Sociocracy 3.0 — a.k.a. "S3" — brings you an extensive collection of guidelines and practices (patterns) that have proven helpful for organizations to improve performance, alignment, fulfillment and wellbeing.
S3 helps you discover how to best reach your objectives and navigate complexity, one step at a time, without the need for sudden radical reorganization or planning a long-term change initiative:
Simply start with your area of greatest need, select one or more patterns to try, move at your own pace and develop skills as you go.
Regardless of your position in the organization, you will find patterns that are relevant and helpful for you.
In 2014 we came together to co-create a body of Creative Commons licensed learning resources, synthesizing ideas from Sociocracy, Agile and Lean. We discovered that organizations of all sizes need a flexible menu of practices and structures – appropriate for their specific context – that enable the evolution of a sociocratic and agile mindset to achieve greater effectiveness, alignment, fulfillment and wellbeing.
Before diving into the content, consider taking time to learn about some basic concepts behind S3:
For any terms you don't understand check out the glossary at the end.
A pattern is a template for successfully navigating a specific context.
The Principle of Effectiveness: Devote time only to what brings you closer toward achieving your objectives.
The Principle of Consent: Raise, seek out and resolve objections to decisions and actions.
The Principle of Empiricism: Test all assumptions through experimentation and continuous revision.
The Principle of Continuous Improvement: Change incrementally to accommodate steady empirical learning.
The Principle of Equivalence: Involve people in making and evolving decisions that affect them.
The Principle of Transparency: Make all information accessible to everyone in an organization, unless there is a reason for confidentiality.
The Principle of Accountability: Respond when something is needed, do what you agreed to do, and take ownership for the course of the organization.
Respond when something is needed, do what you agreed to do, and take ownership for the course of the organization.
Act within the constraints of any agreements governing domains you are accountable for, including the organization itself, groups you are part of, and roles you keep.
Everyone's primary accountability is for effective collaboration in response to organizational drivers.
Individuals are also accountable for their work, ongoing learning and development, and for supporting one another.
Everyone in an organization is accountable for aligning action with organizational values.
A driver is a person’s or a group's motive for responding to a specific situation.
Value is the importance, worth or usefulness of something in relation to a driver.
Waste is anything unnecessary for — or standing in the way of — a (more) effective response of a driver.
By adopting the concept of value and waste, many practices and ideas from lean production and lean software development can be utilized by organizations pulling in S3 patterns:
A domain is a distinct area of influence, activity and decision making within an organization.
All domains are within the overall domain of an organization and may overlap and/or be fully contained within other domains.
Domains are delegated to people (e.g. to a unit, department, team or individuals), who take responsibility for the domain, and act within its defined constraints on influence and autonomy.
Those delegating a domain (the delegators) still retain overall accountability for that domain, and often define:
It's also possible to understand a domain in relation to organizational drivers:
Governance: Making and evolving decisions about what to do to achieve objectives, and setting constraints on how and when things will be done.
Self-Governance: People governing themselves within the constraints of a domain.
Self-Organization: People organizing work within constraints defined through governance.
Operations (Doing the Work): The work being done to create and deliver value, guided by governance.
Semi-Autonomy: The autonomy of people to create value, limited by the constraints of their domain (including the influence of the delegator and of representatives), and by objections from others.
Does it require or benefit from an individual or group decision?
Clarify organizational drivers (i.e. what's happening and what's needed in relation to the organization), and respond as required.
Responses to organizational drivers include:
The response to an organizational driver is typically treated as an experiment that is evaluated and evolved over time.
A driver is considered an organizational driver if responding to it would help the organization generate value, eliminate waste or avoid harm.
A simple way to qualify whether or not a driver falls within an organization's domain is by checking:
Would it help the organization if we respond to this driver? Or would it harm us if we don't?
Pay attention to tension you experience in relation to the organization, investigate the cause and pass on any organizational drivers you discover to the people accountable for the appropriate domain.
Challenges and opportunities for an organization are revealed by people bringing awareness to the reasons why they experience tension.
Note: In this context, a tension is a personal experience: a symptom of dissonance between an individual's perception of a situation, and their expectations (or preferences).
To discover drivers, investigate what stimulates tension, and describe what's happening and what's needed. Sometimes an inquiry reveals misconceptions and the tension goes away.
