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
  • 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 in a hierarchy or a heterarchy (a.k.a. complex adaptive system, or network), where different functional structures 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: Helping Team

A group of people with the mandate to execute on requirements defined by a circle in response to a driver.

  • a way for a circle to expand its capacity
  • may be self-organizing or guided by a coordinator chosen by the parent circle
  • is governed by the parent circle

members of the helping circle:

  • can object to decisions made by the parent circle that affect them
  • can add items to the governance backlog of the parent circle
  • may be invited to select a representative to participate in the governance decision making of the parent circle

Pattern 10.2: Service Circle

A pattern for outsourcing 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 10.3: Delegate Circle

A pattern for deciding 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 from the ground up, and bring a diversity of perspective to decision making.

Pattern 10.4: Coordination Circle

A coordination circle coordinates work across multiple domains.

Coordination circles may be accountable for all aspects of execution within an organization or only for coordination of work across or within a specific subdomain.

A coordination circle is populated by coordinators of the various circles, along with representatives of those circles in the governance decision making.

Pattern 10.5: Peach Organization

A pattern for decentralized organizations to deliver value in complex and competitive environments.

  • 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

Pattern 10.6: Double-Linked Hierarchy

A pattern for bringing equivalence to governance in a typical organizational hierarchy.

  • power in governance decision making rests with self-governing circles (not individuals)
  • circles select a member to represent their interests in governance decision making in the next higher (superset) circle
  • functional hierarchy is still possible if valuable

Pattern 10.7: Open Systems

An organization (or it’s various sub-domains) can benefit from intentionally communicating with and learning from others.

An organization is an interdependent system that benefits from consciously inviting information and influence from people who can assist with making decisions and experimenting to learn.

  • External experts can offer an outside perspective and bring knowledge, understanding and skills
  • Representatives of affected parties can inform and influence decision making in ways that benefit overall objectives (➤ Those Affected Decide)

Pattern 10.8: Backbone Organization

A pattern for 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

Pattern 10.9: 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

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