Over the years, we incrementally refined how the practical guide presents organizational development and organizational structure.

After much deliberation in the last year or two – relating to helping organizations work with the Common Sense Framework, and to studying how successful organizations set constraints on organizational structure, we discovered that we could provide people with a more helpful and more practical approach for evolving organizations, which we now laid out in the Practical Guide. We added several new patterns, retired a few others, and made quite substantial changes to some of the existing patterns. We also sketched a new section of the guide that discusses organizational structure, which we are going to flesh out later

separating patterns for evolving structure from specific examples of larger structures, integrating more broadly with other existing frameworks and approaches that develop organizational structures, so that S3 remains

Purpose of Domains

In the context of a domain, we now refer to the combination of the primary driver and the corresponding requirement as the purpose of a domain, and we updated the Delegation Canvas and S3 Organization Canvas accordingly.

We also updated our recommendation for what to include in a domain description. We extended the description of Clarify and Develop Domains to include a detailed description and examples for each aspect of a domain description, and we also added an example domain description (in the appendix). Clarify and Develop Domains now contains more information about how and when to clarify domains, and how domains are developed. These changes will soon be reflected in other patterns related to metrics and evaluation.

With this change came two new entries to the glossary: Standard ConstraintOverall Domain

    Patterns Relating to Organizational Development

    Before the recent change, S3 was leaning on patterns that show concrete structures of different levels of complexity:

    • basic building blocks on the level of individuals and teams (e.g. role, circle, link)
    • structures that connect those teams (eg. delegation circle)
    • and complex structures for entire organizations and beyond (Peach Organization, Service Organization)

    In addition to that S3 contained a few meta-patterns that informed the development of structure, like Clarify and Develop Domains, Align Flow, and Create a Pull-System for Organizational Change.

    Since we first described these patterns about organizational structure, we found that many organizations use the building blocks, and the structures that directly build on those, but the more complex patterns are used less often, and tend to be adapted more. Also we encountered organizations that had entirely different ideas about larger structures that were rather clever, but also very specific.

    We did not want to add tens of new structures to the practical guide, because that would be – for lack of a better word – rather impractical. Therefore we started looking for what these larger structures have in common, and what sets them apart. In the end, we arrived at a collection of patterns that do not describe structure, but define enabling constraints for structure, so that a complex network structure can emerge.

    These are the new patterns:

    • Enable Autonomy and Collaborate on Dependencies explain how to strike the balance between autonomy and collaboration (both were already integrated as principles in the Common Sense Framework)
    • Manage the Whole System supports people in bringing together the individual strands of organizations, departments or projects
    • Design Adaptable Systems is focused on how to “design” organizations that can grow but still respond to change by developing a set of constraints for structure and growth
    • Financial Transparency supports people make better decisions, and it builds trust and accountability – which in turn enables more autonomy and better collaboration
    • Share Costs and Gains is a very common pattern, but it has also interesting applications larger structures that incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship
    • Invest in Ongoing Learning is a bit of an outlier, because it has a slightly different focus, however it will eventually explain how to create structures for learning

    With these changes, we decided to moved Delegate Circle and Service Circle into Building Organizations, and we removed Delegate Influence, because the value it provided is now described in the new pattern Enable Autonomy, and in the upcoming changes to Contract for Successful Collaboration.

    For now, the new patterns we added only contain a brief summary. We chose to Deliver Value Incrementally, and roll out the new structure of the practical guide before completing all the contents. That being said, we have a full backlog of upcoming changes, and lots of notes and drafts in various stages of completion, so eventually, all new patterns will have a complete and useful description.

    Dedicated Chapter about Organizational Structure

    A few of the new patterns mentioned above might strike some people as a rather odd take on organizational structure, therefore we created a dedicated chapter about organizational structure, where we will add general observations, case studies, examples, and a discussion of how S3 patterns relate to how organizational structure is presented in several existing frameworks for organizational structure. This chapter is also the new home for Peach OrganizationService OrganizationFractal Organization, and Double-Linked Hierarchy, which we now present as examples of complex organizational structure.