Autognomics Books Holacracy Life Organizing Quakers Sociocracy Value Workplaces

My 10 Year Summary: What I Have Learned


1. Introduction
2. Background
3. My Journey
 3.1. The initial years (2012–2015)
 3.2. The middle years (2016–2018)
 3.3. The final years (2019–2022)
4. Conclusions
5. Afterword
6. Acknowledgments
7. Recommended Books

1. Introduction

I started blogging ten years ago today (Sept 26, 2012). At the same time, I started searching for life-giving ways of working. This is a summary of my journey and what I have learned. It is a personal story of what felt right to me at the time and what I am seeing now. I raised three questions. The answer to the third question about deeper order is a topic for a book in itself.

I may perhaps pass a few ideas along to you that you can relate to in your own life. I mostly really want to communicate how deadly our world has become for so many. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Bookshelves with ten years of reading.

During this time, I wrote 1000 blog posts and gathered 40000 quotes. The links in this post provide entry points to further reading. There is a list of recommended books at the end. I have included links to my book reviews when available.

2. Background

I have 39 years of experience, mostly in industrial R&D. I was trained as a physicist. I learned everything that was to learn and I even taught it. I was good at it. I received ABB Corporate Research’s Mission of The Year award in 2010 for my contribution to ABB’s Software Development Improvement Program.

I have explored a lot of ideas over my lifetime. I am still learning. I am even unlearning. My inquiry into life-giving work became more personal than I had anticipated.

3. My Journey

I saw a little girl this morning,
on her way to school.
It could have been me!
And here I am
on my way to work.
Fifty years later!
Does it have to be this way?

3.1. The initial years (2012–2015)

Little did I know at the start of my journey that I would suffer from depression half a year later. It took a couple of months until I could feel the sun in my face and the wind in my hair again. I think I have helped a lot of people in my workplace, but in that workplace I discovered that I was being killed. I was dying and I didn’t know why. I had to find out what I could do differently.

I found sociocracy two months after the start of my journey. I spent two years studying sociocracy in depth and wrote an ebook on sociocracy (in Swedish) together with John Schinnerer. I learned that the early development of Holacracy was influenced by sociocracy. My review of Brian Robertson’s new book on Holacracy got attention on twitter.

The group-centered decision-making in sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. Michael Sheeran’s Beyond Majority Rule is to some the definitive guide on the Quakers’ decision-making method. I wanted to learn more and visited the Quakers in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kväkargården, Stockholm, Sweden.

I learned that the Quakers (Friends) don’t just seek consent (as in sociocracy), but seek unity (or concord). It’s a subtle but important difference. I noticed how the Friends deliberately slowed down when there were objections. The Swedish Friends call it “framkallningstid” (development time).

I met a British Friend at the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting 2017 who had experiences of making decisions in meetings with a thousand participants. He said it worked because they were seeking the sense of the Meeting. The method can also be used successfully in a secular context. It would revolutionize our political system.

Michelle Holliday sent me her new book on thrivability. I love her tree metaphor. We need to recognize life itself in our organizations. We need to move from control to letting life thrive. It is all too easy for us to lose sight of the very quality of livingness. There is a place for control, but that doesn’t mean that it is the best way to deal with work and people.

Sociocracy and Holacracy are based on cybernetic principles. The way of seeing is the engineer’s. Both use control to run the organization. Sociocracy acknowledges that people are not system components, while Holacracy uses the metaphor of people as sensors acting on behalf of the organization. It is a misconception to view people as autonomous rule-following entities. Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking.

There is a distinction between being autonomic…, and allonomic

—Norm Hirst, Life-itself as organism characteristics – The Autognomics Institute

Norm Hirst makes a very important distinction between machines, which are allonomic, and living organisms, which are autonomic. Organisms come into being and grow into maturity as a whole entity unlike machines that are assembled piece by piece by some other.

Organisms are self-creating, not just self-organizing. Their purpose is not only to fulfill external tasks, but to develop their own life. To be alive is to be able to act. No organism is a machine, let alone an input-output machine (cybernetics).

Comparing an organism to a machine is profoundly misleading…

—Andreas Weber, Biology of Wonder

Andreas Weber emphasizes that it is profoundly misleading to compare an organism to a machine. Machines do not create themselves. They have no own interests. They do not resist being switched off. All organisms experience being alive. They decide, choose, and act according to values. Feeling is the inner experience of meaning. Organisms have to be free out of necessity.

Organism ways will always push to maintain the freedom to be autonomous…

—Skye Hirst, Value Intelligence In All Creative Organisms – The Autognomics Institute

Skye Hirst points out that it is a fundamental principle and an inalienable right for us to be free to act according to our own beinghood. Some people in power try to take it away by imposing overly tight controls. People are living beings, not things to be managed.

It is essential that we have the opportunity to take right and effective actions that are guided by our intrinsic intentions and meanings. This is a prerequisite for a healthy environment where we can learn, adapt, and thrive.

These insights gave me an understanding of my depression. I realized that I couldn’t find effective actions to fully be myself in the workplace. And yet, I was very good at adapting, obeying, and fulfilling expectations.

3.2. The middle years (2016–2018)

My journey took a new turn in 2016 when I started searching between and beyond our traditional ways of organizing work. Many different approaches have been developed over the years. They are often accompanied by a whole industry offering tools, training, consulting, and certification.

David Bohm & F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, pp. 274–5.

My inquiry was inspired by David Bohm and F. David Peat’s notion of the order between and beyond. I raised three questions in the inquiry:

  1. What existing orders of organizing do we have today?
  2. How are they entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible?
  3. What clues to a deeper order can we find in the answers to these questions?

I were never able to answer these questions completely, but they gave a direction to my inquiry:

  1. I made an attempt to answer the first question. The challenge was that the different approaches couldn’t be thought of as being well-defined. Misinformation also became problematic. I discovered quotes that were not accurate, and claims that were not true.
  2. I never answered the second question. As I write this, my working hypothesis is that there is an overcommitment to mechanical order. Many approaches require that people behave as cogs and wheels (or, in the language of cybernetics, as sensors).
  3. Likewise, I never answered the third question. This is a topic for a book in itself. My hypothesis is that in order to sense deeper order we need to pay acute attention to the ways in which we see, think, feel, and act — individually and together. We need to enter into a new way of seeing. We need to examine the edges of our awareness.

Paavo Pylkkänen was a collaborator with David Bohm and is in a great position to comment on David Bohm’s work.

Bohm often used the metaphors of machine and living organisms to illustrate the difference between a mechanical order and a non-mechanical…order…

—Paavo Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and The Implicate Order, p. 51.

Mechanical order emphasizes external relationships while deeper order draws attention to internal relationships and participation. Bohm thought that it was important to understand the factors which supports communication and coherent action. Changing reality means changing oneself. We always act based on a certain understanding.

You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any specific situation.

—Eugene Gendlin, Focusing, p. vii.

Felt sense is a felt meaning, a bodily understanding. When we become quietly attentive and sensitive we can let our actions be guided by the needs of the situation. Experiencing is always there in the present moment. It is a deeper order in that it is pre-conceptual. Only actual living can grasp living experiencing adequately.

