Sociocracy is a meeting facilitation technique, which allows participants in a discussion to position themselves on issues using a physical spectrum. Those involved may gain important insights from marginalized perspectives and/or those previously marginalized may feel heard enough to comfortably move on the spectrum to enable consensus. The following information comes from the Sociocracy website.
Sociocracy is a highly effective method of designing and governing organizations. It uses cybernetics and systems thinking to produce highly effective organizations that are resilient, self-organizing, and coherently structured for inclusive decision-making and harmonious operations.
Sociocratic principles are derived from:
- Cybernetics, the science of communications and control,
- Systems Thinking, viewing the parts and the whole and how they affect each other,
- the best modern management theory and practices, and
- the Quaker tradition of peace education and the equal valuing of each person.
Some use sociocratic methods because they work and others because they share the values of equality and freedom.
Sociocracy for One
Even if you do not live or work in a sociocratic organization, you can still apply sociocracy in your every day life to achieve greater harmony. By demonstrating that sociocracy produces fairness, effectiveness, and collaboration, you also increase the possibility that sociocracy will be implemented in the organizations where you live and work. The small changes suggested here can make a big difference in your life as well as in that of others.
1. Expect Consent
Function as if consent is already the standard in decision-making.
When a decision is about to be made, before anyone can call for a vote, ask if there are any objections. If possible, glance at each person as an invitation to speak. If someone tries to dismiss concerns or interrupts, say “Let’s look at this for a moment.” If necessary, help clarify concerns, determine if they are objections or concerns, and ask if anyone can address them. When unresolved objections remain, emphasize that a decision has not been made. Many small groups function by consent most of the time. With only one or two objections, however, they will avoid announcing a formal decision and then proceed as if one had been made. Break this cycle and state clearly, “We have no decision” or “Let’s decide not to proceed until we have enough information to resolve Sam’s objections.”
2. Initiate Rounds
Instead of waiting for open discussion, begin rounds by asking, “What does everyone think? Mary?” and move around the room to each person.
Doing rounds can completely change the dynamic of a group because round:
- Establish equality in the room as each person is given time to speak
- Bring out comments from those who dislike competing for time or feel their ideas are not important
- Prevent people from avoiding responsibility by being silent
- Remind everyone not to dominate the discussion
Suggest that two people with differing styles or opinions represent your group when approaching an authority or attending a conference or meeting.
When two people represent a group as equals the process of representation is more likely to:
- shift to collaboration and consultation on behalf of the group rather than personal benefit
- search for solutions in consultation rather than presenting a fait accompli
- be freer from being co-opted with two listening
- convey more information in both directions with broader experience and training
4. Make the Best Choices Using Discussion and Consent
Don’t ask for volunteers; ask who might to be a good person for a function or task and obtain consent.
Before anyone can volunteer, ask what the task or function requires and then directly ask one person who they think could fulfill those requirements. Convey the expectation that there will be more than one qualified person. A volunteer may not be the best person for the job and the person who is may not volunteer. People often recognize abilities in others that others don’t see in themselves.
5. Actively Solicit Objections
After presenting an idea welcome objections by asking, “Now how is this going to work? What’s wrong with it? Let’s make it better.”
Resolving objections builds a stronger proposal. Don’t allow them to slide away. Taking objections seriously also builds the commitment and focus necessary for effective action. Even when an objection cannot be resolved, if it is thoroughly understood, people are more willing to move forward and test a possible solution.
6. Measure & Report
Build measurements into your decisions so you will know how they are working.
How will I know if this is working? When do I take a second look? How will I measure success? Set a date when decisions will be reviewed and changed if necessary. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Match measurement to the complexity of the decision. For personal decisions, it may be as simple as putting a mark on the calendar setting a date to consider how you feel. For complex tasks with financial repercussions, more data gathering will be necessary. Then record and make the result available to everyone concerned — transparency builds trust and brings more information forward.
7. Encourage Self-Organization
Ask questions that expect people to find their own answers, to be self-generating. And take control of your own responsibilities so you can do the same.
When you self-organize you are governing your own life in ways that allow you to generate new activities. Self-organization is often discouraged in workplaces but there are usually small areas of responsibility and independence where you can take intitiative. And often they are large.
There is generally more freedom to self-organize in your personal life. A mother with four high-energy children and a husband who worked twelve hours a day did one thing that changed her life—she woke up an hour earlier than the family and organized her day over a quiet breakfast. She took charge and generated a harmonious home. A single man who suddenly adopted 18-month-old twins put a DayTimer on the table next to his plate “just for the house and the twins. Everything is in it.”
8. Self Education
Take responsibility for your own development, for continuing to learn about life, about your work, and about your organization.
Management literature often calls this “don’t get stale.” It means keeping up with your industry and developing beyond it. Define your professional area, and your personal life, broadly. If you work on a loading dock, find out how other organizations handle late shipments and transient employees. Watch changes in your company at the top levels that may help you understand how your job might change or what its real value is to the company. Design educational programs that reduce emergencies and increase productivity. Bring your colleagues along with you.
At home, develop your social contacts. Follow your dreams. This will create an environment of growth—not necessarily bigger, but deeper.
Sharon Villines is the author of thousands of blog posts and emails on sociocracy and cohousing, owner of Sociocracy.info, and coauthor with John Buck of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, a Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods (Washington, DC: Sociocracy.info Press, 2007). For more information: http://www.sociocracy.info
Copyright © 2008-2012 by Sharon Villines. All rights reserved. May be printed for personal use but may not be incorporated into training, workshop, or other printed or digital formats without permission. For permission please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org