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Holacracy: an emergent form of human organisation

For a long time I have felt that democracy is out of date and that there must be a better system for organising complex human society. Sort of SF on a macro level. I came across Brian Robertson who created a software company called Ternary Software to implement and prove all the modern practices for software developement and human organisation. The theories had to be practical and work to run a successful organisation.

The new approach is called Holacracy. Holacracy is organisation not in top down but in more of circles with self organisation processes. Kind of a fractal process. Each of the circles are double linked from a lead link to a project team. This setup provides feedback loops.

The analogy that Brian uses is that if you tried to ride a bike like you organised an organisation you would try to plan every tiny correction to steering the handle bars before actually taking off rather adapting in the moment every moment.

Brian differentiates between self directed and self organising. The organisation sets the direction and the organisation self organises around this direction. He describes a very evolutionary approach rather than revolutions. Starting with where ever organisations are at.

His company, Ternary, has been very successful and has won awards for best democractic workplace, profit, best places to work, and spirit at work.

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Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on October 17, 2008 at 20:13
More about sociocracy you may find here:
http://www.sociocracy.info/about.html#history
and here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociocracy

As I know, in our days sociocracy is done within "The Center for Nonviolent Communication" (Marshall Rosenberg), see: http://cnvc.org/en/about-us/governance/board-directors/cnvc-s-relat...

There is a long history behind socicracy: Here some text from http://www.sociocracy.info/about.htm

The idea of a sociocracy, a self-governing society, dates from the early nineteenth century when the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857) advocated a society based on a balance of scientific method and humanism.
In 1926, Kees Boeke (1884–1966), an internationally known Dutch peace-activist and educator, began developing a set of principles for sococracy and created an organization based on the equivalence of all particpants and consensus decision-making.
Boeke’s sociocracy was based on three fundamental rules:

"First, the interests of all members must be considered, the individual bowing to the interests of the whole.

Second, no action can be taken if there are no solutions found that everyone can accept.

Third, all members must be ready to act according to these unanimous decisions."

In the 1970s, Boeke’s fundamental rules were refined and expanded by one of his students, Gerard Endenburg. To do this he formulated three additional principles, consent being the first:

The Four Governing Principles

1. Consent governs policy decision-making. Consent means there are no argued and paramount objections to a proposed decision.

2. Circles are the primary governance unit. Circles are semi-autonomous and self-organizing. Within their domain, they make policy decisions; set aims; delegate the functions of leading, doing, and measuring to their own members; and maintain their own memory system and program of ongoing development.

3. Circles are connected by a double-link consisting of the functional leader elected by the next higher circle, and two or more representatives elected by the circle, all of whom participate fully in both circles.

4. People are elected to functions and tasks by consent after open discussion.

In a sociocratic organization, these four principles are used to form a governance structure that all its members.
Comment by An Baert on October 16, 2008 at 21:36
I'm no expert in holacracy, nor in agility.

I can tell something about sociocracy, the difference between democracy and sociocracy, and about the double link in sociocracy.

Adopters of the sociocratic model listen to the need that an objection to a proposal points out, even if that need is not expressed in a very skillful way. They search to include every member of the team and thus to understand why a member should even do this effort of objecting at all. She/he must have a very good reason to invest all this energy in that objection.

Consensus is not a goal in a sociocratic organization. Consent is the goal: when no one longer objects, the group can adopt the proposal. As long as someone objects, the group continues to search for the better solution that will serve the whole. It hàs to be serving the whole, because one of us is still trying to tell us she/he's seeing something we are overlooking and we don't get it yet!
What are the unfortunate side effects of consensus? Either it leads to exclusion: the majority decides what is to be done 'in the best interest of everyone'. Minorities react to that in all kinds of ways, that very often are problem oriented and problem worsening. Their primary need is and remains that they want to be heard! Or it leads to fighting: the majority is about to prove that they are right, that they own the very best or even the only perspective on the matter. And, more than not being listened to, those who have another idea are not to be listened to, they 'don't see it from the right angle', they 'don't take all elements into account', they may even be ridiculised and accused.

The double link is the internal process controller. Sociocratic communities operate in circles. Circles of hierarchic levels. Every circle is represented in the circle above by its hierarchic leader and by a chosen representative amongst the co-workers of the own team. This double link allows genuine up- and downward communication of all decisions and matters of interest or concern. Co-workers happen to choose someone who has technical experience, as well as communicational skills and overall interest in the wellbeing of all members of the team ànd of the whole.

For those amongst you who want to read more (in French): La démocratie se meurt, vive la sociocratie! Le mode de gouvernance qui réconcilie pouvoir & coopération
The author is Gilles Charest, pioneer of organisational development in Canada. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA), and since 1971 he works as a senior consultant and trainer in management.
Sociocracy is the model of governance that is consistent with the principles of nonviolent communication - for which I prefer the wordings connecting communication ;-)
Comment by Rod Sherwin on September 8, 2008 at 10:42
By the way, in the introduction to holacracy, they state
"Holacracy is not a model, idea, or theory. Holacracy is a practice. A practice is something we engage in, something we do, and something which affects us when we do it - like weightlifting, or meditation, or any of the thousands of transformative practices we engage in."

Sound just a little like SF for Organisations doesn't it?
Comment by Mark McKergow on September 5, 2008 at 16:50
Hi Rod, thanks for this interesting connection. Good stuff.
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on September 5, 2008 at 8:46
Yes, I meant that: at GUIDEWIRE they also created an agile company / management. There is a nice story about GUIDEWIRE: Some time ago, when the company started to grow more an more, they thought they should have a CEO. At the end they decided to hire an experienced manager from IBM. But he left that job after a very short time. His reason: "In such an organisation it is impossible to steer".
Comment by Rod Sherwin on September 5, 2008 at 2:46
@Hans-Peter They didn't only implement Agile practices for their software development but all the way through the management of the organisation right up through management. That to me is what is significantly different about this company.

@Sharon Be keen to here about the results of your research project as you go.
Comment by Sharon McGann on September 5, 2008 at 1:35
Interesting stuff Rod and Hans-Peter, thanks. I will look forward to reading more. I am working on a research project looking at different country's leadership practices around sustainability and there is a view that our paradigms about what is right and normal, comes partly from our national culture, so therefore how our cultures will want to do "organisation" and "democracy" both corporately and governmentally, will differ, based on cultural imprints.
Cheers, Sharon
PS I will get a photo soon -can anyone help me learn what size / type is easy to load.
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on September 4, 2008 at 10:26
Interesting!
For me it seems, that this IT company implemented successfully "Agility" - which today is very popular in many IT companies, see e.g.: Solution Focused Agility in Projects and Management and http://pmdoi.org and the GUIDEWIRE CASE (more details here)

Your posting also reminds me on some discussions around "Sociocracy".

For me all those discussions which are based on "deficits in democracy" have one in common: They are based on only one of the many kinds how "democracy" is done. For example: Russia today and US and Germany and Switzerland are democracies - but very different how they work.
So, for me, the very interesting point is, how to create - using democratic means - such a "version" of democracy which fits best to the specific society.

I think, it is not necessary to give up the core principles of democracy and to create something different instead of democracy.

Cheers
Hans-Peter

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