…feeling our needs and having them satisfied is a direct sign of how well we realise (or fail to realise) our aliveness.

—Andreas Weber, Enlivenment, p. 17.

Feeling is directly related to our sense of aliveness. Rational thinking has no way of understanding lived experience. Our ability to think in logical and abstract terms of mechanical order separates us from the world. It is, in fact, our reliance on rational calculation which makes today’s loss of life possible. We need a more qualitative and organic way of understanding. We need to become carefully observant of life itself.

3.3 The final years (2019–2022)

My journey took yet another turn in 2019 when I started painting. I loved it! I discovered that painting moved me into a state of flow, which felt very relaxing, enjoyable, and freeing.

It felt so good, in fact, that I spent hours painting when I came home from work. While painting, I was totally absorbed in the moment. I was totally involved with all my being in something which felt intrinsically satisfying. I felt creatively alive.

—Jan Höglund, Grevens stig, Ängsö, Sweden.

I continued reading and writing, but not as much as previously.

4. Conclusions

At the beginning of my journey, I discovered that I was being killed. I was dying and I didn’t know why. I knew I had to find out what I could do differently. Ten years later, I have learned how to move towards my own aliveness, towards who I am, towards who I was born to be.

We are not only killing ourselves with our organizations, we are killing our planet and all of nature with our western civilization. Our organizations reflect our values and priorities, our ways of thinking. All aspects of life need to be marked by new priorities, new ways of seeing, new perceptions of what is good.

What we find in other organisms is aliveness: ours, and theirs, and that which is the source of all.

—Andreas Weber, Biopoetics, p. 117.

We can discern what enhances aliveness for the simple reason that we are alive. By experiencing aliveness we are able to evaluate the life-giving potential of any situation. Life is contagious with aliveness. Aliveness is intrinsic to life itself.

Life-giving work is about being in the world with a deep sense of caring. It is about listening, seeing, and acting in harmony with Life. It is through gentle action, living from a deeper place, using our whole intelligence, that we can act in harmony with Life’s deeper order.

Kelvy Bird provides a practical example of how to make the unseen, yet felt, inner life of a social field visible in her work as a scribe and visual facilitator. It’s about staying open, listening deeply, and acting in the right time.

Staying open is a key skill…

—Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing, p. 53.

We need to step deeply into our lives, staying open to the flow of meaning. It is a key skill and a real challenge. It is far too easy to inadvertently close our minds to what is actually going on. I closed my mind during my depression because I was afraid of feeling deeply. I didn’t think it was safe to feel and to express those feelings honestly.

Listen deeply… Trust that a deeper meaning will arrive…

—Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing, p. 127.

Instead of imposing order we can inquire into what is seeking new order. We can listen deeply for what wants to unfold in the present moment. We can act in the right time as it unfolds. It is all fluid motion!

We can let our next step of thought come from…experiential feedback, rather than only from the concept.

—Eugene Gendlin, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, p. xvii.

We can let our thoughts and actions come from our experiencing, rather than from ideas alone. It can lead us to modify our thinking, rather than being confined in it. We can act from a felt sense. This is one of my most important discoveries.

Felt meaning is present whenever actions, observations, and situations occur that have meaning to a person. An individual who is maximally open to his or her experience weighs and balances all the meanings in his or her experience. Change occurs through experiencing.

In summary, I know now that I can choose to stay open and allow myself to feel fully alive. Without natural beauty and a deep connection to the living world, we end up lifeless and depressed. Beauty is felt aliveness. It is also healing.

…help each person reach the deepest place in their own hearts and…help them bring this material out into the open.

—Christoper Alexander, The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth, p. 117.

Going forward, I want to create conditions that will activate and intensify life itself, with my he-art. Ultimately, it is a question of love — for the planet, for other beings, and for myself. To allow myself to be fully alive is to love myself and the world. Love is the inside of aliveness. Honoring our aliveness is also the best way to ensure our long-term survival as a species.

5. Afterword

My journey became more personal than I had anticipated at the start. My focus was initially on finding systemic answers to my question about life-giving work (for example, sociocracy), but I ended up with intrinsic answers (seeing, being, feeling). I had searched for explicate order, but ended up with a focus on implicate order. I had searched for systemic value (rules), but ended up with giving priority to intrinsic value (love). This is also one of my most important discoveries.

Embrace change…
…be present.
Work is…creating.
Create a nurturing…environment.
Love the workers…before the work.
Make time for community…

—Tess Jette, Six pillars of a life giving workplace – The Autognomics Institute

Life-giving work can only happen when all people are free to use their brains and hearts. It can be done in many ways, but it always has to be done wholeheartedly. Stay open, listen deeply, act at the right time, and trust your felt sense! It can be this way!

6. Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the Friends in Sweden for generously sharing their knowledge in group-centered decision-making. It’s one thing to read about it, it’s quite another to experience it! Thank you!

I would also like to give my heartfelt thanks to Skye Hirst, who coached me in the writing of this post. We have had an ongoing dialogue since 2017. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey — both as a coach and as a friend!

Finally, thank you, dear reader, if you have read this far! You can reach me or follow me here.

7. Recommended Books

This is a long list. Authors who have influenced me most are Christopher Alexander, David Bohm, Henri Bortoft, Eugene Gendlin, and Robert Hartman. I have found myself going back to their books again and again. All have something to say about deeper order.

Christopher Alexander’s books hold a special place in my library.

Abram, D., The Spell of the Sensuous
Abram, D., Becoming Animal.
Addleson, M., Beyond Management
Agerbeck, B., The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide
Alexander, C., The Timeless Way of Building
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 1 – The Phenomenon of Life
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 2 – The Process of Creating Life
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 3 – A Vision of a Living World
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 4 – The Luminous Ground

Alexander, C., et al., A Pattern Language
Alexander, C., et al., The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth
Amabile, T., & Kramer, S., The Progress Principle
Arrien, A., The Four-Fold Way
Arrien, A., The Second Half of Life
Artur, B.W., The Nature of Technology
Atran, S., Talking to the Enemy

