Sociocracy 3.0 – A Practical Guide For Evolving Agile and Resilient Organizations

Effective Collaboration At Any Scale

  • principles-based: A coherent way for growing organizational integrity and developing a sociocractic and agile mindset
  • flexible: adaptable patterns, independent and mutually reinforcing, to help you with all aspects of collaboration
  • free: licensed under a Creative Commons Free Culture License

What’s in it for me?

Sociocracy 3.0 – a.k.a. “S3” – brings you an extensive collection of guidelines and practices (patterns) that have proven helpful for organizations for improving performance, alignment, fulfillment and wellbeing.

S3 helps you discover how to best reach your objectives and navigate complexity, one step at a time, without the need for radical reorganization or a big change initiative:

  • Simply start with your area of greatest need, select one or more patterns to try, move at your own pace and develop skills as you go.

  • Regardless of your position in the organization, you will find patterns that are relevant and helpful for you.


  • a brief overview of some basic concepts behind S3
  • a description of all the patterns in S3
  • an appendix with a changelog, acknowledgments, info about authors and license, a glossary and an index

Influences and History

Basic Concepts

Before diving into the content, consider taking time to learn about some basic concepts behind S3:

  • what is a pattern?
  • the seven principles
  • drivers, value and waste
  • domains, delegation and accountability
  • governance, self-organization, and semi-autonomy

For any terms you don’t understand check out the glossary at the end.


A pattern is a template for successfully navigating a specific context.

  • S3 patterns are discovered through observing many organizations as they solve problems and respond to opportunities
  • S3 patterns can be evolved and adapted to suit differing contexts
  • the patterns are grouped by topic into ten categories

All Patterns are based on The Seven Principles

The Seven Principles

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: Involve people in making and evolving decisions that affect them.

Transparency: Make all information accessible 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 a person’s or a group’s motive for responding to a specific situation.


  • can be used to derive goals, objectives, aims, mission, vision, purpose
  • can change over time

Drivers: Value and Waste

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:

  • value stream mapping
  • various strategies for eliminating waste
  • the Kanban Method


A domain is a distinct area of influence, activity and decision making within an organization.

All domains are within the overall domain of an organization and may overlap and/or be fully contained within other domains.

Domains are delegated to people (e.g. to a unit, department, team or individuals), who take accountability for the domain, within its defined constraints on influence and autonomy.

Delegating Domains

Those delegating a domain (the delegators) still retain overall accountability for that domain, and often define:

  • key responsibilities (essential work and decision making being delegated)
  • constraints to autonomy and influence for those the domain is delegated to, usually related to the organization itself (e.g. budget, resources, level of delegation, reporting)

Drivers and Domains

A domain can be defined in relation to an organizational driver – known as the domain’s primary driver – by the set of sub-drivers the organization may benefit from addressing when responding to that driver:

  • key responsibilities: following directly from the domain’s primary driver
  • constraints: relating to the organization’s wider context

Domains and Accountability

  • accountability applies to all agreements, including the organization itself, circles, and roles
  • everyone’s primary accountability is for effective collaboration in response to organizational drivers
  • individuals and groups are accountable for their work, ongoing learning and development, with the organization providing necessary support
  • everyone in an organization is accountable for aligning action with organizational values

Governance, Semi-Autonomy and Self-Organization

Governance: Continuously deciding what to do to achieve objectives, and setting constraints on how and when things will be done.

Self-Governance: People governing themselves within the constraints of a domain.

Self-Organization: People coordinating work within constraints defined through governance.

Operations (Doing the Work): People doing what needs to be done, guided by coordination and governance.

Semi-Autonomy: People with autonomy to create value, limited by the constraints of their domain.

Governance vs. Operations

Tracking, reviewing and evolving decisions made to achieve objectives enables an organization to continuously learn and improve.

Does it require or benefit from an individual or group decision?

  • yes: governance
    • not covered by a previous agreement
    • needs to be agreed, decided or amended
  • no: operations
    • covered by previous agreement (those accountable are free to act)
    • needs to be done

Read next: Co-Creation and Evolution

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