Month: January 2015

Sociocracy – Insights into my Personal Journey – Part 1


Earth-RisingShock and horror!

From a young age I was both perplexed and concerned by the lack of equivalence I observe between people and how so few have an effective voice in influencing decisions affecting them. I witnessed, and continue to witness abuse of power and an apathetic majority surrendering to circumstances that are at best undesirable and at worst, deadly! I’ve felt so sad at times, and at others, horrified, overwhelmed!

Like a vast majority of people in the world, including those who at first glance might be perceived, and act, as perpetrators and power-mongers, I tend to “wounds” resulting from being on a receiving end in “hierarchical”, “power-over” environments – situations where my objection and protest carried little weight but to secure further chastisement, pain or exclusion.

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Nurturing Holistic Organisational Development, spreading the word about relational energetics (the subtle yet predictable energetic dance underlying our daily experience) and teaching people about sociocracy – a whole system governance method with innovative decision making process and feedback loops (evaluation protocol built in) – has been a passion of mine for well over a decade.

The last years I’ve committed myself to working full time, developing resources, teaching and consulting organisations, networks and groups about how to organise and govern themselves more effectively. I feel gratitude for being able to contribute to the changes I wish to see in the world – energised, so alive!

I have a policy, I mean, an agreement with myself – “share passion and service in the places I’m invited”.

In the past I learned painfully, and observed with some sorrow that regardless of whether ideas have value or not, until others are ready and wishing to listen, dispensing my point of view constitutes a violent act!

As the years of my life accrue so I’m increasingly aware of the perfection of life’s timing. This said, I observe how determinedly people can resist change due to fear, and perpetuate behaviors and actions that fail to serve them until way past expiry date.

Perhaps pace is a choice, and so to, to some extent at least, the degree of joy or misery experienced.

 

Why I like it!

Discovering sociocracy (more about that in part 2), learning about re-configuring organisational structure and how to apply the principle of consent in decision making, has contributed towards my growing sense of informed hope for the future.

Sociocracy takes a “reflexive” approach to navigating life, which basically means learning from experience by remaining conscious throughout the process and apply learning to future action. This “awake” attitude towards engaging life serves to rekindle people’s attention and invites greater accountability for what might happen, is happening, and did happen.

Alongside such a dynamic way of steering, I’ve grown to appreciate how meetings can flow smoothly, be enjoyably productive, and that both facilitation and participation can be practiced artfully!

The “hopefulness” that continues to ignite my passion is fueled by an experiential knowledge that positive transformation is possible. The tools required to take an evolutionary leap in how we organise together and engage with the world around us, are here and available. What happens next it seems, is simply down to us.

 

Consequences

I’ve discovered that sociocracy offers a way to guarantee the potential for equivalence, transparency and effectiveness in organisations. I’m struck by how leadership (with informed consent) can serve a useful purpose, how circular functional hierarchy has value and how some structures can paradoxically support greater freedom.

I’ve realised how my “knee jerk” reaction to previous experiences of abuse has influenced me and how at times, in defense, I’ve “thrown a few babies out with the bath water”!

In the spirit of “both/and” thinking, sociocracy flattens out the policy making to the point that “leaders” and “those who answer to them”, participate with equal power in making policy.  Everyone is honored as a leader in their own right and those affected by decisions have an equivalent voice in making them.

 

Collective intelligence?

I’m impressed by how sociocratic processes facilitate the gathering of wisdom, insight and creativity at every turn, and how the elements harvested can be synthesised to formulate innovative strategies with greater integrity and resilience than those that may have been authored by any one individual alone.

Through sociocracy’s proposal forming and decision making processes, an underlying intelligence reveals itself. Once tapped, this resource supports groups to meet the emerging future more effectively – in harmony with their purpose and congruent with the needs and requirements of those in roles and with accountabilities to serve them.

 

Growing interest

Over these last two years in particular I’ve witnessed demand for sociocracy flourishing in all arenas – business, intentional communities, non-profits, social movements. There’s an explosion of interest, due perhaps to both timing and the fact that organisational agility and dynamic governance are hot topics!

In combination with the fact that applying sociocratic practices inspires engagement, fosters accountability and allows for lean, dynamic steering, it’s a no brainer option for people tired of cumbersome, stagnating, micromanaged organisations.

Yet worn out, traditional, centralised structures are not the only source of frustration for people. sociocracy provides a viable solution for an opposite scenario where people have polarised and formed radically egalitarian groups where leadership is rejected at every turn and few dare to speak out, yet alone lead, for fear of being labelled as a perpetrator of some kind of violent act upon humanity.