Describe organizational drivers to understand, communicate and remember them.
A simple way to describe a driver is with a brief statement explaining:
Depending on their perspective, a person or group may decide to describe a driver as a problem to solve or an opportunity to leverage.
A driver statement is a brief but comprehensive summary of the information required to understand a driver.
The driver statement contains just enough information to communicate the need for an action or a decision. Typically a driver statement can be summed up in one or two sentences.
In addition to the brief driver statement, more information about the scope and details of the driver may be recorded in the logbook.
“The kitchen is a mess: there are no clean cups, the sink is full of dishes and it’s not possible to quickly grab a coffee and get right back to work. We need the kitchen in a usable state so we can stay focused on our work.”
“The kitchen is a mess: there are no clean cups, the sink is full of dishes...”
Describe the current situation:
“...it’s not possible to quickly grab a coffee and get right back to work.”
Explain the effect of this situation on the organization:
“We need the kitchen in a usable state...”
Explain the need of the organization in relation to this situation:
“...so we can stay focused on our work”.
Describe the impact of attending to that need:
Make sure to review driver statements on a regular basis, to deepen you understanding of what's happening and needed.
Helpful questions for a review include:
A (facilitated) group process for decision making: invite objections, and consider information and knowledge revealed to further evolve proposals or existing agreements.
Proposals become agreements when they are considered good enough for now and safe enough to try until the next review.
Unresolved objections prevent proposals from becoming agreements.
Withholding objections can harm the objectives of a group or organization.
An objection is a reason why doing something stands in the way of (more) effective response to an organizational driver (i.e. an organizational requirement).
Objections contain information that reveals certain or likely consequence of harm and/or opportunities to immediately improve proposals, decisions, existing agreements or actions.
It's the accountability of individuals to raise potential objections.
Withholding objections can harm the ability of individuals, groups or the whole organization to respond to organizational drivers.
Being able to raise potential objections at any time means decisions only need to be good enough for now and safe enough to try.
Those accountable for the action or (proposed) agreement in question, are responsible for considering arguments and addressing objections.
When seeking out potential objections, consider:
The information revealed by objections can be used to improve:
Not all arguments raised are objections. Distinguish between objections, which always reveal useful information, and other arguments that are based only on opinion, preference or concern.
To discover if an argument qualifies as an objection, in a group context a facilitator might ask:
“Do you think this argument qualifies as an objection?”
If nobody disagrees with the argument, an objection typically qualifies. Otherwise aim to discover the actual objection or reveal any misconceptions.
Some helpful questions:
A concern is an opinion that doing something (even in the absence of objections) might stand in the way of (more) effective response to an organizational driver.
In Consent Decision Making, concerns can inform ways to further evolve agreements (including evaluation criteria and frequency of evaluation).
Bring up concerns if you consider them important and at least record them along with evaluation criteria.
If you are in doubt whether you have an objection or a concern, check with others if they think it qualifies as an objection.
Continuously evolve the body of agreements, and eliminate waste.
Regular review of agreements is an essential practice for a learning organization:
Ensure all agreements have an appropriate review date.
Evaluating agreements can be as simple as checking that an agreement is still relevant, and there is no objection to keeping it as it is.
Agreements are often reviewed in Governance Meetings, however sometimes it's more effective to schedule a dedicated session.
Adjust review frequency as necessary, and review early if required.
Elements of this pattern can also be used by individuals to evaluate decisions they make.
Involve people in making decisions that affect them, to maintain equivalence and accountability, and to increase the amount of information available on the subject.
For larger groups:
Consider including those affected in reviewing and evolving decisions, too.
Bring people together to co-create proposals in response to organizational drivers: tap collective intelligence, build sense of ownership and increase engagement and accountability.
There are many ways to co-create proposals. They typically follow a similar pattern:
One way to co-create proposals is to use S3's Proposal Forming pattern.
For inspiration for steps 2 and 3, look to classic group facilitation techniques or design thinking activities.
Besides in a face-to-face workshop, you can adapt this process for online meetings. You can even use it asynchronously (and over an extended period of time) to include many people.
A (facilitated) group process for co-creating a response to a driver.
Proposal Forming may also be used by an individual.
Between two and three tuners is usually appropriate.
Check for any objections to the proposed tuner(s).
A group process for selecting a person for a role on the strength of the reason.
