A pattern is a template for successfully navigating a specific context.
Effectiveness: Devote time only to what brings you closer towards achieving your objectives.
Consent: Do things in the absence of reasons not to.
Empiricism: Test all assumptions through experiments, continuous revision and falsification.
Continuous Improvement: Change incrementally to accommodate steady empirical learning.
Equivalence: People affected by decisions influence and change them on the basis of reasons to do so.
Transparency: All information is available to everyone in an organization, unless there is a reason for confidentiality.
Accountability: Respond when something is needed, do what you agreed to and take ownership for the course of the organization.
A driver is the source of motivation for action in a specific situation (the "why"): something an individual, a group, or organization needs (or requires) in the context of achieving their objectives.
A driver can be understood in relation to the domain it defines and its relationship to other drivers.
The driver that defines a domain is called the primary driver of that domain.
The primary driver is the superdriver of all other drivers that arise as a consequence of people responding to it.
A primary driver is itself a subdriver of its superdriver, except in the case of the organization itself, in which case it is referred to as the organizations primary driver.
Two drivers existing as a direct consequence of a response to the same superdriver, are described as peer drivers.
The prefixes primary, peer, sub- and super-, can refer to both drivers and domains.
Value: is the importance, worth or usefulness of something in relation to a driver.
Waste: is anything not necessary for - or standing in the way of - 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 the set of subdrivers an organization may benefit from addressing when responding to a driver.
Domains need to be accounted for by people, but exist independently.
Building an organization from domains defined in relation to organizational drivers facilitates effective collaboration by creating enabling constraints with clear and coherent parameters for accountability.
Clarify what's happening and what's needed in relation to the organization, and respond as required.
Responses to drivers:
The response to a driver is usually an experiment that is evolved over time, based on learning.
Some situations might be helpful to address in the context of an organization's primary driver. Others are not within an organization's domain.
A simple way to qualify organizational drivers is by checking:
Would responding to this driver improve - or avoid impeding - flow of value to an existing Organizational Driver? a.k.a. can it help or harm us?
An objection is a reason why doing something stands in the way of (more) effective response to a driver.
Objections contain information that reveals:
How would doing this impede - or miss an opportunity to improve - flow of value to any organizational driver?
It's the accountability of individuals to raise objections. Those accountable for the action or (proposed) agreement they relate to, are responsible for addressing them.
Withholding objections can harm the ability of individuals, groups or the whole organization to respond to organizational drivers.
Being able to raise objections at any time means decisions only need to be good enough for now and safe enough to try.
A concern is an opinion that doing something (even if already considered good enough for now and safe enough to try) might impede – or miss an opportunity to improve – flow of value to an organizational driver.
In consent decision making, concerns:
If people believe a proposal may not be ‘safe enough to try’, they can raise concerns as objections to check with others about likelihood of harm.
All members bring awareness to what might help or harm the organization, and aim to account for drivers in an effective way.
A tension is a personal experience: a symptom of dissonance between an individual's perception of a situation, and their expectations (or preferences).
Challenges and opportunities for an organization are revealed as people become aware of tension they experience in relation to them.
To discover drivers, look behind tension and describe what's happening and what's needed. Sometimes our inquiry reveals misconceptions and the tension goes away.
Awareness of organizational drivers can be passed to an appropriate domain to be addressed.
Involve everyone who will be affected by a decision, to maintain equivalence and accountability, and increase the amount of information available on the subject.
For larger groups:
Treat review and evolution of decisions accordingly.
Objections to a nominee may be resolved in many ways, including amending the role description or by nominating someone else.
A workshop format to identify an effective response to a complex situation: organize start-ups, kick-off projects, tackle major impediments or opportunities, align organizational structure to the flow of value.
A simple protocol for learning, skill sharing, and building connections, with respect for people's autonomy.
Ask someone, "would you be willing to help me with ...?" The person asked answers with a simple "yes" or "no".
Invite a peer to give you some constructive feedback on:
People support each other to learn and grow in the roles, teams and circles they serve.
The individual holding the role - or the team or circle - initiates the process and speaks first in each step.
Invite people with complementing perspectives to contribute to the review, and a facilitator.
Improvement suggestions apply to personal development, collaboration, updates to domain description and driver statement.
An agreement supporting people to more effectively collaborate as a group or fulfill a role.
Acting on development plans is an integral part of the strategy of people in roles, and of groups.
A commitment to developing helpful interactions and effective collaboration.
Participating artfully may include interrupting, objecting or breaking agreements.
An individual commitment to:
A pattern for intentionally shaping culture in an organization.
A value is a principle that guides behavior. Values define scope for action and ethical constraints.