Bache, C.M., The Living Classroom
Bache, C.M., Dark Night, Early Dawn
Bache, C.M., LSD and the Mind of the Universe
Baghai, M., & Quigley, J., As One
Baldwin, C., & Linnea, A., The Circle Way
Ballé, M., & Ballé, F., Lead With Respect
Banishoeib, F., The Poetry of Leadership
Bateson, N., Small Arcs of Larger Circles
Beck, K., Extreme Programming Explained
Bennis, W., Organizing Genius
Benson, H., The Relaxation Response
Bergstrand, J., Reinventing Your Enterprise
Bird, K., Generative Scribing
Brikinshaw, J., Reinventing Management
Blake, A., The Supreme Art of Dialogue
Blake, A., A Gymnasium of Beliefs in Higher Intelligence.
Blake, A., The Intelligent Enneagram.
Block, P., Community
Block, P., Flawless Consulting
Block, P., The Answer to How is Yes
Block, P., The Empowered Manager
Block, P., Stewardship
Bogsnes, B., Implementing Beyond Budgeting
Bohm, D., On Creativity
Bohm, D., On Dialogue
Bohm, D., Unfolding Meaning
Bohm, D., Wholeness and the Implicate Order
Bohm, D., Quantum Theory
Bohm, D., The Special Theory of Relativity
Bohm, D., & Biederman C., Bohm-Biederman Correspondence
Bohm, D., & Hiley B., The Undivided Universe
Bohm, D., & Peat F.D., Science, Order, and Creativity
Bornstein, D., How to Change the World
Bortoft, H., The Wholeness of Nature (My tweets from the book compiled by Simon Robinson)
Bortoft, H., Taking Appearance Seriously (Excellent book review by Simon Robinson)
Brafman, O., & Beckstrom A., The Starfish and the Spider
Brogan, K., A Mind of Your Own
Brooks, F.P., The Mythical Man-Month
Brown, J., The Art and Spirit of Leadership
Brown, J., & Isaacs, D., The World Café
Briggs, J., & Peat, F.D., Turbulent Mirror
Briskin, A., The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace
Briskin, A., Erickson, S., Ott, J. & Callanan, T., The Power of Collective Wisdom
Buk, J., & Villines, S., We the People
Buckley, P., & Peat, F.D., A Question of Physics
Buhner, S.H., Ensouling Language .
Buhner, S.H., The Lost Language of Plants
Buhner, S.H., The Secret Teachings of Plants
Bungay, S., The Art of Action
Burbank, L., & Hall, W., The Harvests of the Years
Bush. R.A.B., & Folger, J.P., The Promise of Mediation
Bushe, G.R., & Marshak, R.J., et al., Dialogic Organization Development

Cameron, J., The Artist’s Way
Campbell, J., The Power of Myth
Capra, F. & Luisi, P.L., The Systems View of Life
Carson, R., Silent Spring
Chaitin, G., The Limits of Mathematics
Chaitin, G., The Unknowable
Chang Ha-Joon, Bad Samaritans
Chase, S., Roads to Agreement
Cleveland, H., Nobody in Charge
Cloke, K., & Goldsmith, J., The End of Management
Conley, C., Peak
Cori, J.L., The Emotionally Absent Mother
Cox, G., et al., A Quaker Approach to Research
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Creativity
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Flow
Chomsky, N., On Anarchism.
Chödrön, P., When Things Fall Apart

de Geus, A., The Living Company
de Maré, P., et al., Koinonia
Deci, E.L., Why We Do What We Do
Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M., Intrinsic Motivation and Self-determination in Human Behavior
Dehnugara, K., Flawed but Willing
Dekker, S., The Safety Anarchist.
DeMarco, T., Slack
DeMarco, T., & Lister, T., Peopleware
Deming, W.E., et al., The Essential Deming
Denning, S., The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management
Dimitrov, V., A New Kind of Social Science
Earls, M., Herd
Edmondson, A.C. Teaming
Edwards, B., Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Elgin, D., The Living Universe
Ellison, S.S., Taking the War Out of Our Words
Emery, F., & Thorsrud, E., Democracy at work

Fairtlough, G., The Three Ways of Getting Things Done
Ferguson, M., The Aquarian Conspiracy
Frankl, E.F., Man’s Search For Meaning
Frankl, E.F., Yest to Life.
Freire, P., Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Fukuoka, M., Sowing Seeds in the Desert
Fukuoka, M., The One-Straw Revolution

Gallwey, W.T., The Inner Game of Tennis
Gebser, J., The Ever-Present Origin
Gendlin, E.T., Focusing
Gendlin, E.T., Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning
Gendlin, E.T., A Process Model
Goodwin, B., How the Leopard Changed Its Spots
Goodwin, B., Nature’s Due
Graeber, D., Bullshit Jobs
Grant, A., Originals
Griffin, D., The Emergence of Leadership
Grof, S., Healing Our Deepest Wounds
Grof, S., When the Impossible Happens
Grof, S., The Cosmic Game
Gruen, A., The Betrayal of the Self
Gruen, A., The Insanity of Normality
Guendelsberger, E., On the Clock.

Hamilton, D.M., Everything is Workable
Harding, S., Animate Earth
Hari, J., Lost Connections
Harland, P., The Power of Six
Hartman, R.S., Freedom to Live
Hartman, R.S., The Structure of Value
Hartman, R.S., Five Lectures on Formal Axiology.
Hartman, R.S., The Revolution Against War.
Heider, J., The Tao of Leadership
Hensel, M., Menges, A., Weinstock, M., et al., Emergence
Hernes, T., A Process Theory of Organization
Hiley, B., Peat, F.D., et al., Quantum Implications: Essays in Honor of David Bohm
Ho, M-W., The Rainbow And The Worm
Ho, M-W., Living Rainbow H2O
Ho, M-W., Meaning of Life and the Universe .
Holliday, M., The Age of Thrivability
Hollis, J., Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life
Holman, P., Engaging Emergence
Hock, D., Birth of The Chaordic Age
Hock, D., One From Many
Hock, D., Autobiography of a Restless Mind, Volume 1 & 2
Hoffman, D., The Voice Dialogue Anthology
Holdrege, C., Thinking Like a Plant
Holt, J., How Children Learn.
Holt, J., Learning All the Time.
Husband, J., et al., Wirearchy
Hutchins, G., Future Fit
Hutchins, G., The Illusion of Separation
Hutchins, G., The Nature of Business
Inamori, K., A Compass to Fulfillment

Isaacs, W., Dialogue

Jaworski, J., Source
Jaworski, J., Synchronicity
Jung, C.G., Answer to Job
Jung, C.G., & Pauli, W., Atom and Archetype
Johnson, R.A., Living Your Unlived Life
Johnson, R.A., Owning Your Own Shadow
Johnson, S., Emergence
Johnstone, K., Impro
Jonas, H., The Phenomenon of Life
Jones, M., Artful Leadership .
Jones. M., The Soulf of Place.
Joy, L., How Does Societal Transformation Happen?
Joy, W.B., Joy’s Way
Järvensivu, T., Managing (in) Networks

Kahane, A., Collaborating with the Enemy
Kahane, A., Power and Love
Kahane, A., Solving Tough Problems
Kauffman, S., At Home in the Universe
Kauffman, S., Reinventing the Sacred
Kay, J., Obliquity
Keeney, B., The Bushman Way of Tracking God
Kegan, R., & Lahey, L., How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work
Keleman, S., Emotional Anatomy
Keller, E.F., A Feeling for the Organism
Kendzior, S., Hiding in Plain Sight.
Kidd, E., First Steps to Seeing
Kingsley, P., A Story Waiting to Pierce You
Kinglsey, P., In the Places of Wisdom
Kingsley, P., Catafalque, Volume 1 & 2
Kirkpatrick, D., Beyond Empowerment
Koestenbaum, P., & Block, P., Freedom and Accountability at Work
Koestenbaum, P., Leadership.
Kohn, A., Punished by Rewards
Kohn, A., The Myth of the Spoiled Child
Koestler, A., The Ghost in the Machine
Koestler, A., The Sleepwalkers
Kotler, S., & Wheal, J., Stealing Fire
Kramer, N., The Unfoldment
Kuenkel, P., Mind and Heart
Kuenkel, P., The Art of Leading Collectively

Lamott, A., Bird by Bird
Laszlo, C., & Brown, J.S., et al., Flourishing Enterprise
Laszlo, E., How Can We Build a Better World?.
Lawlor, R., Voices of the First Day
Lee, B., Artist of Life
Lee, B., Striking Thoughts
Lehrs, E., Man or Matter
Leonard, G., Mastery
Leonard, G., & Murphy, M., The Life We are Given
Leonard, G., The Silent Pulse.
Leonard, G., The Way of Aikido.
Levine, S.K., Poiesis
Lieberman, M.D., Social
Lievegoed, Phases
Lipton, B.H., The Biology of Belief
Lowen, A., Joy.

