1972 and updated. The original version sold 12 million copies and was translated into 37 languages. It was 205 pages. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (2004) is 338 pages.
Rainbow Community School is a private, independent school serving 42 preschoolers and about 120 students from kindergarten through eighth grade in Asheville, North Carolina. For more than 35 years, we have been a national leader in alternative, holistic and contemplative education.
A hierarchy is very efficient. For example, during a crisis, a leader can issue life-saving orders; but it comes with inherent problems. In addition to the equitability issues involved with a hierarchical structure, innovative ideas from the bottom of the hierarchy don’t make their way to the top, creating stagnation. On the other hand, a grassroots approach, where all individuals have equal voice and power, creates a lot of great ideas, but typically lacks the efficiency to be highly productive; especially in a school where teachers can end up with overwhelming administrative responsibilities and “political” concerns in addition to their classroom duties. Dynamic Governance is a sophisticated “both/and” approach to structuring an organization. It makes appropriate use of the efficiency of a hierarchy, yet at specific times the hierarchy dissolves and everyone has an equal voice for making decisions by consent. Dynamic Governance, if instituted adeptly, melts toxicity, and gives everyone the motivation, power, and tools to be highly innovative and productive. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
Storm Integrated Solutions provides organizational governance solutions to communities, voluntary organizations, government agencies, non-profits, and small businesses. The principal is Gregory Rouillard who developed the Circle Sigma System. Based on Boulder, Colorado, they work with clients in other locations.
Our primary transformational framework is The Circle Sigma System, an integrated application of the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method, Compassionate Communication, and Restorative Circles. We offer the following services:
Public workshops and training events
Telephonic and web-based trainings
On-site trainings tailored to your organization
Ongoing consultation and support in implementing transformational practices in your organization
Professional facilitation of any group meeting or process
From the Citizen Hive website on sociocratic governance and why the organization uses it:
Citizen Hiveuses Sociocracy as our governance system.
What is Sociocracy?
Sociocracy is a holistic approach for inclusive decision-making, efficient governance, and the ongoing evaluation and improvement of your team, project, or organization. It fosters empowerment and an attitude where people feel encouraged to experiment, fail, and learn.
Other benefits of sociocracy:
Fosters more trust
Encourages individuals to be accountable to the group´s agreements, relative to available energy and resources.
Helps users evaluate what they do, identify their strengths and growing edges, and apply what they’ve learned to future projects and collaborations.
Focuses on solutions and helps transform potentially painful disagreements into creative opportunities that benefit the whole group.
Why is Citizen Hive using a sociocratic governance system?
Citizen Hive has chosen this as our governance system because we want transparency and equivalence in our organization. We believe in self leadership and self governance as means for creating sustainable values to society as within Citizen Hive.Sociocracy is a social technology for purposeful organization. It radically changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed through a set of “rules of the game” that bake empowerment into the core of the organization. Unlike conventional top-down or progressive bottom-up approaches, it integrates the benefits of both without relying on parental heroic leaders. Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’, processing tensions with real authority and real responsibility, through dynamic governance and transparent operations.Citizen Hive is facilitating the meeting of a diverse group of people, to start new cooperation projects, and to spark bright ideas. With Sociocracy as a neutral governance system, we believe more fun, sound, and sustainable projects can occur, where the individual sovereignty is maintained.
From the Governance page of Citizen Hive. Accessed 29 March 2014.