Instead of simply assigning people for roles, or making a choice based only on majority, use the role selection process to:
1. Present Role Description: If possible, send out the role’s domain description in advance.
2. Record Nominations: Participants write their nomination on a slip of paper. People can nominate themselves, another, or pass.
3. Reasons for Nominations: Each person shares who they have nominated and why.
4. Information Gathering: Participants share or request any information that might support the group in making an appropriate selection.
5. Nomination Changes: Check if anyone wants to change their nomination in light of reasons and information shared so far, and hear the reasons for each change.
6. Propose a Nominee for the role: The facilitator guides the process to identify a suitable nominee on the strength of the reasons heard, e.g. by:
7. Check for Objections: Ask participants (including the proposed nominee) to simultaneously signal whether or not they have an objection.
8. Address and Resolve Objections, beginning with any from the proposed nominee. Objections may be resolved in many ways, including amending the role's domain description or by nominating someone else. When all objections are resolved, check with the (final) nominee again if they accept the role.
9. Celebrate: Acknowledge reaching agreement and thank the person who will now keep the role.
To avoid influencing others, abstain from expressing personal interest or opinions before a selection takes place.
Sometimes a role selection reveals a lack of capacity, relevant experience, qualities or skill. A group will then need to consider outside candidates, reconsider priorities or find an alternative way to account for the domain.
This pattern can also be used in any situation where there is a need to choose between a variety of options.
A workshop format to identify an effective response to a complex situation: organize start-ups, kick-off projects, tackle major impediments or opportunities, develop organizational structure to better enable the flow of value.
Small or large groups identify and prioritize drivers, progressing quickly from concept to action in self-organizing groups.
A simple protocol for learning, skill sharing, and building connections, with respect for people's agency.
Ask someone, "would you be willing to help me with ...?" The person asked accepts or declines with a simple "yes" or "no".
Invite a peer to give you some constructive feedback on:
Support each other to learn and grow in the roles and groups you serve in.
The role keeper — or group — leads the peer review by setting up the process and speaking first in each step.
Ensure to invite people with complementing perspectives to contribute to the review, and a facilitator.
Improvement suggestions may relate to personal development, collaboration, updates to the domain description (including the driver statement) and strategy.
A plan for how to develop more effective ways of accounting for a domain, agreed between delegator and delegatee.
The development plan may be created for a person in a role, or for a group (e.g. a department, circle, team or open domain).
Development may happen in the form of refining the description of the driver and the domain, making amendments to strategy, or new or updated agreements and specific actions to be taken, either within the domain of the delegator, or the domain of the delegatee.
A development plan (and any accompanying recommendations for changes to the domain description and driver statement) requires consent from both the delegatee and the delegator.
Commit to doing your best to act and interact in ways that enable effective collaboration.
Participating artfully may include interrupting, objecting or breaking agreements.
Artful Participation is an individual commitment to:
Align collaboration with the Seven Principles.
Adopting the Seven Principles reduces the number of explicit agreements required, and guides adaptation of S3 patterns to suit the organization's context.
An organization's values need to embrace the Seven Principles.
Intentionally evolve the culture in your organization.
Values are valued principles that guide behavior. Values define scope for action and ethical constraints.
Values offer guidance to determine appropriate action, even in the absence of explicit agreements.
Collectively adopting a set of values supports the effectiveness of an organization:
Chosen values are an agreement that benefits from regular review.
Select someone to facilitate governance meetings.
A governance facilitator:
As a governance facilitator, consider learning about and using the following patterns from S3 to handle governance effectively:
Breaking agreements is sometimes necessary but may come at a cost to the community.
Support successful collaboration from the start and build trust between parties by co-creating mutually beneficial and legally robust contracts.
A contract is a body of promises that two or more parties agree to make legally binding, i.e if those promises are violated, the injured party gains access to legal (or alternative) remedies.
Developing shared understanding about needs and expectations is essential for successful collaboration.
While negotiating and agreeing on a contract, model the culture of collaboration you want to achieve, and build a positive relationship with the other parties involved.
This pattern refers to contracts relating related to collaboration around any business transaction between an organization and other parties (e.g. employees, consultants, service providers, shareholders or customers). And particularly in matters concerning significant value and or obligations. e.g.:
Note: Many agreements about collaboration within an organization do not require dedicated contracts, as they are already governed by or subject to existing contracts.
