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Overview of organizing orders

This is a post in my series on organizing  “between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The series is inspired by David Bohm’s and F. David Peat’s notion of “the order between and beyond”.1 I wrote in the 1st post that organizing “beyond” is a “deeper order” of organizing which transcends the compromises in “existing orders”. And I identified a number of questions in the 2nd post which gives a direction to the search for a “deeper order.” The purpose with this post is to start the exploration.

Let’s see what organizing “orders”2 we can find. Let’s see how they are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible. And, finally, let’s also see what other clues to a “deeper order” we can find. The focus for now is on getting an overview.

What we are interested in, as a first step, is to identify existing “orders” of organizing. Many different frameworks, approaches and conceptions have been developed over the years. The challenge is that these approaches cannot be thought of as being well-defined organizing “orders.” However, they all contain leadership/followership and individual/collective decision making in one way or another. The following table shows some examples (unsorted).

Organizing Idea Sources Descriptions
Centralization & Decentralization Book:
Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom,
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
The authors compare centralization (spiders) with decentralization (starfishes) and describes how the leadership is different between these organizational setups. I think the title is somewhat misleading since decentralized ”leaderless” organizations do have leaders.
Leadership & Followership Book:
Mark Van Vugt,
Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow and Why it Matters.
The author lists a number of STOP strategies to overcome the powerful leader: Gossip and ridicule, Public meetings, Replacing leaders, Disobedience or rebellion, Desertion, and Assassination.
Spiral Dynamics Book:
Don Edward Beck, Christopher Cowan,
Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change.
Spiral Dynamics is an evolutionary human development model.
Teal Book:
Frederic Laloux,
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness.
The author describes different organizational paradigms which are identified by the colors Red, Amber, Orange, Green, and Teal. Holacracy is used as an example of Teal. My own impression is that Holacracy is neither Teal, nor Green, but is Orange. My arguments are here.
Cynefin Dave Snowden The Cynefin framework has five domains: Obvious, the relationship between cause and effect is obvious; Complicated, the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis; Complex, the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect; Chaotic, there is no relationship between cause and effect; Disorder, the state of not knowing what type of causality exists.
Chaordic Book:
Dee Hock,
Birth of the Chaordic Age.
A chaordic organization blends characteristics of chaos and order.
Agile The Agile Manifesto The Agile Manifesto is based on twelve principles.
Lean Lean is centered on making obvious what adds value by reducing everything else. The term was coined in 1988. Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyta Production System, unequivocally warned against using any kind of label. See also John Seddon on lean.
Open Space Technology Book:
Owen, Harrison,
A brief user’s guide to Open Space Technology.
OST is an approach to purpose-driven leadership, which is based on five principles and one law: 1) Whoever comes is the right people; 2) Whenever it starts is the right time; 3) Wherever it is, is the right place; 4) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!; 5) When it’s over, it’s over (within this session). The Law of two feet is descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Theory U Otto Scharmer Theory U has come to be understood 1) as a framework; 2) as a method for leading change; and 3) as a way of being. Leading from the Future as It Emerges: Tapping Our Collective Capacity; Illuminating the Blind Spot; Leadership Capacities. 1) Holding the space of listening; 2) Observing; 3) Sensing; 4) Presencing; 5) Crystalizing; 6) Prototyping; 7) Performing.
Democracy Democracy is government by the people; especially rule of the majority.
Organizational Democracy WorldBlu WorldBlu has put together ten principles of organizational democracy: 1) Purpose & Vision; 2) Transparency; 3) Dialogue + Listening; 4) Fairness + Dignity; 5) Accountability; 6) Individual + Collective; 7) Choice; 8) Integrity; 9) Decentralization; 10) Reflection + Evaluation.
Quaker Decision Making Book:
Michael J. Sheeran,
Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends.
There are a number of factors characteristic of Quaker decision making: Unanimous decisions, no voting; Silent periods at start of meeting and when conflict arises; Moratorium when agreement cannot be reached; Participation by all with ideas on the subject; Learning to listen, not going to meeting with mind made up; Absence of leaders, the clerk steers but does not dominate; Nobody outranks anybody; Factual-focus, emotions kept to a minimum; and Small meetings, typically limited numbers.
Sociocracy Book:
Gerard Endenburg,
Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making.