MacKenzie, G., Orbiting the Giant Hairball
Macy, J., & Brown, M.Y., Coming Back to Life
Madsen, B., & Willert, S., Survival in the Organization
Malone, T.W., The Future of Work
Mandelbrot, B.B., The Fractal Geometry of Nature
Mannix, K., With the End in Mind
Margulis, L., & Sagan, D., What is Life?
Marshall, P., A History of Anarchism.
Marquet, L.D., Turn the Ship Around!
Maslow, A.H., The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
Maslow, A.H., Maslow on Management
Maturana, H.R., & Varela, F.J., The Tree of Knowledge
May, R., The Discovery of Being
Mayer, E.L., Extraodrinary Knowing.
McCallum, I., Ecological Intelligence
McChrystal, S., et al., Team of Teams
McGilchrist, I., The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning.
McGilchrist, I., The Master and His Emissary .
McGilchrist, I., The Matter with Things.
McGregor, D., The HumanSide of Enterprise
McInnes, W., Culture Schock
Mead, G., Coming Home to Story
Merrell, F., Becoming Culture
Merrell, F., Change through Signs of Body, Mind, and Language
Meyer, E., The Culture Map
Meyer, R., & Meijers, R., Leadership Agility
Midgley, M., The Myths We Live By
Miller, T., & Hall, G., Letting Go
Milton, J.P., Sky Above, Earth Below
Mintzberg, H., The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
Mithen, S., The Prehistory of the Mind
Morris, T., If Aristotle ran General Motors
Murphy, M., The Future of the Body

Nachmanovitch, S., The Art of Is.
Nachmanovitch, S., Free Play.
Neal, C., & Neal, P., The Art of Convening
Nelson, S., Living in Flow.
Neumeier, M., The Designful Company
Nicholson, D.J., & Dupré, J., et al., Everything Flows.
Nielsen, J.S., The Myth of Leadership
Norman, D.A., The Design of Everyday Things
Norman, D.A., Emotional Design

O’Donohue, J., Anam Ċara
O’Donohue, J., To Bless the Space Between Us
O’Donohue, J., Eternal Echoes
O’Donohue, J., Divine Beauty
Ostrom, E., Governing the Commons
Ostrom, E., Understanding Institutional Diversity
Owen, H., The Spirit of Leadership
Owen, H., Wave Rider
Owen, H., The Power of Spirit
Owen, H., Open Space Technology

Paul, M., Inner Bonding
Palmer, P.J., A Hidden Wholeness
Palmer, P.J., Let Your Life Speak
Palmer, P.J., The Active Life
Palmer, P.J., The Courage to Teach Guide
Papert, S., Mindstorms
Parker, P., The Art of Gathering
Parlett, M., Future Sense
Pascale, R.T., Millemann, M., & Gioja., L., Surfing the Edge of Chaos
Peat, F.D., Blackfoot Physics .
Peat, F.D., From Certainty to Uncertainty
Peat, F.D., Gentle Action
Peat, F.D., Infinite Potential
Peat, F.D., Pathways of Chance.
Peat, F.D., Synchronicity
Peat, F. D., The Philosopher’s Stone
Peirce, P., The Intuitive Way
Peltier, B., The Psychology of Executive Coaching
Penrose, R., Fasion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe.
Penrose, R., Shadows of the Mind
Penrose, R., The Road to Reality
Peppers, C., & Briskin, A., Bringing Your Soul to Work
Perls, F., Gestalt Therapy
Perls, F., Gestalt Therapy Verbatim
Pink, D.H., A Whole New Mind
Pink, D.H., Drive
Pink, D.H., To Sell is Human
Plotkin, B., Nature and the Human Soul
Plotkin, B., Wild Mind
Plotkin, B., Soulcraft
Polanyi, M., The Tacit Dimension
Pollan, M., How to Change Your Mind
Polyani, M., Personal Knowledge
Poynter, J., The Human Experiment
Prigogine, I., The End of Certainty
Prigogine, I., & Stengers, I., Order Out of Chaos .
Pylkkänen, P., et al., The Search for Meaning
Pylkkänen, P., Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order

Quillien, J., Clever Digs.

Radin, D., Supernormal
Radin, D., The Conscious Universe
Ramquist, L., & Eriksson, M., Integral Management
Ramquist, L., & Eriksson, M., Manöverbarhet
Rawson, W., The Werkplaats [Workshop] Adventure
Reiss, S., Who am I?
Remen, R.N., Kithcen Table Wisdom.
Remen, R.N., My Grandfather’s Blessings.
Reynolds, M., The Garden Awakening
Richards, M.C., Centering.
Richards, M.C., The Crossing Point.
Rico, G., Writing the Natural Way
Rilke, R.M., Letters to a Young Poet
Robinson, K., Out of Our Minds
Robinson, K., The Element
Robinson, K., Finding Your Element
Robinson, S., & Moraes Robinson, M., Holonomics
Robinson, S., & Moraes Robinson, M., Customer Experiences with Soul.
Rodgers, C., Informal Coalitions
Roeper, A., The “I” of the Beholder
Rogers, C., A Way of Being
Rogers, C., Client-Centered Therapy
Rogers, C., On Becoming a Person
Rogers, C., On Personal Power
Rogers, C., & Stevens, B., Person to Person
Rogers, C., Kirschenbaum, H., & Henderson, V.L., The Carl Rogers Reader
Rosen, R., Life Itself
Rosenberg, M.B., Nonviolent Communication
Rosenberg, M.B:, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict
Rosenzweig, P., The Halo Effect
Ross, C., The Leaderless Revolution
Roth, W., The Roots and Future of Management Theory
Rother, M., Toyota Kata
Rough, J., Society’s Breakthrough!
Rozenthuler, S., Life-Changing Conversations
Rovelli, C., Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Russell, J.M., Thrivability