A governance facilitator:
When using S3 for governance, the facilitator familiarizes themselves with the following patterns:
Regular review of agreements is an essential practice for a learning organization; continuously evolving the body of agreements, and eliminating waste:
Is the agreement still relevant?
Is the agreement still good enough for now and safe enough to continue?
Is there a reason why NOT to continue with this agreement?
* preparation * schedule review * ensure necessary information is available
When entering into formal or informal agreements with others:
Be accountable for breaking agreements.
To preserve organizational culture, maintain self-accountability and help new members of an organization or circle have a smooth start:
Support roles may be operational only, and external contractors consent to account for their role.
Secure S3 principles and patterns in your bylaws as needed to protect legal integrity and organizational culture
Understanding an organization in terms of nested domains to account for - and areas where the people responding have semi-autonomy to decide - facilitates more effective collaboration.
When defining a domain in relation to an organizational driver, consider responsibilities, the resources and skills required, necessary collaboration and exchange with other domains, and other constraints to people's autonomy to account for that domain.
A circle is a semi-autonomous, self-governing, and self-organizing group of people collaborating to respond to a driver.
A role is a set of constraints for how an individual can account for a domain.
People selected into roles are autonomous to decide and act within these constraints.
A circle (or team) selects one of its members to represent their interests in the governance decision making of another group.
Two interdependent circles (or teams) each select one of their members to represent their interests in the governance decision making of the other group.
Representatives (a.k.a. links):
Change things when there is value in doing so.
Create an environment that invites and enables members of the organization to drive change:
Lead by example.
Behave and act in the ways you would like others to behave and act.
A way for individuals to initiate and facilitate change.
Waste is anything not necessary for - or standing in the way of - effective response to a driver.
An agreement is an agreed upon guideline, process or protocol designed to guide the flow of value.
A strategy is a high level approach towards creating value within a domain.
A domain description is used as a circle, open location and role description too. It contains:
A deliverable is something which is provided as a result of an agreement in response to a driver. Deliverables include products, raw materials, services, experiences and transformation.
In the context of an agreement, clearly describing deliverables supports shared understanding:
Explicitly defining deliverables can be useful for improving:
Defining evaluation criteria can help to understand whether or not an agreement has the desired effect.
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.
Common platforms for logbooks are Wikis (e.g. Dokuwiki or MediaWiki), Content Management Systems (e.g. Wordpress), Google Drive, Evernote or Trello etc.
The logbook keeper is accountable for maintaining a circle's logbook by:
Groups of people meet at regular intervals to create and evolve agreements relating to drivers they are accountable for.
A governance meeting is usually:
Building in continuous improvement of work process through reflection and learning from past experience.
Many different activities for each phase can be found at plans-for-retrospectives.com
Coordinate work, facilitate learning, improve productivity and effectiveness.
Meet on a regular basis (usually weekly) for reporting on and coordinating work.
A group facilitation technique to maintain equivalence.
There are a number of ways that experienced groups can fast track certain rounds.
Choose someone to facilitate a meeting. Even an inexperienced facilitator can help to focus a meeting and make a positive difference.
Take time for learning at the end of each meeting or workshop. Reflect on interactions, celebrate successes and share suggestions for improvement.
Ask everyone in a round to reflect on any or all of the following topics in a brief sharing:
The meeting host is accountable for preparation and follow-up of meetings, workshops or other events.
The role may be assigned temporarily (i.e. for one specific event) or for a duration of time.
A governance backlog is a visible, prioritized list of items (drivers) that require (or may benefit from) a group decision.
A backlog (to-do-list) is a visible list of (often prioritized) uncompleted work items (drivers) that need to be addressed.
Types of backlog include:
Order all uncompleted work items with the most important items first:
Transparency about the state of all work items currently pending, in progress or completed.
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.
A person in the role of a coordinator is accountable for coordinating a group's operations and is selected for a limited term.
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:
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.
Sociocracy 3.0 describes a variety of patterns to grow organizational structure.
A group of people with the mandate to execute on requirements defined by a circle in response to a driver.
members of the helping circle:
A service circle can be populated by members of the domains it serves, and/or by other people too.
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.
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.
A pattern for decentralized organizations to deliver value in complex and competitive environments.
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.
A pattern for multiple organizations (or domains) with a common driver to share learning and if valuable, coordinate and align action.
S3 website: http://sociocracy30.org
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This work by Bernhard Bockelbrink and James Priest 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 latest version of this document is available at http://sociocracy30.org
James Priest serves internationally, providing organizational development consultancy, learning facilitation, mentoring and conflict resolution for people wishing to evolve collaborative, adaptive organizations at scale.
Bernhard Bockelbrink 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.