Co-Creation and Evolution

Pattern 1.1: Respond to Organizational Drivers

Clarify what’s happening and what’s needed in relation to the organization, and respond as required.

Responses to drivers:

  • action
  • decision (including creating a role, circle, helping team or open domain)

Qualify Organizational Drivers

Some drivers are (directly or indirectly) related to an organization’s primary driver, these are considered organizational drivers. Other drivers do not fall within the 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?

Review of Drivers

The response to a driver is usually an experiment that is evolved over time, based on learning.

  • Is the description of the situation still correct?
  • Do we still associate the same needs with the situation?
  • Is the driver still within our domain?
  • Is the driver still relevant?

Pattern 1.2: Navigate Via Tension

Identify and account for organizational drivers.

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 an inquiry reveals misconceptions and the tension goes away.

Awareness of organizational drivers can be passed to an appropriate domain to be addressed.

Pattern 1.3: Describe Organizational Drivers

Describe organizational drivers to understand, communicate and remember them.

A simple way to describe a driver is with a brief statement explaining:

  • What’s happening..:
    • the current situation
    • the effect of this situation on the organization
  • …and what’s needed:
    • the need of the organization in relation to this situation
    • the impact of attending to that need

Describe Organizational Drivers (2)

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 captures just enough information to communicate the need for an action or a decision. More information about the scope and details of the driver may be recorded besides the initial driver statement.

Example driver statement:

“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 focussed on our work.”

1. Current Situation

“The kitchen is a mess: there are no clean cups, the sink is full of dishes…”

Describe the current situation:

  • Briefly capture the essentials of what is happening.
  • Be objective: Describe observations and avoid evaluation.

2. Effect

“…it’s not possible to quickly grab a coffee and get right back to work.”

Explain the effect of this situation on the organization:

  • Clarify why the situation needs attention: how does it affect the organization?
  • Be explicit about effects being current or anticipated.
  • Explain challenges, losses, opportunities or gains.

3. Need

“We need the kitchen in a usable state…”

Explain the need of the organization in relation to this situation:

  • A need of an organization is anything a group (or individual) needs to effectively account for a domain.
  • When there’s disagreement about the need(s), it’s helpful to zoom out from specific solutions.
  • Be specific on whose need it is (“we need”, “they need”, “I need”) .
  • Avoid describing specific solutions disguised as needs.

4. Impact

“…so we can stay focussed on our work”.

Describe the impact of attending to that need:

  • Explain intended outcome, potential benefits or opportunities.
  • The impact may be obvious or implicit, especially when the effects of the current situation are already described.

Pattern 1.4: Consent Decision Making

A (facilitated) group process for decision making.

  • invite objections, and integrate the wisdom they reveal, to evolve proposals or existing agreements
  • withholding objections can harm the objectives of a group or organization
  • unresolved objections prevent proposals from becoming agreements
  • proposals only need to be good enough for now and safe enough to try until the next review

Implicit Contract of Consent

  • In the absence of objections against an agreement, I intend to follow through on the agreement to the best of my ability.
  • I agree to share objections as I become aware of them.

Pattern 1.5: Objection

An objection is a reason why doing something stands in the way of (more) effective response to a driver.

Objections contain information that reveals:

  • a certain or likely consequence of harm (not considered safe enough to try)
  • ways to improve proposals, decisions, existing agreements or actions

Qualify Objections

It’s the accountability of individuals to raise potential objections.

Those accountable for the action or (proposed) agreement in question, are responsible for considering arguments and addressing qualified 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.

How would doing this impede – or miss an opportunity to improve – flow of value to any organizational driver?

Objections stop:

  • current and planned action
  • people from executing on decisions
  • existing agreements from continuing without being reconsidered
  • proposals from becoming agreements

Understanding Objections

Some Helpful Questions:

  • How does the argument relate to this specific proposal or agreement?
  • Does the argument reveal how a (proposed or current) action or agreement:
    • harms response to any organizational driver?
    • can be improved right now?
    • prevents or diminishes someone’s contribution towards responding to a driver?
    • is in conflict with the organization’s values?
    • is considered not ‘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:

  • can inform ways to further evolve agreements (including evaluation criteria and frequency of evaluation)
  • are heard if there is time or they are considered important
  • are recorded in the logbook

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.

Pattern 1.6: Resolve Objections

A way for resolving objections

Pattern 1.7: Evaluate Agreements

Regular review of agreements is an essential practice for a learning organization; continuously evolving the body of agreements, and eliminating waste:

  • adapt to changing context
  • integrate learning:
    • How has this agreement helped us?
    • How can this agreement be improved?
    • Is there any reason why not to continue with this agreement?

  • preparation
    • schedule review
    • ensure necessary information is available
  • follow-up
    • agree on next review date
    • documentation / notification
    • tracking tasks and decisions
    • effects on related agreements
  • evaluating agreements can be as simple as checking that it is still relevant, and there is no objection to keeping the agreement as it is

  • agreements are often reviewed in Governance Meetings
  • sometimes it’s effective to schedule a dedicated session for reviewing an agreement
  • adjust review frequency as necessary
  • review earlier if required
  • elements of this process can also be used by individuals to evaluate decisions they make

Pattern 1.8: Those Affected Decide

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:

  • facilitate a process in several stages and create smaller groups who select delegates
  • set out a virtual, asynchronous, time-boxed and staged process

Consider including those affected also in review and evolution of decisions.

Pattern 1.9: Proposal Forming

A (facilitated) group process for co-creating a response to a driver.

  • draws on the collective intelligence and diversity of perspective within a group
  • involves people in co-creating agreements
  • fosters accountability and sense of ownership

Proposal forming may be also be used by an individual.

Proposal Forming Steps

  • Consent to driver: Is this driver relevant for us to respond to? Is the driver statement an accurate description of what is happening and what is needed?
  • Deepen shared understanding of driver: invite essential questions to understand more detail about the driver.
  • Collect considerations phrased as questions relating to possible solutions. Questions either reveal constraints (information gathering questions) or possibilities (generative questions).
  • Answer any information gathering questions if possible.
  • Prioritize considerations.
  • Gather ideas as possible ingredients for a proposal.
  • Design a proposal for addressing the driver considering the creative ideas and information gathered so far. This is usually done by a smaller group (tuners).

Selecting Tuners

  • who should be there?
  • who wants to be there?
  • who else may have a valuable contribution to make?
  • consider expertise, outside view, and inspiration
  • any objections to this group?

Pattern 1.10: Role Selection

A group process for selecting people for roles.

  • People avoid expressing interest before the selection
  • Nominations are made on the strength of the reason, not according to the majority
  • You can nominate yourself or pass
  • When checking for objections, ask the person nominated last

Objections to a nominee may be resolved in many ways, including amending the role’s domain description or by nominating someone else.

Note: This pattern can also be used for selection between a variety of options in other circumstances.

Pattern 1.11: Driver Mapping

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.

Small or large groups identify and prioritize drivers, progressing quickly from concept to action in self-organizing teams.

Driver Mapping: Template for Domains

Read next: Peer Development

© 2015-2018 by Bernhard Bockelbrink, James Priest and Liliana David. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0