Sadler-Smith, E., The Intuitive Mind
Safina, C., Beyond Words
Sahtouris, E., EarthDance .
Sahtouris, E., Gaia’s Dance.
Sanford, C., The Regenerative Business.
Sanford, M., Waking
Saul, J.R., Voltaire’s Bastards
Scharmer, C.O., Theory U
Scharmer, C.O., & Kaufter, K., Leading from the Emerging Future
Schein, E.H., Humble Inquiry
Schmaltz, D., The Blind Men and the Elephant
Schmidt, M., et al., Understanding Montessori
Schumacher, E.F., A Guide for the Perplexed
Schumacher, E.F., Small is Beautiful
Schumacher, E.F., Good Work
Schwaber, K., & Beedle, M., Agile Software Development with Scrum
Schön, D., The Reflective Practitioner
Seagal, S., & Horne, D., Human Dynamics
Seddon, J., Freedom from Command and Control
Seddon, J., In Pursuit of Quality
Seddon, J., I Want You To Cheat!
Seddon, J., Systems Thinking in the Public Sector
Seddon, J., The Whitehall Effect
Seifter, H. & Economy, P., Leadership Ensemble
Semler, R., Maverick
Semler, R., The Seven-Day Weekend.
Senge, P., The fifth Discipline
Senger, P., The Dance of Change
Senge, P., et al., The Necessary Revolution
Senge, P., Scharmer, C.O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B.S., Presence
Sennett, R., The Craftsman
Shaetti, B.F., Ramsey, S.J., & Watanabe, G.C., Personal Leadership
Shaw, P., Changing Conversations in Organizations
Shaw, P., Stacey, R., et al., Experiencing Risk, Spontaneity and Improvisation in Organizational Change
Sheeran, M.J., Beyond Majority Rule
Sheldrake, R., The Science Delusion
Sheldrake, R., A New Science of Life
Sheldrake, R., The Presence of the Past
Sherburne, D.W., A Key to Whithead’s Process and Reality
Siegel, D., Mindsight
Siegel, D., The Developing Mind
Sirolli, E., Hot to Start a Business and Ignite Your Life
Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I., The Enthusiastic Employee
Snowden, D., et al., Cynefin.
Sousanis, N., Unflattening
Stacey, R., Managing Chaos
Stacey, R., Managing the Unknowable
Stacey, R., Complexity and Organizational Reality
Stacey, R., Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics
Stacey, R., Complexity and Group Processes
Stamoliev, R., The Energetics of Voice Dialogue
Stefanovic, I.L., Safeguarding Our Common Future
Stolaroff, M.J., The Secret Chief Revealed
Stone H., & Stone, S., Embracing Our Selves
Stone H., & Stone, S., Embracing Your Inner Critic
Streatfield, P.J., The Paradox of Control in Organizations
Surowiecki, J., The Wisdom of Crowds
Sutton, R., The No Asshole Rule
Sutton, R., Good Boss, Bad Boss

Tarnas, R., The Passion of the Western Mind
Thompson, W.I., Coming Into Being
Tippett, K., Becoming Wise
Tonn, J.C., Mary P. Follet: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management
Turner, T., Belonging.

Ury, W., The Power of a Positive No

Vaill, P.B., Managing as a Performing Art
Vaill, P.B., Learning as a Way of Being
van der Heijden, K., Scenarios
van der Heijden, K., Bradfield, R., Burt, G., Cairns, G., & Wright, G., The Sixth Sense
van der Kolk, B., The Body Keeps the Score
van Vugt, M., & Ahuja, A., Selected
Varela, F.J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E., The Embodied Mind

Wachterhauser, B.R., Beyond Being
Wahl, D.C., Designing Regenerative Cultures
Wallack, F.B., The Epochal Nature of Process in Whitehead’s Metaphysics
Watts, A., The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
Watts, A., The Watercourse Way.
Watts, A., Does it Matter.
Watts, A., The Way of Zen.
Weber, A., Matter and Desire.
Weber, A., The Biology of Wonder.
Weber, A., Enlivenment.
Weber, A., Biopoetics.
Weggeman, M., Managing Professionals? Don’t!
Weick, K.E., Sensemaking in Organizations
Weinstock, M., The Architecture of Emergence
Weisbord, M.R., Discovering Common Ground
Weisbord, M.R., Productive Workplaces
Weisbord, M., & Janoff, S., Future Search
Weisbord, M., & Janoff, S., Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
Weltzel, C., Freedom Rising
Welwood, J., Toward a Psychology of Awakening
Wendt, T., Design for Dasein
Western, S., Coaching and Mentoring
Western, S., Leadership
Whitehead, A.N., Process and Reality (see also Sherburn and Wallack)
Wheatley, M.J., Leadership and the New Science
Wheatley, M.J., Finding Our Way
Wheatley, M.J. Who Do We Choose to Be?.
Wheatley, M.J., So Far From Home
Wheatley, M.J., Turning to One Another
Wheatley, M.J., & Frieze, D., Walk Out Walk On
Wheatley, M.J., & Kellner-Rogers, M., A Simpler Way
Whyte, D., The Heart Aroused .
Whyte, D., The Three Marriages
Williams, B., The Genuine Contact Way
Williams, M., & Penman, D., Mindfulness
Wolff, R., Democracy at Work
Wolff, R., Original Wisdom .
Woolley-Barker, T., Teeming.

Youngs, R., The Puzzle of Non-Western Democracy
Yunkaporta, T., Sand Talk.

Zander, R.S., Pathways to Possibility
Zander, R.S., & Zander, B., The Art of Possibility
Zubizarreta, R., From Conflict to Creative Collaboration
Zimmerman, J., & Coyle, V., The Way of Council
Zweig, C., & Abrams, J., et al., Meeting the Shadow

Books Sociocracy Thoughts

Maverick & Sociocracy

I have recently read Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler, which is an international bestseller from 1993. While reading, I was struck by the similarities and differences between how Ricardo Semler runs Semco and The Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method, which was developed by Gerard Endenburg.

Family businesses

The first and most important similarity is that both Semler and Endenburg took over the family business. This made it possible for Semler and Endenburg to conduct their bold experiments.


Both Semler and Endenburg uses a circle-organization. Semler uses three levels of concentric circles, while Endenburg uses a hierarchy of semi-autonomous circles (principle 2). Interestingly, Endenburg mentions that many people can be structured in a small number of levels,1 which is what Semler does.


People are elected by consent in Sociocracy (principle 4). Similarly, people who are hired or promoted leadership positions in Semco are interviewed and approved by all who will be working for them.2


Consent governs policy decision making in Sociocracy (principle 1). Endenburg deduces Sociocracy’s principles from an automatic central heating system.3 Endenburg writes (my emphasis in bold):4

“The thermostat, boiler and sensor element decide by consent that the thermostat is empowered to issue its own instructions … to the boiler ‘within certain limits’ whether or not to heat the water. …
If the thermostat wishes to issue an instruction which lies outside these limits, it will first have to make a proposal to the other components of the system to obtain their consent.”

This means that operating limits are very important in Sociocracy. Policies, or rules, indicate the limits within which control is exercised. The components of the system, that is people in the organization, establish these limits by consent.

Semler’s approach is very different. His basic message is to have absolute trust in people. Semler writes that: “If you haven’t guessed [it] by now, Semco’s standard policy is no policy”.5 Semler even devotes an entire chapter on the trouble with rules.6 So, if rules are important to Endenburg, Semler couldn’t care less!