When negotiating a contract, ensure:
If for any reason one or more of these criteria cannot be fulfilled, it is probably wise to not proceed.
The way a contract is negotiated can significantly contribute toward building trust between parties. Approach contracting from the point of view of making an agreement between partners, not adversaries: co-create the contract, tailor it to its specific context, and ensure it is legally robust.
Any contract can be changed at any time, provided all signatories agree. However, it greatly reduces the potential for conflict later if you consider the full lifecycle of the collaboration in the contract:
Every contract influences the culture of the collaboration it governs, even when it appears to only describe what needs to be delivered:
if you find that standard contracts in your industry are misaligned with the culture you want to create, build your own repository of templates for contracts and clauses and consider sharing it with others, so that you can leverage past experience when creating new contracts.
Create a fair salary formula and make it transparent.
Transparent salary (also referred to as "open salary") is the practice of making the salary formula — and often individual compensation as well — transparent to all members of an organization, and sometimes to the public.
A transparent salary formula needs to suit an organization's context, and to be perceived as fair enough by all stakeholders.
Perception of fairness varies from person to person and according to context, so creating a salary formula requires developing a shared understanding of what is considered fair.
When deciding (or agreeing) on a salary formula for an organization or department, consider:
Decide how to handle remuneration for changing roles and create strategy for how to transition towards new contracts and compensation agreements.
Apply the role pattern to external contractors.
External contractors consent to take on their role.
see also: Contract For Successful Collaboration
Secure S3 principles and patterns in your bylaws as needed to protect legal integrity and organizational culture
Distribute the power to influence, to enable people to decide and act for themselves within defined constraints.
Adjust constraints incrementally, considering capabilities, reliability and outcome.
Decentralize as much as possible, and retain as much influence as necessary.
A circle is a self-governing and semi-autonomous group of equivalent people who collaborate to account for a domain.
Delegate accountability for a domain to individuals.
A role is an area of accountability (a domain) that is delegated to an individual (the role keeper), who has autonomy to decide and act within the constraints of the role's domain.
The role keeper leads in creating a strategy for how they will account for their domain. They evolve their strategy in collaboration with the delegator.
A role is a simple way for an organization (or group) to delegate recurring tasks or a specific area of work and decision making to one of its members.
A role keeper may maintain a governance backlog, and a logbook to record and help them evolve their approach toward delivering value.
Note: In S3, guidelines, processes or protocols created by individuals in roles are treated as agreements.
Enable the flow of information and influence between two groups.
A group selects one of its members to represent their interests in the governance decisions of another group.
Enable the two-way flow of information and influence between two groups.
Two interdependent groups each select one of their members to represent their interests in the governance decisions of the other group.
Double linking enables equivalence between two groups and can be used to draw out valuable information in hierarchical structures.
Select a group member to participate in the governance decision making of another group to enable the flow of information and influence.
Representatives (a.k.a. links):
Bring together a group of equivalent people with the mandate to execute on a specific set of requirements defined by a delegator.
A helping team:
Members of the helping team:
Intentionally account for a domain by invitation rather than assignment and request that those invited contribute when they can.
The delegator of the open domain clarifies:
Depending on the constraints set by the delegator, contributors may only organize and do work, or take part in governance as well.
A delegator is accountable for conducting regular reviews to support effectiveness of work and any decision making done in an open domain.
Intentionally communicate with and learn from others outside of your system.
Individuals, groups and entire organizations can acknowledge interdependence and intentionally invite people from outside their system to bring in knowledge, experience and influence to assist with decision making and support collective learning.
Adapt and evolve S3 patterns to suit your specific context.
Ensure that everyone affected:
Run experiments with adaptations for long enough to learn about the benefits and any potential pitfalls.
Share valuable adaptations with the S3 community.
Create an environment that invites and enables members of the organization to drive change.
Change things when there is value in doing so:
Lead by example.
Behave and act in the ways you would like others to behave and act.
Clarify the reason for change and invite people to participate.
Inviting rather than imposing change helps reduce resistance and enables people to choose for themselves.
When making the invitation:
Include the people involved and affected in regular evaluation of outcomes.
Invite everyone to create and run experiments for evolving the organization.