Such “flat” organisations rarely work at scale and power emerges from within the shadows, seeping through paths of least resistance and venting in distorted ways.

Sociocracy makes positions of leadership explicit, including defining the scope of authority. People leading may only do so with the informed consent of those that answer to them.  No-one can remain in a position of leadership if acting without integrity or when failing to honor accountabilities associated with their role.

Regular evaluation and feedback offers everyone within an organisation the opportunity to learn and improve.

If only my family of origin had had such policy in place when I was a child!

 

Spreading the word

Thirteen years ago, I knew of two people in the English speaking world that had heard of Sociocracy. Of course, I’ve since discovered that there were many more besides, but the point is that no international networks had yet formed. There were barely 5-10 references written in the English language on the Web.

At the time of writing this post, there are approximately 35,000 references to sociocracy in total (43,700 for sociocratie). This is a positive sign and although relatively small compared to say “consensus decision making”, clocking in around 18,700,000, none the less, a critical mass is building.

 

Insights into my journey with sociocracy – Part 2… coming soon.

Thank you for taking the time to share my thoughts.

 

If you’ve enjoyed reading this and other articles that I’ve posted then please take a moment to share them with others.

Together we can contribute to a more conscious and empowered humanity!

Sociocracy – If Not the Word “Aim”, then What?

150103 aimDuring the last several years I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve spent privy to conversations discussing the misleading nature of the word “Aim” and seeking to find a suitable alternative that describes more accurately what we mean by the word… erm… “Aim”… in sociocracy!

Tonight the following question crossed my screen and it prompted this brief post…

I’ve been asked this question so many times, and never been able to give a clear answer. Does anyone know why in sociocracy we use the term “Aims” instead of “Objectives”?

My answer as follows:

Both “yes” and “no”!

The thing is, the word “Aim” in itself is misleading!

What we’re really taking about when using the word “Aim” is “Products” / “Services” / “Raw Materials” / “Experiences” / “Transformations”. (I’m ever grateful to my friend Nathaniel Whitestone for this definition)

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As well as the fact that an “Aim” can be both physical or non-physical, it’s also the case that “Aims” are both inwards looking (to the organisation itself) and outwards looking (to the customer, member, resident etc).

So, whereas an “Aim” in an organisation may be “administration” or “management” or “building maintenance”, an “Aim” of an organisation may be a “software application”, or a “shared laundry”, or a “legal advice walk-in center”.

At the highest level the organisation itself is an “Aim”!  Equally, every Circle (department / domain), by nature of its existence has at its centre a unique “Aim” or “Aims”.

When I lead a workshop, the workshop is an “Aim” that I deliver to my “customers”. So too are the Hand-outs, the follow-up emails, the Flip Chart Photographs, etc.

It’s vital that Circles know what their “Aim/s” are. One, because an aimless circle is impossible to imagine – although it’s not so difficult to imagine groups of people who haven’t clarified the aim they’re gathered around! – and two, because all “policy proposals” relate to a Circles “Aim/s” and are developed when a Circle runs into an issue or challenge that requires an innovative strategy and that until now they’ve not established agreement around, regarding how to approach it.

In consent decision making, we raise “Objections” to policy or policy proposals in light of discovering a reason why continuing as proposed may harm the “Aim” of the circle, the shared “Aims” of the organisation, or someones ability to contribute to that “Aim”.

So you see, the word “Objective” is not entirely accurate either, and the word “Aim” is completely misleading because it commonly implies “target” or “the point we’re heading for”!

We can say “Purpose”, yet “purpose” can also be interpreted to imply a wider scope that includes Vision and Mission as well.

So, what to do?

My all-time favourite term until now is “Unique Value Provision” (UVProvision).

 It’s a bit of a mouthful… none the less, I’ll shortly be adding it to my literature. I like “UVProvision” because in Business Development we refer to the “Unique Value Proposition” or UVP and among this audience at least, people immediately get what I’m talking about.

The term “Unique Value Provision” also points to the fact that organisations distribute leadership and decision making authority across semi-autonomous teams, defined on the basis of the different “Aims” / “UVProvisions” that they serve and maintain.

I think that the word “Deliverable” also turns the light on for many people, only it’s a less favorable term within communities and many social transformation groups because of it’s easy association with sales and commercial services.

Perhaps you have some suggestions that you consider noteworthy. If so, please use the contact form if you’re be willing to share your inspiration. For sure, an alternative to the word “Aim” is long overdue!