Semler writes at the end of his book that people must have the freedom to determine their own ways.7 The freedom of the individual is very important for Endenburg too.8 Endenburg emphasizes, over and over again, the importance of each person’s equivalence.

1 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making and Sociocracy: As social design (Eburon, 1998), p. 29.
2 Ricardo Semler, Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace, p. 7.
3 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy, pp.19–23.
4 Ibid., p. 22.
5 Ricardo Semler, Maverick, p. 4.
6 Ibid., pp. 87–94.
7 Ibid., p. 273.
8 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy, p. 168.

Related posts:
Book Review: Maverick by Ricardo Semler
Book Review: Sociocracy by Gerard Endenburg

Books Retrospectives Sociocracy

Organizing retrospective 109

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective. Here is my next retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This week, I started a new series of posts in Swedish on Liv i arbetet (life in work). I started searching for better ways of working together six years ago, in September 2012. I’m going to write about this search. It is my personal story. Hence, I need to write in my native language. Here’s a short summary:

  • Wednesday — I used this poem which I wrote last year as a starting point. Yeah, it’s pretty personal.
  • Thursday — I wrote that assumptions usually are valid within certain limits, but not necessarily outside of these.
  • Saturday — This means that assumptions which are valid for machines aren’t valid for human beings.
  • Sunday — Today, I wrote about sociocracy. I spent several years of my search for better ways of working on sociocracy. I even wrote an e-book on sociocracy together with John Schinnerer, who is a founding member of The Sociocracy Consulting Group. There are some good ideas in sociocracy, but I think the engineering preconceptions and assumptions are too strong. Here is an old post on the phenomenology of sociocracy. (The engineering perspective is even stronger in sociocracy’s cousin Holacracy. Here is an old post on Holacracy and Arthur Koestler. Koestler coined the term holarchy in The Ghost in the Machine.)

Besides starting my new series of posts on Liv i arbetet, I also posted the following reflections on generative organizing:

A new book arrived this week. It’s Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within by Robert E. Quinn. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Otherwise, I’ve spent the week reading Andreas Weber‘s The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science. I’ve read about half of the book, but can already say that it’s one of the most interesting book I’ve read since I started my reading odyssey six years ago. The disconnection between humans and their organizations is, in my view, related to the disconnection between humans and nature. Andreas Weber eloquently addresses the latter. I’ve ordered Andreas Weber’s next book on Biopoetics: Towards an Existential Ecology. I hope it will arrive in the next few days. I’m looking forward to reading this book too.

What was good? What can be improved?
I’m really glad that I finally got started with my new series on Liv i arbetet.

I see a connection between Andreas Weber’s intrinsic value and Robert Hartman’s The Structure of Value. Hartman’s seminal work is about the valuation of value. Intrinsic value is more valuable than extrinsic value, and extrinsic value is more valuable than systemic value. Here is my review of Robert Hartman’s book.

I also see a connection between Andreas Weber’s meaning, as manifested in the body, and Eugene Gendlin’s felt meaning, which is a bodily comprehension. Here is my review of Eugene Gendlin’s Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective.

Several books have arrived the past few weeks which I haven’t had the time to read yet. I also have a couple of book reviews that I need to write. Also, I’d like to internalize Andreas Weber’s thinking and integrate it with all the other reading that I’ve done. It will take some time, for sure.

1 Andreas Weber, The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science (New Society Publishers, 2016), pp. 12, 330-3, 338.
2 Andreas Weber writes that meaning makes itself manifest in the body. Ibid., p. 90.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Books Reviews Sociocracy

Book Review: Many Voices One Song

Many Voices One Song: Shared Power with Sociocracy by Jennifer Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez is a new book on sociocracy. The book is a collection and description of sociocratic tools and practices.1 Sociocracy is a set of principles and tools for shared power. The assumption is that power sharing requires a plan.2

Sociocracy is designed to distribute power.3 Sociocracy enables each team to contribute to the organization’s mission.4 The teams decide themselves how they govern themselves.5 Values translates into principles that are the underpinnings of the tools described in the book.6 Equivalence and effectiveness are the two major principles in sociocracy. Equivalence is defined as everyone’s needs matter equally.7 Sociocracy strives for both effectiveness and equivalence.8

There are three reasons for why Jennifer Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzales have written the book. The reasons are (1) to build skills, (2) to avoid reinventing the wheel, and (3) because they care deeply about equivalence. In the book, they share what they know about shared power and how to do it.9

The book has six major chapters covering the:

  • Organizational structure (68 pages).10
  • Consent decision-making (60 pages).11
  • On feedback and learning (28 pages).12
  • How to run a sociocratic meeting (56 pages).13
  • Roles and elections (29 pages).14
  • Implementing sociocracy (37 pages).15

Jennifer Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzales write that implementing sociocracy is harder than running an organization sociocratically. If you are the one who is in power, you have to be willing to share the power. And if you are not in power, you have to ask the one who is in power to share it.16 This means that the implementation of sociocracy starts in your mind.17 No matter what you do, you need to have two things absolutely clear: (1) a commitment to equivalence, and (2) a clear aim. You need to start with a shared agreement that you will strive for equivalence. The shared aim is necessary for effectiveness.18

To summarize, this book is a sociocracy manual. Jennifer Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzales are very experienced. They say themselves that if you are a beginner, the book probably gives you a level of details that is way too much.19 The book requires, in other words, a combination of reading and practicing and reading again.

The paradox, for me, is that 300 pages are required to describe what basically is common sense. People have cooperated for as long as humanity has existed. The principles behind sociocracy are not new.20 Nomadic hunter-gatherer societies practice it, and have likely been practicing it, since prehistoric times.21 The book can help you to become more effective, provided you embrace equivalence and shared power. The latter is not so common.

1 Jennifer Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez, Many Voices One Song: Shared Power with Sociocracy (Sociocracy For All, March 2018), p.ix.
2 Ibid., p.1.
3 Ibid., p.2.
4 Ibid., p.1.
5 Ibid., p.7.
6 Ibid., p.3.
7 Ibid., p.5.
8 Ibid., p.6.
9 Ibid., p.7.
10 Ibid., pp.16–84.
11 Ibid., pp.85–145.
12 Ibid., pp.146–174.
13 Ibid., pp.175–231.
14 Ibid., pp.232–261.
15 Ibid., pp.262–299.
16 Ibid., p.262.
17 Ibid., p.263.
18 Ibid., p.266.
19 Ibid., p.13.
20 Ibid., p.ix.
21 See Sociocracy as practiced by the G/wi.

Related posts:
Book Review: Sociocracy by Gerard Endenburg
Sociocracy as practiced by the G/wi

Sociocracy Thoughts

Real vs. fake sociocracy

Bob Emiliani writes about real vs. fake Lean on his blog.

Emiliani’s point is that real Lean includes respect for people.

I think there is a similar situation with real vs. fake sociocracy.

Fake sociocracy
Gerard Endenburg says, for example, in this article that the greatest danger when introducing sociocracy is that it is half done.

