Organizational Structure

Organizational Structure

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.

An effective organizational structure:

  • supports flow of value
  • enables collaboration
  • addresses dependencies and makes them explicit
  • ensures information is available to those who need it
  • distributes power to influence as required
  • evolves continuously to adapt to changing context

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).

Structural Patterns

Sociocracy 3.0 describes a variety of patterns to grow organizational structure.

  • patterns apply to different layers of abstraction
  • different structural patterns serve different drivers
  • structural patterns can be adapted and combined as needed
  • more patterns are out there and will be discovered

Pattern 10.1: Service Circle

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.

Pattern 10.2: Delegate Circle

Decide and align on how to address drivers affecting multiple domains.

Decisions of a delegate circle are acted upon in the various domains it serves.

Each circle selects one or more members as representative(s) to a delegate circle.

Delegate circles provide a way of steering organizations in alignment to the flow of value, and bring a diversity of perspective to governance decisions.

Pattern 10.3: Peach Organization

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.

  • circles on the periphery deliver value in direct exchange with the outside world (customers, partners, communities, municipalities etc.)
  • the center provides internal services to support the organization
  • periphery stewards the monetary resources and steers the organization
  • link domains as required to flow information and influence and address dependencies

Pattern 10.4: Double-Linked Hierarchy

Bring equivalence to governance in a typical organizational hierarchy.

  • the organization is built from of self-governing circles
  • circles select a member to represent their interests in governance decisions of the next higher circle, and vice versa
  • functional hierarchy is still possible if valuable

Pattern 10.5: Service Organization

Multi-stakeholder collaboration and alignment towards a shared driver.

  • improves potential for equivalence between various entities
  • increases cross-departmental/organizational alignment
  • supports multi-agency collaboration between departments/organizations with different primary motives, or that are in conflict
  • suitable for one-off projects, or ongoing collaboration

Note: a service organization is often referred to as a backbone organization.

Pattern 10.6: Fractal Organization

A pattern for multiple organizations (or domains) with a common driver to share learning and if valuable, coordinate and align action.

  • a way to organize, align and steer from the ground up, while preserving autonomy and agency of the various entities involved
  • a structure to facilitate innovation and exchange of learning throughout a large community on an ‘as needed’ basis

Read next: Changelog


© 2017 by Bernhard Bockelbrink, James Priest and Liliana David. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0