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Our first steps in sociocracy

Although we are a well-coordinated and experienced team that has been working together for years, setting up our new agency presented us with organisational challenges.

Starting from the exceptional foundation of six equally entitled partners, we gave each other the confidence to believe in our idea. However, our individual goals, competencies and areas of responsibility were different.

So how did we find a common process that adequately secured business decisions and yet remained open to change at any time?

Start

There were many business and organisational decisions to be made. In addition, our daily tasks continued to pile up.

I decided to educate myself on the subject of self-organisation and sociocracy. I interviewed colleagues, friends and family in order to identify ideas that would help us to move forward in terms of organisation. Many things were completely new, but after a few weeks, we discussed two concrete suggestions in the team: Holacracy and Sociocracy 3.0 (S3). In the very same meeting, we decided to test S3 for 6 months.

Getting started was easy — S3 was designed as a practical guide that could be implemented step by step and offered an extensive collection of ideas, so-called patterns. These patterns proved to be helpful in other organisations in implementing sociocracy and in enhancing productivity, collaboration and satisfaction.

Several weeks have passed since then. Certain patterns we use daily, others we understand but do not yet apply, and new ones we are still learning. In the introductory phase, the following patterns have helped us the most.

Driver

The driver concept was a bit odd for us at first. But in the end, we understood the driver simply as a motive for us to act. This applies to all situations — no matter if it’s hiring new employees or ordering new notebooks.

As we are heading towards a self-organised structure, the pattern of navigating by tension, which precedes the driver, has become even more fundamental. This helps to identify and express tensions within oneself. This pattern also works quite well outside the working environment.

Let’s get back to the driver — the purpose is always given in S3: to create value for the organisation and to avoid anything standing in the way of the driver. This means that a valid driver also implies an increase of organisation value.

As a first driver, we described why we need a system like S3. And after that our organisational driver.

Circles

From the S3 manual: “Circles are self-organised and semi-autonomous teams that make decisions“.

This concept seemed obvious to us because everyone was involved where they actually wanted to be. However, we founded many circles until we noticed that drivers overlapped and certain circles were of no use — so we disbanded these circles.

Currently, it comes down to these: Company, Finance, People, Business Development, Infrastructure, Communication and Production. With these circles and their drivers, we can distribute as much responsibility as possible to everyone.

Each circle also contains a large number of roles. When we started to describe our roles, we realised that there were a lot more roles to define than expected. It took a while, but we managed to clarify the responsibility and the free space of each member of a circle.

Consent decisions

We decided many things unisonous even before S3. The consent decision pattern gave us a structured approach on how to make these decisions. It also allowed us to push complex issues forward very efficiently.

The principle of consent decisions is based on the assumption that everyone always agrees to a decision. Anyone who is against must justify their objection.

However, in S3 a decision only needs to be good enough for the time being and certain enough to be tried out until the date of the next review. This implies that every decision is an experiment that will be checked after a certain time. This also liberates important decisions from a heavy content burden.

Principles

Finally, the seven principles of S3: effectiveness, consent, empiricism, continuous improvement, equivalence, transparency and accountability. Acting according to these principles is sometimes really hard and we still learn a lot, but they are the key elements in making S3 work.

Conclusion

Well, so what can be said in conclusion? On the one hand, there are many more patterns to mention, and on the other hand, it’s still too early for us to go into more depth.

But what we already observe is that S3 gives us more structure and more freedom. We don’t know yet what it will become — but that is a good thing because after all, it is an experiment.

Before you go: We are very grateful if you’d drop a comment and share your experience, opinion, criticism and knowledge on this subject with us.

Excerpts from Sociocracy 3.0 “Introduction”: https://patterns-de.sociocracy30.org/introduction.html

Excerpts from Sociocracy 3.0 “Circle”: https://patterns-de.sociocracy30.org/circle.html

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We create digital experiences with stunning design and technology… and blog about it here.

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Iwan Negro

Iwan Negro

iwannegro.ch

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