Reveal drivers and establish a metrics-based pull-system for organizational change through continuously improving and refining the work process.
Waste is anything unnecessary for — or standing in the way of — a (more) effective response of a driver.
Waste exists in various forms and on different levels of abstraction (tasks, processes, organizational structure, mental models...)
Establishing a process for the ongoing elimination of waste enables natural evolution of an organization towards greater effectiveness and adaptation to changing context.
An agreement is an agreed upon guideline, process or protocol designed to guide the flow of value.
Note: In S3, guidelines, processes or protocols created by individuals in roles are also treated as agreements.
A strategy is a high level approach for how people will create value to successfully account for a domain.
It is usually more effective if a group or role keeper lead in developing their own strategy.
A strategy often includes a description of the intended outcome.
As the delegator shares accountability for domains they delegate, it's valuable they review a delegatee's strategy, to check for potential impediments and suggest ways it could be improved.
A strategy is a shared agreement between delegator(s) and delegatee(s) that is regularly reviewed and updated as necessary (pivot or persevere)
Strategies are validated and refined through experimentation and learning.
A clear understanding of people's area of accountability and autonomy enables greater efficiency, effective collaboration and agility throughout an organization.
A simple way to clarify domains is with a domain description that contains:
Domain descriptions can be created for a role, position, circle, team, open domain, department, unit, or the whole organization.
One way of clarifying a domain is by filling out an S3 Delegation Canvas.
Be explicit about the expected results of agreements, actions, projects and strategies.
Agree on and record a concise description of the intended outcome.
The intended outcome can be used to define Evaluation Criteria and metrics for reviewing actual outcome.
Clearly describe deliverables in the context of an agreement, to support shared understanding of expectations.
A deliverable is a product, service, raw material, experience or transformation, provided as a result of an agreement.
When describing deliverables:
Explicitly describing deliverables can be useful for improving:
Develop well-defined evaluation criteria to determine if acting on an agreement had the desired effect.
Maintain a coherent and accessible system that stores all information required for collaboration.
A logbook is a (digital) system to store all information relevant for running an organization and its teams. The logbook is accessible to all members of an organization, and information is kept confidential only when there is good reason to do so.
Content relating to the whole organization:
Content relating to a specific group or role:
Select a member of your group to be specifically accountable for keeping up to date records of all information the group requires.
The logbook keeper is accountable for maintaining a group's logbook by:
Groups meet at regular intervals to decide what to do to achieve objectives, and to set constraints on how and when things will be done.
A governance meeting is usually:
A typical governance meeting includes:
Typical agenda items include:
Dedicate time to reflect on past experience, learn, and decide how to improve work process.
Many different activities for each phase can be found at plans-for-retrospectives.com
Meet daily to organize work, facilitate learning and improve your productivity and effectiveness.
People meet at regular intervals (1-4 weeks) in time-boxed meetings to plan and review work.
Planning meeting: select and estimate work items for the next iteration.
Review meeting: review completed work items and decide on re-work and changes for the next iteration.
Meet on a regular basis (usually weekly) for reporting on and coordinating work across domains.
In a group meeting, go around the circle giving everyone the chance to speak in turn.
Rounds are a group facilitation technique to maintain equivalence and support effective dialogue.
Be clear on the purpose and intended outcome of each round.
Sit in a circle, begin each round with a different person, and change direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) to bring variation to who speaks first and last, and to the order of contributions.
Choose someone to facilitate a meeting to help the group maintain focus, keep the meeting on track and draw out the participant's creativity and wisdom.
Before each meeting, prepare an agenda of topics, and select a facilitator to:
Consider selecting a facilitator for a specific term. Even an inexperienced facilitator can make a positive difference.
Prepare in advance to make meetings more effective.
Some considerations for successfully preparing a meeting:
Involve people in preparing and prioritizing an agenda and send it out in advance
For each agenda item agree on:
Help people to become aware of themselves and others, and to focus, be present and engage.
To check in, briefly disclose something about what’s up for you and how you are, revealing thoughts, feelings, distractions or needs.
Checking in may take the form of an opening or closing round in a group meeting, or just a brief exchange in a 1:1 meeting.
You can also call for a group check-in during a meeting, or even choose to individually check in whenever you think this is valuable for the group.
In a group check-in, allow people to pass if they choose.
