🏛️ Sociocracy 3.0

Updated at 2020-03-10 17:09

Sociocracy 3.0 (S3) is a framework to supports collaboration in an agile organization.

  • Avoids having middle-management layer. Those human resources can be spent elsewhere.
  • Tries to move decision-making to the people that know the situation the best.
  • Motivates the organization through more involved self-management.

Seven Principles of S3:

  • Empiricism: Use experimentation and quantitative measurements to make decisions.
  • Consent: Consent is not consensus; not everybody has to agree on everything.
  • Effectiveness: Don't devote everyones time to small questions, individuals can handle those, you recognize these if the wrong choice would have only small consequences.
  • Equivalence: Everybody can be part of making decision that affect them.
  • Transparency: Make all information accessible to everyone in the organization; except ones that confidential for a reason or another.
  • Accountability: Take ownership on the decisions you are part of.
  • Continuous Improvement: Change incrementally.

Understand and practice artful participation. Ask yourself: "Is my current behavior the greatest contribution I can make for effective collaboration." Avoid thinking something else while in meetings or hogging the stage for yourself and having 10 minute monologues.

Decisions should be made at the most specific level possible. Who are affected by this decision and who has expertise in this field? These will be your people that are making the decision.

  • Better understanding of the current situation.
  • Less people need to be involved in each decision.
  • Less focus on your personal opinions.


A domain is a distinct area of influence, activity or decision making within an organization. The most simple ones would be kind of like "software development" or "office comfort" but can be more specific like "".

An open domain is accounted for by a set of people who are invited to contribute when they can. Give feedback and take action, but no governance. More freeform decision making for less important topics.

Domains are delegated to individuals or circles who take accountability for that domain.

You can apply restrictions to domains. For example, giving marketing a budget.

A circle is a scaling, semi-autonomous and self-governing team of equivalent people who collaborate to account for a domain.

Circles can be temporary or permanent. Temporary circles are used to make on-off decisions while permanent circles decide all matters related to their domain.

How to get started:

  1. Make your current management team your top level circle.
  2. Defining your current teams as permanent circles.
  3. Create clear domains which these teams are accountable for.
  4. Document all of this online where everyone can see it.

The circles should be able to select their members. If there is someone that objects all of the time. Maybe they shouldn't be part of that circle because the clashing views that might be crucial when considering the driver of the circle.


There are five levels of acceptance:

  1. Preference = this is a decision that I could do without considering context
  2. Agreement = this is a decision that I could do given the current context
  3. Tolerance = this is a decision that attends the issue and allows me to do my work
  4. Concern = this is a decision that attends the issue, but I have additional input
  5. Objection = this is a decision that makes doing my work significantly harder

Decisions are made if no-one objects. Core mentality is to see how it plays out. If you are anywhere between 1 and 4 on the list above, you consent. Consent works well to reduce post-decision toxic behavior and saves time.

Downgrading an objection to a concern is common. It is easier to consent than to outright object.

Get used to that you preferred alternative didn't get chosen. Preference should never be a priority.

If there is an objection:

  1. Understand the objection.
  2. Explore other options.
  3. Decide if we should modify the proposal before consenting.

Collaboratively modifying the proposal:

  1. Do a round of monologues.
  2. Modify proposal if possible
  3. Define a time frame and rollback if failed.
  4. Measure the impact and rollback if failed.
  5. "Deems good enough for now, safe enough to try."

Tool: Rounds

A round of monologues without back-and-forth discussion, write down ideas for later. One-by-one everyone gets a turn to speak. Others who are not speaking must be listening and not on their personal devices. It is allowed to say "nothing to add" but you still need to be listening.

Tool: Circle Double Linking

Circles can be linked with double linking. Both circles select one member to join the other circle as a full time member. This is done to reduce hierarchy.

You can also do hierarchical double linking:

  • Each child circle has a member from the parent circle.
  • The parent circle has a member from each child circle.

Good volunteers for double link:

  1. ability to express complex issues
  2. good in finding solutions, not problems
  3. semi-permanent, the double linking member shouldn't change
  4. must attend the both meetings

Double links are useful as sometimes you just can't make to the meetings and effectively reduces rescheduling meetings.