It is so simple, and many people think it is. They are using it in a way that makes me think: no!

Our experience is that often only consent is introduced, but not the other principles. First, the double link is omitted.

In other words, fake sociocracy leaves out key elements.

Real sociocracy
I know from having read Gerard Endenburg’s two major books on sociocracy that equivalence is very important for Endenburg.

Real sociocracy is based on the core value of equivalence.

However, equivalence can be abused in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways.

Sociocracy Thoughts

Interview with Gerard Endenburg

Here is Ben Kuiken’s interview with Gerard Endenburg “Sociocracy is the only way forward”.

Endenburg says that: “Even in his own former company, the adjacent Endenburg Electronics, the double clutch [double-link] is no longer intact.”

This means that Endenburg Electronics isn’t fully sociocratic any longer. It’s not mentioned in the article, but the reason seems to be that Piet Slieker is no longer CEO. (However, I haven’t got this confirmed.)

Endenburg also says that: “… the biggest misunderstanding about sociocracy: it is not anti-hierarchical. Hierarchy means nothing else than order, and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Maybe the hierarchy was too strong at Endenburg Electronics, since the double-link didn’t survive the change of CEO?

Endenburg sees hierarchy as necessary for order. Being influenced by David Bohm, I’d say information, and its meaning, is necessary for order. Hierarchy is an explicate order, while meaning is implicate.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts



Holacracy Organizing Sociocracy Thinking

Analysis of Sociocracy and Holacracy

This post is part of my series on organizing “between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore the history and key assumptions of Sociocracy and Holacracy®. The post is based on my previous posts about Sociocracy and Holacracy. The analysis is summarized here.

I first heard about Sociocracy and Holacracy in 2012. Both attracted my interest and I wrote an enthusiastic book review of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines in November 2012. I subsequently participated in several Sociocracy workshops with James Priest, got training in facilitating Sociocracy by The Sociocracy Consulting Group, and wrote an ebook on Sociocracy (in Swedish), Sociokrati: En metod för självstyre, together with John Schinnerer.

Sociocracy is a governance method based on consent decision-making and cybernetic principles, which was developed by Gerard Endenburg during the 1960s and 1970s. Endenburg published his first book on Sociocracy in 1981.1 The early development of Holacracy was influenced by sociocracy. Brian Robertson filed a patent application on Holacracy in June 2007 (Pub. No. US 2009/0006113 A1), where sociocracy, in my view, is prior art. The patent application was subsequently abandoned. The first Holacracy Constitution was launched in 2009. Robertson’s book on Holacracy was published in 2015.2

Gerard Endenburg’s objective with Sociocracy is to enable everyone to develop as far as possible,3 while Brian Robertson wants to harness the tremendous sensing power of the human consciousness available to our organizations.4

Endenburg and Robertson have very different views on organizations and their purposes. Endenburg thinks that organizations exists for the people,5 while Robertson views the organizations as separate entities that have their own purposes beyond just serving people.6 Endenburg emphasizes the importance of each person’s equivalence in the decision-making and the potential for existence and development,7 while Robertson views people as role fillers8 and differentiates between role and soul.9 Robertson’s favorite metaphor to illustrate dynamic steering and constant weaving is riding a bicycle.10 Endenburg uses the same metaphor to illustrate weaving and the circle process.11 Both use nested circles which are linked via two separate roles.12,13 In short, both use the same basic rules, or principles.

Endenburg and Robertson use very different languages. Robertson’s book is very readable, while Endenburg’s book is difficult to read. Endenburg admits that he may sound rather cold and formal, but thinks it’s necessary.? Robertson, on the other hand, uses words creatively, and gives them his own slant. He calls, for example, the organizational structure of nested circles a holarchy,14 a term coined by Arthur Koestler. Robertson also claims that Holacracy abolishes hierarchy, while a holarchy, according to Koestler, is a hierarchy.15

Sociocracy and Holacracy are based on specific assumptions applicable to mechanical and electrical systems. Endenburg uses two examples to illustrate the feedback control loop, or circle process, in cybernetics. The first example is, as already mentioned, riding a bicycle.16 The second metaphor is a central heating system.17 Endenburg acknowledges that the operating limits in riding a bicycle are different from those within a heating system, but he still thinks that they indicate constraints within which control may be exercised.18 Endenburg is aware that riding a bicycle is far more complex in reality than his simple example might suggest.19 He also acknowledges that people are not system components,20 but he doesn’t distinguish between machines and organisms in his reasoning.21 Neither does Robertson, who views people as sensors for the organization.22 But people are not machines (or sensors). Machines and organisms ARE different.

Holacracy prioritizes the systemic value of thought by keeping intrinsic human values out of the organizational space. Robert Hartman showed how values can be measured systemically, extrinsically, and intrinsically.23 For example, systemically a worker is a production unit, extrinsically one of several workers, and intrinsically a human being. In Holacracy, systemically an individual is a role and sensor, extrinsically one of several roles and sensors, and intrinsically a human being. The whole point of Holacracy is to allow an organization to better express its purpose.24 Every individual becomes a sensor for that purpose.25 Holacracy is focused on the organization and its purpose—not on people and their needs.26 The focus is only on what’s needed for the organization.27 Holacracy installs a system in which there’s no longer a need to lean on individual’s connections and relationships.28 Holacracy keeps human values out of the organizational space. 29 According to Robert Hartman, there is a tremendous gap between those who think in terms of human values and those who think in terms of non-human systems.30 Elevating systemic values OVER intrinsic human values is dehumanizing. Hartman goes a step further and says that ignoring life’s intrinsic value is the danger that threatens life itself.31

The operating limit on Sociocracy and Holacracy is that people are “autonomic”.32

1 Gerard Endenburg’s first book on Sociocracy was originally published in Dutch in 1981. The first English translation was published in 1988. The Eburon edition was published in 1998. See Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making (Eburon, 1998).
2 Holacracy is registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office. Brian Robertson’s book on Holacracy was published in 2015. See Brian J. Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015).
3 Endenburg, Sociocracy, p. 5.
4 Robertson, Holacracy, p. 7.
5 Endenburg, Sociocracy, p. 142.
6 Robertson, Holacracy, p. 148.
7 Endenburg, Sociocracy, p. 167.
8 Robertson, Holacracy, p. 92.
9 Ibid., pp. 42–46.
10 Ibid., p. 129.
11 Endenburg, Sociocracy, pp. 16–19.
12 Ibid., pp. 10–11, 26–27.
13 Robertson, Holacracy, pp. 46–56.
14 Ibid., p. 38.
15 Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), p. 48.
16 Endenburg, Sociocracy, pp. 16—19, 23, 33—37, 223—224.
17 Ibid., pp. 19—23, 30, 36, 40.
18 Ibid., pp. 23, 30.
19 Ibid., p. 16.
20 Ibid., p. 39.
21 Ibid..
22 Robertson, Holacracy, pp. 4, 166, 198.
23 Robert Hartman, Freedom to Live: The Robert Hartman Story, p. 67.
25 Robertson, Holacracy, p. 34.
26 Ibid., p. 166.
27 Ibid., p. 198.
28 Ibid., p. 199.
29 Ibid., p. 200.
24 Ibid., p. 202.
30 Robert Hartman, Freedom to Live: The Robert Hartman Story, p. 124.
31 Ibid..
32 There is a distinction between being “autonomic”, obeying self-law, and “allonomic”, obeying some other’s law. See Norm Hirst, Research findings to date, Autognomics Institute, (accessed 4 August 2016)

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts
Book Review: Sociocracy
Book Review: Holacracy
Book Review: Freedom to Live
The phenomenology of sociocracy
Is sociocracy agile?