When checking in, in a new setting, people can also say their name and where they are coming from, as a way to introduce themselves. (Tip: Avoid talking about function, rank etc unless there is a reason to do so.)
Take time for learning at the end of each meeting or workshop.
Reflect on interactions, celebrate successes and share suggestions for improvement before closing the meeting.
Short formats you can use:
Ask everyone in a round to reflect on any or all of the following topics in a brief sharing, and report key points you'd like to remember for next time:
Select someone to take responsibility for the preparation and follow-up of meetings, workshops or other events.
A person may take on the role of Meeting Host for a specific event or for several events over a period of time.
After the meeting: clean up location, return keys, tie up all the loose ends, and ensure minutes are distributed.
A governance backlog is a visible, prioritized list of items (drivers) that are related to governing a domain and require attention.
A governance backlog contains:
Note: Upcoming reports and agreements due review are usually added directly to the agenda (rather than the backlog).
A backlog (to-do-list) is a list of (often prioritized) uncompleted work items (deliverables), or (drivers) that need to be addressed.
Consider making backlogs visible, not only to other members of a group, but also to the wider organization.
Types of backlog include:
Each item on a (prioritized) backlog typically contains:
Order all uncompleted work items with the most important items first, then pull work items from the top whenever there is new capacity.
No two items can be of equal importance, meaning it is necessary to agree on priorities and make tough choices.
A prioritized backlog helps to maintain focus on the most important items.
Maintain a system that allows all stakeholders to review the state of all work items currently pending, in progress or complete.
People pull in new work items when they have capacity (instead of having work pushed or assigned to them.
Prioritize pending work items to ensure that important items are worked on first.
Pulling in work prevents overloading the system, especially when work in progress (WIP) per person is limited.
Limit the number of work items in any stage of your work process.
Work in Progress includes:
When an action would exceed an agreed upon limit of work items in progress, this needs to be brought up with the group before continuing.
Set a time constraint to stay focused, bring consciousness to the time you have and how you use it.
A timebox is a fixed period of time spent focused on a specific activity (which is not necessarily finished by the end of the timebox):
You could timebox:
In support of continuous flow of value, move decision making close to where value is created, and align the flow of information accordingly.
Flow of value: Deliverables traveling through an organization towards customers or other stakeholders.
Achieve and maintain alignment of flow through the continuous evolution of an organization's body of agreements:
When decision making is conducted close to where value is created, and the flow of information supports the continuous and steady flow of value, the potential for accumulation of waste is reduced.
A person fulfilling the role of a coordinator is accountable for coordinating a domain's operations and is selected for a limited term.
The coordinator may be selected by the group itself, or by the delegator.
Several coordinators may collaborate to synchronize work across multiple domains.
Instead of selecting a coordinator, a group may choose to self-organize.
Organizational structure is the actual arrangement of domains and their connections. It reflects where power to influence is located, and the channels through which information and influence flow.
Continuously evolve your organization's structure to:
The basic building blocks for organizational structure are interdependent, connected domains.
Domains can be linked to form a hierarchy or a heterarchy (a.k.a. complex adaptive system, or network, where multiple functional structures can co-exist).
Sociocracy 3.0 describes a variety of patterns to grow organizational structure.
Outsource services required by two or more domains.
A service circle can be populated by members of the domains it serves, and/or by other people too.
Delegate decision making for how to respond to drivers affecting multiple domains, to representatives.
To make governance decisions on their behalf, stakeholders send representatives to form a delegate circle.
Governance decisions made in a delegate circle are acted upon in the various domains it serves.
Delegate circles provide a way of steering organizations in alignment with the flow of value, and bring a diversity of perspectives to governance decision making.
A delegate circle may bring in other people (e.g. external experts) to help with specific decisions, or even as a member of the circle.
Deliver value in complex and competitive environments through decentralization (of resources and influence) and direct interaction between those creating value and the customers they serve.
Groups in the periphery:
The center provides internal services to support the organization.
Domains are linked as required to flow information and influence, and to support collaboration around dependencies.
Delegate all decision making to self-governing circles, double-linked across all levels of the hierarchy, to transition from an traditional hierarchy towards a structure more suitable for tapping collective intelligence and building engagement.
Shift governance decision making from individuals to groups by forming self-governing circles on all levels of your organization.
