Tag Archives: Values

Values and Purpose

The principles and methods of sociocracy are often presented as “empty” meaning they can be used by any kind of organization to accomplish any aim. Values and purpose have no place in scientific method the argument goes. Sociocracy is based on studies of how things work in nature (cybernetics) and how people function in groups (sociology). It is free of ideology—any religious, economic, or political world view. No hidden agendas. No value system.

Equivalence and self-determination are  “practical” truths. “People live and work more productively when they are respected equally and have freedom of choice.”

But freedom and equality are still values. Societies rejecting these values, including nations, have been functioning for hundreds of years. Nature itself does not reflect these values. They are not inherent. They are unique to democracy, sociocracy, and some religious teachings.

The sociocratic principles, that everyone be valued equally (“equivalence”) and have control over the conditions in which they live and work (“consent”), are designed to establish and maintain values with the purpose of creating harmony in our lives, organizations, and workplaces.

Values give our lives purpose. We act because we value. 

On Transparency

Photo of Ricardo SemlerNo one can expect the spirit of involvement and partnership to flourish without an abundance of information available even to the most humble employee. I know all the arguments against a policy of full disclosure. … But the advantages of openness and truthfulness far outweigh the disadvantages. And a company that doesn’t share information when times are good loses the right to request solidarity and concessions when they aren’t.

Ricardo Semler

 Quotation on one value of transparency is from Maverick (1993, p. 136). Maverick was originally published in Portuguese as Turning the Tables in 1988.

Values and Sociocracy


When I first learned about sociocracy in 2002 I believed that its value was equality.* The counter argument was that equality wasn’t a value, it was a practicality. People work more efficiently when they have an equal voice in their work. Sociocracy is value-free. It is an empty tool that when used by any organization increases its productivity. My first reaction to that was to suggest that the word tool, with its meaning of penis in vulgar English, was probably not the best image for a decision-making method and empty penis was not a good. I got blank, rather unbelieving stares. Empty tool as of this writing continues to be used.

I retained equality as a value. In and of itself, it was worth something.


Next came transparency, the open sharing information. The more I saw consensus decision-making in action and reevaluated previous organizational decision-making experiences, the more I realized that decision-making in general and consensus specifically, is only effective if each person in the organization has access to all available information. In sociocratic organizations transparency is a practice, like logbooks, variable compensation based on performance, etc. All records, with the exception of proprietary information like recipes, are open to all members of the organization and to customers and clients.

As a practice transparency can be modified as it fits the situation, like a logbook that can be modified to fit the needs of the organization. It exists in the technical realm and is negotiable. As a value transparency is right out in front as a measure of all actions, of all decisions. Am I appropriately sharing or withholding? Am I deceiving others? Withholding information on which I am making a decision from others making the same decision is being deceptive in the same way that ignoring people is an act of violence. Openness, like equality, is worth something. An ethical person is open and truthful.

Action, Decisiveness, Effectiveness, Focus

The third value is one that John Buck raised initially as action. He and CT Butler had been discussing their approaches to consensus and governance. CT had argued for the importance of values and John came back convinced and floated equivalence, action, and transparency. I was delighted, but I didn’t think action fit all organizations or was necessarily a good value. Action for the sake of action is doomed and not what sociocracy advocates. I suggested decisiveness. John objected that it could be confused with judging. I tried effectiveness and before he could respond countered with focus. One of the characteristics of the best organizations is their focus on their aims. John agreed.

Values and Sociocracy

Our current understanding of the values of sociocracy: Equivalence, Focus, and Transparency. We are about to find out whether others agree with us. But one thing that we know is that sociocracy and values are words that can appear in the same sentence.

*On the equality vs. equivalent debate: by definition equality and equivalence are synonyms. In mathematics, equivalence is preferred because it emphasizes that two statements can be equal but not the same. In A+B = A+c+x, the two halves are not the same but have the same result. They are equivalent but not equal. Since sociocracy has more to do with the social sciences than with mathematics, I prefer to use equality.

2014 October 1:  Eventually effectiveness won out over focus, and empty tool hasn’t been heard in a while.