Tool: Roles

  • Uplink: is a member that mainly acts as a member of another circle but joins this circle for coordination. They transfer information outside the circle thus "uplink".
  • Downlink: is the member that mainly acts as a member of this circle but also attend another specific circle. They bring information to the circle thus "downlink".
  • Secretary: takes and publishes minutes. Converts minutes to logs. A single Google Docs document is a good for logs so you can search them easily.
  • Facilitator: runs the circle meetings. Makes sure there is an agenda, calls meetings, cancel if no agenda.

Minutes is what happened in the meeting.

Logs is compact list what decisions were made and when will they be implemented


Notice tension. I essence, tension is just a trigger for an idea that something could be better. Tension is caused dissonance between perception and expectation/preference.


Driver is what motivates the decision making and defines why the related domain exists. The driver is the issue to be solved. Subdrivers are ways of achieving the primary driver.

Driver: The kitchen is a mess, there are no clean cups, sink is full, impossible to grab coffee. Need a clean kitchen to keep focused on the job.

Understand the driver, the motive to respond to a situation.

  • Observation: What is the current situation and how it affects the organization?
  • Suggestion: What is the need and how attending attending to that need impact the organization?

You might notice that the driver is on some existing domain already. Decide if it should be attended or pushed forward.

It usually makes sense to quantify effects of inaction. What will happen if no action is taken?


A group process for creating a response to a driver. Initial proposal is made by two tuners and then discussed in the circle.

Gather two "tuners" who:

  1. discuss and consent to a driver
  2. ask for clarifying questions from others
  3. research common solutions to online
  4. formulate some initial proposals
  5. design a proposal

Then, in the circle:

  1. discuss and consent to a driver
  2. present proposals
  3. clarifying questions
  4. brief responses to the questions
  5. check for objections (checking for consent)
  6. resolve objections
  7. celebrate agreement
  8. listen and record concerns

If you can't reach consent, never use the exact same proposal again. There is clearly something to improve on the proposal.

Example Workflow

  1. Tension

You use your system on a mobile device when in the toilet.

  1. Driver

I think our current system is not good enough for mobile. If we had a better mobile offering, I expect more sales.

  1. Sounding the Driver

Slack thread to allow people ask questions about the driver, possibly modifying it. Emojis for response. Use this to gather critical questions to the driver.

  1. Draft a Proposal

Forward the issue to the actual circle (or form a new one) and gather 2 tuners that form proposals.

  1. Gather up the relevant circle and let them do the decision.

Circle decides: Is the driver 1) clear 2) relevant; if no to either, return to reporter and tuners.

Circle takes in their agenda.

Circle takes makes a decision, informing everybody and takes required action.


  • Agenda is facilitators responsibility.
  • Focus on the agenda
  • No small talk
  • No going back
  • Stop discussion if lack of information, do research for the next time.

Weekly is a good frequency of meetings to start, then move to monthly or even quarterly.

Meeting overview:

  1. Opening round
  2. Consent to agenda: each item is report, ask for feedback or decision.
  3. Agenda point 1; understand, explore, decide
  4. Update backlog; follow-up topics, new agenda items
  5. Meeting evaluation


Defining domains, forming initial circles, delegating influence, allocating resources, prioritizing deliverables and educating people are your main tools to steer an S3 organization.

There are two kind of decisions; political and operational:

  • Political Decisions: this is how we should act.
  • Operational Decisions: this is how we act.
  • Political decisions affect future political and operational decisions much more than operational decisions.
* Is this driver covered by a previous political decision?
    * IF YES, queue the action.
    * IF NO, will attending this driver govern future decision or actions?
        * IF YES, this is a governance issue and requires a decision to consent upon.
        * IF NO, queue the action.

It usually is easier to create rules (policies) than orders (operational):

  • "Leave all equipment as clean or cleaner than when you started using it."
  • "Who and when should clean the coffee pot."
  • Rules are harder to enforce and track than orders.

Severity level of a decision affects how it should be handled:

  1. Very Easy - single person loss of resources (anybody can decide by their own)
  2. Easy - multiple person loss of resources (a couple people can decide by their own)
  3. Normal - externally visible but easy to roll-back (requires a circle decision)
  4. Hard - externally visible and hard to roll-back (requires a circle decision)
  5. More Harder - externally visible and impossible to roll-back (requires top circle decision)
1-3 = Try and see what happens, learn from mistakes
4-5 = Come up with a trial or do more research to make more obvious.