The “equivalence” of each individual is very important to the author. Policy decisions are made by consent. All roles are elected by consent. The Operations Leader manages day-to-day operations (most often) autocratically within established policies. The organizational structure is a hierarchy of circles. The circle decides and measures results. The operating idea is cybernetics. Here is my post on “the way of seeing” in sociocracy.
Holacracy Book:
Brian J. Robertson,
Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy.
The author’s aim is to harness the sensing power of the human consciousness available to the organization. People are sensors for the organization and have a basic responsibility to act as role fillers. Role and soul are separated. The Rep Link, Facilitator, and Secretary are elected roles. The Lead Link is not an elected role. The Lead Link assigns other Roles. Roles have exclusive day-to-day control of Domains. The power is in the process. The organizational structure is a holarchy, a term coined by Arthur Koestler. Here is my comparison between Holacracy and Sociocracy.
Wirearchy E-book:
Jon Husband et al., i.e.,
The Wirearchy Commons,
Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work.
Wirearchy is an emergent organizing principle based on: Knowledge, which is shared freely; Trust, which emerges through transparency and authenticity; Credibility, which is earned through collective intelligence and developed through active questioning of all assumptions; and Value-creation, which is enabled through collaboration and cooperation, including the furthest possible distribution of authority. The term wirearchy was coined by Jon Husband in 1999.
Holonomics Book:
Simon Robinson, Maria Moraes Robinson,
Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter.
The authors place the business within the overall ecosystem of the biosphere. Holonomics is a combination of ‘holos’ (the whole) and economics. Holonomic thinking doesn’t replace mechanistic thinking or systems thinking but expands the thinking. The business is no longer seen as separate from people and nature. A key insight from is that our thinking is an intimate part of our seeing, and vice versa.
Biomimicry Article:
Tamsin Woolley-Barker,
Want to build an organization that lasts? Create a superorganism.
The author proposes that if you want your organization to change and grow, what you need is a living thing. There’s nothing wrong with hierarchies, nature uses them all the time — to stop change from happening. In nature there are no forecasts, budgets, meetings, or plans. There is no boss. Strategy happens organically, all the time, everywhere, and decisions are frequent, small, and imperfect.
The Art of Convening Book:
Craig & Patricia Neal
with Cynthia Wold,
The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations.
Convening is the art of gathering and holding people, in a safe and generative space, for the sake of authentic engagement. Steps are: 1) At the Heart of the Matter; 2) Clarifying Intent; 3) The Invitation; 4) Setting Context; 5) Creating the Container; 6) Hearing All Voices; 7) Essential Conversation; 8) Creation; 9) Commitment to Action.
Orpheus Principles for Collective Leadership Book:
Harvey Seifter & Peter Economy,
Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaboration Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra
The authors describe the eight core principles used by the Orpheus Conductorless Orchestra to consistently bring out the best in each musician: 1) Put power in the hands of the people doing the work; 2) Encourage individual responsibility; 3) Create clarity of roles; 4) Share and rotate leadership; 5) Foster horizontal teamwork; 6) Learn to listen, learn to talk; 7) Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus); 8) Dedicate passionately to your mission. Metaphor: The leader as concertmaster (the first among equals).
The Circle Way Book:
Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea,
The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair.
In circle, ancient ways of distributing leadership and responsibility are remembered. Leading from every chair means calling on the capacity for leadership from everyone in the circle. Everyone is accountable to everyone else as peers, and to the intention of the circle.
The Three Principles The Three Principles are defined as: Mind—The energy and intelligence of all life; Consciousness—The gift of awareness; Thought—The creative agent we use to direct us through life.
Voice Dialogue Books:
Hal & Sidra Stone.
The energetics of relationship enables people to work directly with the interpersonal and intrapsychic life.
Thrivability Book:
Michelle Holliday,
The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World.
The author presents the core patterns of living systems in a variety of contexts. The point is that the underlying conditions for living systems to thrive are the same conditions needed for an organization to thrive. The following four basic patterns are universally present across organizations and communities: 1) Divergent Parts (Individual People); 2) Patterns of Relationship (Connective Infrastructure); 3) Convergent Wholeness (Shared Identity & Purpose); and 4) Self-integration.
The Art of Action Book:
Stephen Bungay,
The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results.
The author defines principles which enable organizations to realize their goals in complex, uncertain, and changing environments. Summary of arguments: We have limited knowledge and independent wills; We should not plan beyond the circumstances we can foresee; We should strive to make choices about what is most important to achieve; We need to make sure others understand what we are trying to achieve and why, to explain what we are doing and check back with others, to have necessary resources, to take independent decisions and actions, to adapt our actions according to our best judgment.
