Tag Archives: operations

Policy Decisions

In order to ensure equality and freedom, the core democratic values, sociocracy requires that policy decisions be made with the consent of those delegated to implement them. Policy decisions are confusing to many people because as citizens and employees, we are rarely asked to make them. Policy decisions are those that determine how we will act in the future. How will we do this? What will guide our actions?

A policy decision tells us how to make choices in order to act in alignment with our purposes and goals.

Policy Decisions Guide Operations Decisions

While many of us make decisions moment-to-moment according to choice or unacknowledged purposes, the most effective think carefully about their long term goals. They define our purposes. These might include a desire to live more an environmentally responsible life, to create our own company, to raise children who are socially and environmentally responsible, to provide emergency services to war-torn countries. These are policy decisions. They state our purposes.

Policy decisions then guide our daily, moment-to-moment decisions. Does this action contribute to achieving our purpose? Does it align with my values? Does this contribute to my goals? These are operations decisions How we “operate”? How we act must align with our purposes if we are to achieve them.

Each policy reviewed regularly and changed when based on experience or changing conditions there is reason to modify it. Like budgets, they are not “forever” decisions.

Consent Is Required for Policy Decisions

Policy decisions are made with the consent of the people who will put the policy into operation. Requiring consent ensures equal consideration of every member of the group. Each member’s objections to a policy must be resolved before the policy can be adopted.

In sociocracy, you are guaranteed of your ability to collaboratively determine your living and working conditions whether you are a citizen, an employee, a member, a neighbor, or a student.

Consent is defined as “no objections.” Giving consent does not require unanimity, agreement, or endorsement. It means one has no objections to moving forward as proposed and a commitment to act in accordance with the policy. There may still be concerns or other preferred options, but these can be tested based on information obtained from implementing the policy. The objective is to move forward with the best action available at the moment.

Objections must be based on reasons why a policy will affect one’s ability to implement the decision: A proposal that makes our work more difficult  and will decrease our effectiveness. A decision to adopt an action that conflicts with the group’s purpose. An objection must address the purpose of the group and our own ability to work toward it.

Consent is required within the group putting the policy into effect. Not everyone must consent to all decisions.

Policy Decisions Are Distributed

Since policy decisions are made by those who must implement them, they are distributed to all parts or levels of an organization.  In organizations governed by an autocratic hierarchy, policy decisions are made by the board and top management. The top leadership makes the decisions about how the loading dock operates even if they have never been on the loading dock, much less worked there.

In addition to the loading dock workers understanding their work better, they will understand their policies better if they set them and will be able to adjust them as necessary. There is no waiting for the general manager to get around to addressing the problem.

Self-Organization

Policy decisions include financial, physical, and human resources decisions. Where will money be spent?  Which roles and responsibilities do we need filled? What is our daily schedule or deadlines? Or what social activities will be planned?  Who will fill roles? What are our standards of quality?

The right to make policy decisions is necessary for a group to self-organize, to self-manage.

Meetings Are Not the Work

We need to remind ourselves that meetings are not the work. Much work is done in meetings and they can be exhausting, but the focus of a meeting is action. Determining effective actions. Defining desired actions. Evaluating failed actions. Or bemoaning lack of action.

Possible Sources of Confusion

In several contexts lately it has become clear that many of us have drifted into confusing meetings with the work, and even as the substance of organizational theories, like sociocracy. One example of this is that we discuss the process of making decisions without measuring the process against the effectiveness of the decision made using it. How did those decision help or hinder us in doing our work and accomplishing our goals?

The focus of a meeting in one way or another is how can we accomplish our aims better? Even when we are discussing feelings, those feelings are important because they affect our ability to do our work, to fulfill our individual roles or responsibilities.

Meetings in Sociocracy and Elsewhere

Training in sociocracy often focuses on the process of circle meetings and making policy decisions: how to conduct a meeting, how to write a proposal, and how to achieve consent. This is necessary because (1) circle meetings are unique to sociocracy, (2) many members may be new to making policy decisions, and (3) sociocracy is a method of organizing work but is often presented in groups of people who do not work together.

In mixed groups, using work-specific examples that everyone understands is difficult. Thus the focus drifts to process instead of the accomplishment of a purpose.

Decisions Are Not about Meetings

The aim of a meeting is not faultless execution of a process. It is what you do when you walk out the door.

There are many, many methods for organizing excellent meetings. They can usually be easily modified for consent decision-making or for any other decision-making method the group has agreed to use. There is nothing special about any of them as long as the group understands them and they help the group make good decisions.

The measure of a good decision is that everyone can support and execute it. The process could be considered entirely chaotic by a professional meeting facilitator or trainer. The important thing is that the work can still be done effectively.

Meetings Are About Operations

Meetings are work because making decisions is often hard. Those decisions are about what happens outside the meeting. They are not an end in and of themselves.  When you make that shift in thinking, it is easier to avoid excessive attention to process. An incomplete or unworkable decision will need to be revisited whether the proper process was followed or not.

Meetings are only means to an end. Meeting generally decrease in a well performing organization while action will increase and become more effective.

Are Your Meetings Substance or Style?

If a meeting is organized around evaluating experience, information, and measurements related to past and future actions—on feedback rather than SWAG or preferences—it will likely be  focused on substance, not style.

 

For non-native English speakers, SWAG stands for “Stupid Wild-Ass Guesses.” They

 are common in decision-making and actually not always bad. Sometimes a SWAG is a good place to start.

 

Are Your Meetings Content or Process?

In several contexts lately the conversations about organizing sociocratically have drifted to the problem of confusing circle meetings with the work of the circle, and even circle meetings as focus of sociocracy. Evidence of this is that we discuss process and enforcing process without discussing the quality and application of decisions in our work. The questions are more often about officers and consent than evaluating the effect of recent policy decisions on operations, worker effectiveness, etc.

Circle Meetings

Training in sociocracy often focuses on circle meetings because (1) they are unique to sociocracy and (2) sociocracy is often presented in workshops to people with diverse roles  in a variety of organizations. This makes discussions of operations difficult. Work-specific examples that everyone in the room understands are hard to craft. Thus the focus drifts to process instead of the accomplishment of the circle’s aim.

Circle Meetings Are Not the Aim

Sociocracy is an elegant method of organizing work, not meetings. There are many, many methods for organizing excellent meetings. All can be used in circle meetings if they allow consent decision-making. The aim of a circle meeting is not following a process; it is what you do when you walk out the door.

The meeting process is designed to facilitate making policy decisions. A good policy decision will enable the circle to accomplish its work more effectively, more energetically, and more harmoniously.

Circle Meetings Are About Operations

Meetings are work because the circle is making decisions and decisions are hard, but circle meetings are what happens outside the meeting. Their reason for being is operations.

If the circle has consented to an incomplete or unworkable policy decision, it needs to be revisited, whether the proper process was followed or not. Arguing process does nothing to correct an ill-advised policy decision.

Sociocracy is about organizing and executing whatever operations are related to the aim of the organization.

Are Your Meetings Substance or Style?

If the circle is making decisions based on experience, information, and measurements—on feedback not SWAG or preferences—it is more likely making decisions based on substance, not style.

For non-native English speakers, SWAG stands for Stupid Wild-Ass Guesses. SWAG’s not always ineffective in decision-making. Sometimes a SWAG is a good place to start, but then you move on.