Agile Organizing Sociocracy Thoughts

Organizing in between and beyond

This is the first post in my series on organizing “between and beyond.” Other posts are here.

The last chapter in Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is about “the order between and beyond”.1 Bohm and Peat write that most attempts to find order, say a new theory, involve searching for a position between two theories.2 Physics faced this situation at the end of the 19th century when it was discovered that Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory didn’t accord with Newton’s classical mechanics. At first physicists tried to make the theories fit together in an order “between.”3 It wasn’t until Einstein developed his theories of relativity that an order “beyond” was discovered. Today, there’s a search for an order “beyond” Einstein’s theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

My point is that there’s a similar need to search for an order “beyond” our traditional ways of organizing work. Many different approaches have been developed over the years. They all have different names — e.g., Lean, Agile, Holacracy, etc — and are often accompanied with a whole industry offering tools, training, consulting, certification, and other products and services. The problem, as I see it, is that most of these approaches are examples of what I would call organizing “in between.”

A recent example is the attempt to combine Agile with Sociocracy. This is said to be “a way to create alignment between Agile ecosystems and the business needs of strong leadership and a clear hierarchy.”4 Well, maybe? I have questioned the assumptions here. Neither Agile, nor Sociocracy, can be said to be totally satisfying. And I don’t think that the solution lies in combining strong hierarchical leadership with sociocratic participatory policy decision-making. This is, in my view, an example of organizing “in between.” What is necessary is to move to an organizing “beyond,” which transcends, in this case, the compromise between strong hierarchical leadership and sociocratic decision making on policies.

I don’t know how the organizing “beyond” looks like. What I do know is that it will contain both leadership and decision making, yet move “beyond” the limits of both. My search for better ways of working together continues.

Here is the next post in the series. Here are all posts.

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010-09-01, first published 1987-10-01), pp. 275–314.
2 Ibid., p. 308.
3 Ibid..
4 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 1 (accessed 2016-07-20).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts
Is sociocracy agile?

Agile Articles Organizing Sociocracy Thoughts

Is sociocracy agile?

Decision Making Systems Matter is an interesting article by Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser, with Anders Ivarsson as additional contributor. The article is funded by the Agile Alliance and is a Supporting Agile Adoption publication. The authors describe how combining “Agile with ideas from Sociocracy provides … a way to create alignment between Agile ecosystems and the business needs of strong leadership and a clear hierarchy”.1 The article gives excellent insights into sociocracy and is well worth reading! Pieter van der Meché has over 20 years of experience in sociocracy.2

Pictures from the article (from left to right): Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser.

The assumptions in the article are 1) that “a clear hierarchy and strong leadership” are required to achieve “speed and control (coordination)” and 2) that “policies … ensure alignment”.3 My question is whether “strong hierarchical leadership and strong participatory [policy] decision making”4 contributes to agility? It’s possible, of course, that agreements on policies — which are defined as “general agreements on the what, when, how and who”5 — can increase the speed. But a strong focus on policies can also become rigid. It’s as if sociocracy, for the sake of control, values policies and following a plan — the “what, when, how, and who” — over responding to change.6

While a sociocratic organization certainly values individuals and interactions, it’s also policy-driven, which easily leads to a focus on process-discipline.7 Sociocratic leadership is furthermore “conductor-like”.8 The idea is that you as the leader should coordinate (control) your team like “a conductor of an orchestra”.9 It’s self-evident that you as a strong hierarchical leader value control over participation. What if the team can coordinate itself? (Here is an example of collaborative leadership in a conductorless orchestra.) And what if the challenge isn’t primarily to ensure “alignment throughout the hierarchy”10 but to nurture collaboration throughout the organization?11

So, is sociocracy agile? I’d say no. It depends, of course, on what you mean by agile. My impression is that sociocracy values policies and control over people and collaboration. While there is value in the latter, sociocracy values the first more.12And, yes, decision making systems matter! But why limit participatory decision making to policy decisions only?13 It’s as if sociocracy doesn’t take the full consequences of participatory decision making.

1 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 1 (accessed 2016-07-20).
2 Ibid., p. 14.
3 Ibid., p. 7.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Agile values “responding to change over following a plan“. See the Agile Manifesto. There are similarities between sociocratic policies (what, when, how and who) and plans.
7 Agile also values “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools“. See the Agile Manifesto. The focus on policies easily leads to a focus on process-discipline, i.e., define the policies and processes (albeit in a participatory way!) and make sure people follow them.
8 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 8 (accessed 2016-07-20).
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid., p. 10.
11 It’s an Agile principle that business people and development teams must work together daily. See the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.
12 This is a paraphrase of the Agile Manifesto. The crucial question here is which values are given precedence over others.
13 Elections of people to roles and responsibilities are allocations of resources and thus policy decisions. See The three principles in Sociocracy, Wikipedia (accessed 2016-08-02).

2016-07-24: Pictures of authors added. Questions added. Text and notes updated.
2016-07-26: Questions updated. Text updated. Related post added.
2016-08-01: Middle section split into two parts.
2016-08-02: Note added. Minor changes in the text.

Related posts:
Principles for collaborative leadership
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Holacracy Power Sociocracy Thoughts

What is healthy power?

The Healthy Power Alliance writes in its Healthy Power Manifesto that:

Healthy Power is the ability to do work over time
in a way that is good for all the people and systems involved:
the ecosystems, the human communities, the customers, the workers, the investors, the leaders,
all of us.
Healthy Power is circular, not linear or flat.
Healthy Power is fluid, not frozen.
Healthy Power is consensual, not coercive.1

The Healthy Power Alliance also writes that there are numerous models of Healthy Power:

The beautiful thing, the profoundly inspiring thing, is that if you want to make the power you live by into Healthy Power, you do not have to invent it yourself. You have years, decades, in some cases centuries of experience to draw on. If you want to bring Healthy Power to your workplace, community, or family, the options are numerous.2

Among the models, or gold standards, mentioned in the manifesto is Holacracy. It’s worth noting that Healthy Power is process power in Holacracy. Holacracy really doesn’t care how people feel as long as the process is honored. And Holacracy keeps human values out of the organizational space. This means, in my view, that the gold standards may not be so golden after all. I think we have to discover, and protect, Healthy Power ourselves. The beautiful thing is that we have millennia of experience to draw on. Healthy Power sees life’s intrinsic value. Unhealthy power doesn’t.

1 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the short version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)
2 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the FULL version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)