Each circle's members select one of their group to represent their interests and participate in the governance decision making of the next higher circle, and vice versa.
A double-linked hierarchy:
Multi-stakeholder collaboration and alignment towards a shared driver (or objective).
Note: a service organization is sometimes referred to as a backbone organization.
Multiple constituents (organizations or projects) with a common (or similar) primary driver and structure can share learning across functional domains, align action and make high level governance decisions (e.g. overall strategy).
Creating a fractal organization can enable a large network to rapidly respond to changing contexts.
If necessary, the pattern can be repeated to connect multiple fractal organizations into one.
A fractal organization can be formed either by multiple in(ter-)dependent organizations which share a common (primary) driver, or by multiple branches, departments, or projects within a larger organization.
These constituents (i.e. organizations, branches, departments or projects) need to share at least some — and typically most — functional domains (e.g. accounting, product management, or development).
A fractal organization has at least three tiers:
The second and third tier:
Changes to Introduction
Latest version of the Practical Guide:
More S3 Resources: http://sociocracy30.org/resources/
Main S3 website: http://sociocracy30.org
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This work by Bernhard Bockelbrink, James Priest and Liliana David is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0.
The content of Sociocracy 3.0 reflects the accumulated experience and wisdom of contributors across generations. These people have shared a common quest: to evolve more effective, harmonious and conscious ways of collaborating together.
Particular recognition goes to Gerard Endenburg and others over the years who have committed significant time towards evolving and documenting the Sociocratic Circle Organization Method, which has contributed towards and inspired the evolution of Sociocracy 3.0.
We’d also like to recognize all those who have worked extensively to facilitate the emergence of a more agile and lean mindset, and those who have developed and shared various practices with the world.
Finally to acknowledge our numerous colleagues, customers, clients and attendees of Sociocracy 3.0 courses who have chosen to experiment with Sociocracy 3.0. Thank you for contributing your ongoing feedback to help evolve the patterns and enable us all to learn and grow.
By no means an exhaustive list, we’d like to offer our appreciation to the following people who directly contributed toward developing Sociocracy 3.0, or whose work influenced what it is today:
Gojko Adzic, Lysa Adkins, Christopher Alexander, David J. Anderson, Ruth Andrade, Jurgen Appelo, Kent Beck, Sue Bell, Angelina Bockelbrink, Jesper Boeg, Kees Boeke, Mary Boone, John Buck, Betty Cadbury, Diana Leafe Christian, Mike Cohn, Stephen Covey, Gigi Coyle, Jef Cumps, David Deida, Esther Derby, Kourosh Dini, Jutta Eckstein, Frands Frydendal, Gerard Endenburg, Andreas Hertel, Andrei Iuoraia, François Knuchel, Diana Larsen, Helmut Leitner, Jim and Michele McCarthy, Pieter van der Meche, Daniel Mezick, Susanne Mühlbauer, Niels Pfläging, Mary and Tom Poppendieck, Karl Popper, Brian Robertson, Marshall Rosenberg, Dave Snowden, Hal and Sidra Stone, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, Sharon Villines, Nathaniel Whitestone, Ken Wilber, Jack Zimmerman.
... serves internationally, providing organizational development consultancy, learning facilitation, and mentoring for people wishing to evolve collaborative, adaptive organizations at scale.
... is an agile coach, trainer and consultant supporting individuals, teams and organizations in navigating complex challenges and developing a culture of effective, conscious and joyful collaboration.
... serves internationally, providing training, facilitation and mentoring to groups and organizations wishing to develop greater effectiveness and equivalence in collaboration.
Account for (v.): to take the responsibility for something. Accountability (principle): Respond when something is needed, do what you agreed to do, and take ownership for the course of the organization. Agreement: An agreed upon guideline, process or protocol designed to guide the flow of value. Alignment: The process of bringing the actions of all parts of an organization in line with the organization's objectives. Backlog: A list of (often prioritized) uncompleted work items (deliverables), or (drivers) that need to be addressed. Check-In: A brief disclosure where you share something about what’s up for you and how you are, revealing thoughts, feelings, distractions or needs. Chosen Values: A set of principles a group (or an organization) has chosen to collectively adopt to guide their behavior in the context of their collaboration.