Living Attentively Book:
Emma Kidd,
First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively.
The author encourages us to fully notice life by paying acute attention to the ways in which we see, think and act, every day. At the root of everything we create is the mind that created it, including the organizations in which we work and the societies in which we live.
ISO 9000 ISO The ISO 9000 quality management systems help organizations ensure that they meet customers/stakeholder needs and related product requirements. At least, that’s the claim. ISO 9000 includes eight management principles upon which the family of standards is based.
CMMI CMMI Institute CMMI is a process improvement training and appraisal program. CMMI has three maturity levels for processes: Initial, Managed and Defined.
PSP/TSP Watts Humphrey The PSP/TSP was created by Watts Humphrey to apply the underlying principles of the CMM. I used to be an authorized PSP trainer and a certified TSP coach and will write a separate post about my experiences.
Living Structure Christopher Alexander Christopher Alexander says that there is something we objectively can call ‘living structure.’  My hypothesis is that there is a ‘living structure’ in organizations as well. I have written about it here and need to explore this further. Here is my review of Christopher Alexander’s book The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems.
Viable Systems Model Book:
Stafford Beer,
Brain of the Firm.
The Viable System Model is a model of the organizational structure of any autonomous system capable of producing itself. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable.
Systems View of Life Book:
Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi,
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision.
The authors integrate ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution are examined. The implications for health care, management, and global crises are also discussed.
Governing Common Pool Resources Book:
Elinor Ostrom,
Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action.
Common pool problems are sometimes solved by voluntary organizations rather than by a coercive state. The author provides empirical data to explore conditions under which common pool resource problems have been satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily solved.
 Process View of Organization Book:
Tor Hernes,
A Process Theory of Organization.
The author draws upon process thinking in a number of areas and hows how actors operate in an on-going present in which they draw upon their past and project their past as ambitions for the future. A key construct of the book is that of events, which provide force, movement, and continuity to organizational life. The author assumes process is constitutive of the world.
Conversations in Organizations Book:
Patricia Shaw,
Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change.
The author invites us to stay in the movement of communicating, learning and organizing. The assumption is that conversation itself is the key process through which forms of organizing are dynamically sustained and changed.
Conversations for Action Book:
Fernando Flores,
Maria Flores Letelier (Editor),
Conversations for Action and Collected Essays: Instilling a Culture of Commitment in Working Relationships
The essays offer a framework for developing more effective, productive relationships in any context where a person must coordinate with others to make something happen and to create something of value. Commitments are made and spaces are opened up when people engage in conversations.
Play Peter Gray Play is self-chosen and self-directed; intrinsically motivated — means are more valued than ends; guided by mental rules, but the rules leave room for creativity, imaginative; conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind; identified in nonhuman animals.
Integral Management Book:
Lasse Ramquist,
Mats Eriksson,
Integral Management.
The authors describe hwo to make a company come together as one team. It can only happen by mobilizing the brains and hearts of each and every person within the company.
OpenSpace Agility Book:
Daniel Mezick,
Deborah Pontes,
Harold Shinsato,
Louise Kold-Taylor,
Mark Sheffield,
The OpenSpace Agility Handbook
OpenSpace Agility (OSA) incorporates invitation, Open Space Technology, game mechanics, storytelling, and more. OSA can be used together with other framworks and practices.
Organize for Complexity Book:
Niels Pflaeging,
Organize for Complexity: How to get life back into work to build the high-performance organization.
This is a book about complexity and work. The author provides an introduction to the theory and practice of organizational high performance.
Future Fit Book:
Giles Hutchins,
Future Fit.
Future Fit is a response to the inter-related challenges which face our enteprises. The book is full of insights and examples.
Open Participatory Organizations Bonnitta Roy Bonnitta Roy proposes this manifesto for open participatory organizations: 1) Access over reciprocity; 2) Participation over commitment and consistency; 3) Reputation over social proof; 4) Legitimacy over authority; 5) Connectivity over liking; 6) Abundance over scarcity.
To be continued…

