Tag Archives: dynamic governance

The Dangers of Renaming Sociocracy

The impulse in consulting and study groups with a focus on sociocracy is renaming sociocracy: dynamic governance, dynamic self-governance, sociocracy 3.0, Circle Forward, Holacracy, etc. All include sociocracy with almost no variation except in changing the names and vocabulary.

I’m totally sympathetic with this—”sociocracy” in English isn’t a pleasant word. It has this awful “ock” sound in the middle that is harsh and too easily becomes nasal. And the association with the word “socialism,” which in the United States is anathema.

But Holacracy is not much better and I don’t see the Holacracy people breaking off with new names. Even with the impediment of Holacracy being trademarked and aggressively protecting their trademark, it could be migrated with a new name if people wanted to.

Renaming sociocracy further creates confusion and blurs the force of the movement. Perhaps even more dangerous, it separates all these seemingly unique methods, from the history and literature related to sociocracy and to that of “circular organization.”

Circular organization refers to organizations based on the feedback loops central to cybernetic study of organisms and systems, and essential in sociocracy. The concept of “circular organization” was first presented in 1981 by by Russell Ackoff and others prominent in early cybernetics and systems thinking. It was implemented in several dozen corporations and federal agencies, including Budweiser.

Sociocracy has more than 150 years of theorizing about a government that would act for all the people. It was led by leaders like the French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Compt and the American scientist and sociologist  Frank Ward. It has been implemented since WW II. Supposedly “new” ideas and names disassociates the ideas from history. These new-name methods are not sufficiently different  to warrant new names.  They artificially divide a field study that needs focus in order to grow.

It now takes longer to clarify the differences and non-differences between all the names than to explain sociocracy.
“Sociocracy” has a wonderful history that parallels that of science and the search for a better society. And it has a wonderful ethical base — the equal valuing of all people.

Branding Sociocracy in the United States

The letter S as a cattle brandSince sociocracy was introduced in North America, problems with the name “sociocracy” have hounded it.  Unlike European countries, Americans associate sociocracy negatively with “socialism,” sociocracy is harder to say in English than in many other languages. Unfortunately, the rejection of the word “sociocracy” and the use of alternatives continue to confuse the public and obstruct efforts to develop a cohesive image, a “brand” in the current marketing vernacular.

A Solution for Branding Sociocracy

Some of the various names for methods based on the principles fo sociocracy are  Dynamic Governance, Bio-Dynamic Governance, Dynamic Self-Governance, Holacracy, and most recently, Circle Forward. All are unique in emphasis and aim but share the same principles. One solution to unifying the field would for all to use a common phrase as a subtitle or in descriptive content.  “Implementing the principles of sociocracy” or “an implementation of sociocracy.” This would clarify confusion and  unify forces while allowing unique identities, business branding, etc.

Acknowledging a common methodological base would also encourage more dialogue about the nature if that base. This kind of dialogue about methods of teaching and practicing would be valuable to all. It would provide the kind of analysis that is necessary to the further development and application of sociocracy.

What Is Sociocracy and Why Do You Need it?

What is Sociocracy?

A quick answer to the question, What is Sociocracy? is that sociocracy is both:

  • A social ideal that values equality and the rights of people to decide the conditions under which they live and work, and
  • An effective method of organizing collaborative and productive organizations as associations, businesses, and governments, large and small.

In English-speaking countries, as a method of organization sociocracy is often called dynamic governance, but around the world is simply called sociocracy. Its founder called it the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method (SCM).

Not Just a Statement of Values

Sociocracy shares the values of democracy

  • freedom and equality, and
  • the right and responsibility of self-determination.

But sociocracy doesn’t just state values. It goes deeper. It is a method of organization and decision-making that ensures those values are implemented. Its principles and practices are very different from parliamentary procedure and majority rule. Majority rule can lead to a divided society and promotes competition and dominance instead of coöperation and equality.

A Whole System Science Approach to Governance

Sociocracy is a whole systems approach to designing and leading organizations. It is based on principles, methods, and a structure that creates a resilient and coherent system,. It uses transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability to increase harmony, effectiveness, and productivity.

Sociocracy was conceived as applied Sociology. Sociology is a social science that studies social groups and how they function. It was to be a governance method based on information from sociologists. Sociocracy, developed with research and experimentation, has shown that people who live and work together are more likely to make good decisions for themselves than anyone else.

Sociocracy guarantees a society in which freedom and equality are determined by the people who have an active role in creating the conditions under which they live and work..

Consent Is Required for Policy Decisions

Requiring consent for policy decisions ensures that no member of a group or circle* can be ignored. All circles make the policy decisions that directly affect their own responsibilities. They are not reserved for top management, officers, or boards.

Policy decisions are agreements about how an organization will work. They govern how resources will be used, who will do which jobs, the standards of quality, etc. Within the policies of the larger organization, for example, the loading dock circle will decide the policies governing how the loading dock will work on a day-to-day basis.

Consent means “no objections.” Giving consent does not mean unanimity, agreement, or endorsement of the proposal.  Consent is given to moving forward, to supporting the policy as “worth trying until we have more information.”  Or “I can work with it.” Requiring consent ensures that a policy will be followed by everyone until there is reason to change it. Like budgets, policies are rarely in force forever.

As a member of any sociocratically governed organization, you are guaranteed of your ability to collaboratively decide your living and working conditions as a citizen, as an employee, as a member, as a neighbor, as a student.

Coordination and Management When Everyone Makes Policy Decisions

Within the policies of the larger organization. all work groups, chapters, departments, committees, etc., make their own policies. Day-to-day operational decisions are governed by policy decisions and are most often delegated to the leader of operations.

When a policy affects more than one circle, it is delegated to the coordinating or general management circle. The general management circle is composed of operations leaders and elected representatives from each circle. Each member of the coordinating circle has to give consent. This protects the circles from decisions that would affect their ability to do their work.

Instead of a board of directors, a sociocratic organization has a top circle that fulfills many of the functions of a traditional board except that it does not have absolute control over the organization. The top circle includes members of the coordinating circle, the president or CEO, and outside members who add financial and professional expertise. The responsibilities of the top circle include long-term planning and financial decisions that affect the organizations future.

So What Is Sociocracy?

It is a governance system designed to protect and apply the values that democracies cherish. Unlike current democracies, it is also a governance structure designed to make sure those values will be applied as equally as possible for everyone.

Search these words for more information on What is Sociocracy? and Why You Need It: consent, consensus, democracy, dynamic governance, majority vote, policy decisions, Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method (SCM)

Updated: 10 June 2016