The Setting is Crucial

It’s perfectly fine to hold workshops outside our organizations, but we need to be aware that often the conclusions we reach and the deep shared understanding we experience might no longer hold true when we are back at our workplace. It’s easy to be creative, bond with our teammates and create an illusion of breakthrough and enlightenment when you are in a fresh environment, and free of the shackles of habit and organizational culture. Facilitators and trainers often (consciously or subconsciously) use that to their advantage to create a group hallucination of an imminent revolution.

These occasions are fine to get a fresh perspective, but translating new and radical ideas and plans from these workshops or retreats to our everyday setting is a challenge, and we often get frustrated as resistances emerge and we encounter aspects we haven’t thought of before. Culture and habits still hold us in a tight grip and confine us.

For Sociocracy 3.0 to stick with our organization, it needs to stick with each and every member of that organization. We cannot achieve this through policy and rules we create outside, we need to go on a journey together and incrementally evolve our organizational culture, our shared understanding, our mindset, our habits. How we can achieve this largely depends on the culture we have, and if we don’t want to loose sight of that, we better hold workshops to change culture submerged in that culture.

It’s fine to bring in facilitators, trainers and coaches from outside, but however much we’re tempted to run away and feel the freedom, let’s stay inside the organization and stick to the change we can create here. It might appear slow at first, but it will save us a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

Three scenarios for creating a Sociocracy 3.0 organization

There’s three different places from which you can move towards a S3 organization:

The first is when you already have a business model and want to create ans S3 organization. Then it might be a good idea to talk about the shared values you want to embrace, and see how the business model is aligned with your values.

The second is when you get together to create a new organization, and all you know is that S3 is the way you want to work together. You will then use S3 to collaborate on finding the business model. If you agree on shared values early, these values will support you in identifying a business model which might work for all of you.

The third scenario is when an existing organization wants to transition to S3. In that case you can use your organizational values guide you towards addressing the biggest tension1 first.

Of course, with each of these scenarios there are many different paths to S3, and only you know which one is right for you. However, awareness of your shared values might make the path a bit easier to identify.

  1. i.e. whatever poses the biggest conflict to your values 

Sociocracy 3.0 vs. Holacracy

Right after my presentation on patterns for self-organizing teams at the tools4agileTeams conference I had a very engaging conversation with Martin Röll (of Structure and Process) , where we we tried to dig a bit deeper into the differences between Sociocracy 3.0 and Holacracy.

Here’s my perspective:

Both Holacracy and Sociocracy 3.0 are descendants of Gerard Endenburg’s sociocracy, but they’re not really interchangeable, because they originate from different paradigms[^views on the world], and from a different intention.

Holacracy creates a system based on a constitution and a body of rules, to make it easy for people to be efficient within that system. The emphasis is on structure and autonomy, alignment is towards purpose. The metaphors used are mostly technical/mechanical.

With Sociocracy 3.0 we focus on evolving a culture of effective collaboration aligned towards shared values and shared motivation1. The metaphors we use to teach come from organic and human systems, because ultimately, that’s what organizations are. Supporting each other in creating and living a strong culture significantly reduces our dependency on structure and rules[^although we cannot do without], and helps each other develop both personal integrity and autonomy.

It’s your challenge to figure out which paradigm will best support you in your context. Make sure you pick the one which resonates with you more.

  1. what we call a “driver”: a specific situation (or context) and the needs we associate with it