When analyzing the approaches in the table above, the notion of “information”3 becomes important. And “misinformation”4 becomes particularly problematic! As an example, Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyota Production System unequivocally warned against using any kind of label on grounds that people then would view it as a ready-made package.5 He counseled, never codify method, because it is the thinking that is the key. This means that the label Lean, in itself, is misinformation. And the same is true for Agile, which has become an arena for consultants and vendors. Another example of misinformation is Holacracy’s use of the term holarchy,6 a term coined by Arthur Koestler.7 Holacracy is said to abolish the hierarchy, while a holarchy, according to Koestler, is a hierarchy. Identifying misinformation is very time consuming but necessary. Furthermore, an approach may not only generate “misinformation,” but might also be misinformed, which is why “active questioning of all assumptions including our own” is important.8

Another step in the analysis is to identify how the various approaches are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible. An example is how Holacracy is entwined with Sociocracy.9 Another example is the incompatibility between value and method in Sociocracy. There is a strong emphasis on “equivalence” in Sociocracy,10 while the “equivalence” at the same time is limited to decision-making on “operating limits” only.11 A third example is the incompatibility between Holacracy, where the power is in the process,12 and Agile, which values individuals and interactions over processes and tools.13

A third step in the analysis is to look at the history of the approaches to understand how the thinking has evolved. This can be particularly valuable and revealing. An example is Sociocracy, which not only is influenced by cybernetics,14 but also by how Quakers make unanimous decisions.15 Another example is Holacracy’s patent application from 2007,16 which gives insight into the historical development of Holacracy and its relation to Sociocracy. The patent application was subsequently abandoned. Sociocracy is prior art. These are just a few examples. Again, the focus is on getting an overview. The analysis will require considerable time and creative energy.

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), p. 275.
2 The notion of “order” is from David Bohm and F. David Peat. Bohm and Peat explore the meanings and implications of “order”. They try to deepen and extend the understanding, rather than making a definition or exhaustive analysis. Ibid., p. 98.
3 Bohm and Peat introduce the notion of “active information,” which is important in explaining generative orders. Ibid., p. 80.
4 Bohm and Peat view “misinformation” as “pollution”. Ibid., p. 249.
5 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control (Vanguard Consulting Ltd., 2nd ed. 2005), p. 149.
6 The type of structure used for organizations in Holacracy is not a traditional hierarchy, but a ”holarchy.” See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 38.
7 Arthur Koestler defined a holon as a node in a hierarchic tree which behaves partly as wholes or wholly as parts, and a holarchy as a hierarchy of holons. See Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), pp. 48, 103, 348.
8 Jon Husband et al., The Wirearchy Commons, Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work pp. 5–6.
9 See my comparison of Holacracy vs. Sociocracy.
10 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making, (Eburon, 1998), pp. 44, 49, 143, 167.
11 Ibid., p. 23.
12 Brian Robertson emphasizes that ”rules and processes reign supreme” in Holacracy. See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 21.
13 Agile values ”Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. See the Agile Manifesto.
14 The engineering perspective is strong in Sociocracy. The way of seeing is the engineer’s. The operating idea is cybernetics. I have written about it here.
15 Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends.
16 See Brian Robertson’s patent application Pub. No. US2009/006113 A1. The patent application was filed in 2007, became public in 2009, and was subsequently abandoned.

Revision history:

Date Comments
2016-07-29 First draft published.
2016-07-30 Table updated. Information section added.
2016-07-31 Table updated (additions). Sections updated and titles changed. Notes added.
2016-08-01 Table updated (additions). Taiichi Ohno’s name added. Minor changes in the text.
2016-08-06 Table updated (additions). Notes updated.
2016-08-07 Table updated (addition).
2016-10-03 Table updated (addition).
2016-10-21 Table updated (additions).
2016-11-01 Table updated (additions).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

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