Circle: A self-governing and semi-autonomous group of equivalent people who collaborate to account for a domain. Complexity: An environment where unknowns are unknown, cause and effect can only be understood in retrospect, and actions lead to unpredictable changes. [Snowden and Boone] Concern: An opinion why doing something (even in the absence of objections) might stand in the way of (more) effective response to an organizational driver. Consent (principle): Raise, seek out and resolve objections to decisions and actions. Constituent: A group of people (e.g. a circle, team, department, branch, project or organization) who delegate authority to a representative to act on their behalf in other groups or organizations. Continuous Improvement (principle): Change incrementally to accommodate steady empirical learning. Coordination: The process of enabling individuals or groups to collaborate effectively across different domains to achieve shared objectives. Delegatee: An individual or group accepting accountability for a domain delegated to them.
Delegation: The grant of authority by one party (the delegator) to another (the delegatee) to account for a domain, (i.e. to do certain things and/or to make certain decisions) for which the delegator maintains overall accountability. Delegator: An individual or group delegating a domain to other(s) to be accountable for. Deliverable: A product, service, raw material, experience or transformation, provided as a result of an agreement. Domain: A distinct area of influence, activity and decision making within an organization. Driver: A person’s or a group's motive for responding to a specific situation. Driver Statement: A brief but comprehensive summary of the information required to understand a driver. Effectiveness (principle): Devote time only to what brings you closer toward achieving your objectives. Empiricism (principle): Test all assumptions through experimentation and continuous revision.
Equivalence (principle): Involve people in making and evolving decisions that affect them. Evolve (v.): to develop gradually. Flow of Value: Deliverables traveling through an organization towards customers or other stakeholders. Governance: Making and evolving decisions about what to do to achieve objectives, and setting constraints on how and when things will be done. Governance Backlog: A visible, prioritized list of items (drivers) that are related to governing a domain and require attention. Helping Team: An equivalent group of people with the mandate to execute on a specific set of requirements. Intended Outcome: The expected result of an agreement, action, project or strategy. Key responsibilities: Essential work and decision making required in the context of a domain.
Logbook: A (digital) system to store all information relevant for running an organization. Need: The lack of something wanted or deemed necessary (a requirement). Objection: A reason why doing something stands in the way of (more) effective response to an organizational driver (i.e. an organizational requirement). Open Domain: A domain that is accounted for by a set of people who are invited to contribute when they can. Operations: The work being done to create and deliver value, guided by governance. Operations Backlog: A visible list of (typically prioritized) uncompleted work items (deliverables). Organization: A group of people collaborating toward a shared driver (or objective). Organizational Driver: A driver is considered an organizational driver if responding to it would help the organization generate value, eliminate waste or avoid harm.
Pattern: A template for successfully navigating a specific context. Peer Domain: Two peer domains are contained within the same immediate superdomain, and may be overlapping. Primary Driver: The primary driver for a domain is the main driver that people who account for that domain respond to. Principle: A basic idea or rule that guides behavior, or explains or controls how something happens or works. Role: A domain that is delegated to an individual. Self-Governance: People governing themselves within the constraints of a domain. Self-Organization: People organizing work within constraints defined through governance. Semi-Autonomy: The autonomy of people to create value, limited by the constraints of their domain (including the influence of the delegator and of representatives), and by objections from others.
Sociocracy: A mindset where people affected by decisions can influence them on the basis of reasons to do so. Sociocratic Circle-Organisation Method (SCM): An egalitarian governance method for organizations based on a sociocratic mindset, developed in the Netherlands by Gerard Endenburg. Strategy: A high level approach for how people will create value to successfully account for a domain. Subdomain: A domain that is fully contained within another domain. Subdriver: A subdriver arises as a consequence of responding to another driver (the superdriver) and is essential for effectively responding to the superdriver. Superdomain: A domain that fully contains another domain. Superdriver: see subdriver. Tension: A personal experience, a symptom of dissonance between an individual's perception of a situation, and their expectations or preferences.
Transparency (principle): Make all information accessible to everyone in an organization, unless there is a reason for confidentiality. Value: The importance, worth or usefulness of something in relation to a driver. Also "a principle of some significance that guides behavior" (mostly used as plural, "values", or "organizational values"). Values: Valued principles that guide behavior. Not to be confused with "value" (singular) in the context of a driver. Waste: Anything unnecessary for — or standing in the way of — a (more) effective response of a driver.