“The best teams might be temporary, but their company’s success is enduring.”
– David Burkus, HBR blog network, 2013
In the 1970s, Gerard van Endenburg put the ideas of a sociocratic organization into practice. According to the Wikipedia article on the topic: “Sociocracy is a form of management that presumes equality of individuals and is based on consent. This equality is not expressed with the ‘one man, one vote’ law of democracy but rather by a group of individuals reasoning together until a decision is reached that is satisfactory to each one of them. The structure uses a hierarchy of circles corresponding to units or departments of an organization, but it is a circular hierarchy—the links between each circle combine to form feedback loops up and down the organization. Because representatives overlap the circle with a linked circle and each circle makes policy decisions by consent this forms a strong and integrated structure of communications and control. Feedback moves up and down the organization and can’t be ignored.”
Zappos is the largest online shoe store in the world with an annual turnover of over $1 billion. CEO Tony Hsieh announced in 2013 it would change itself into a holocratic organization, also a sociocratic approach. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. The company will be made up of over 400 different circles and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. John Bunch, who is leading the transition to Holacracy at Zappos said, “one of the core principles is people taking personal accountability for their work. Everybody is expected to lead and be an entrepreneur in their own roles, and Holacracy empowers them to do so.” In its highest-functioning form, he says, the system is “politics-free, quickly evolving to define and operate the purpose of the organization, responding to market and real-world conditions in real time. It’s creating a structure in which people have flexibility to pursue what they’re passionate about.” This holocratic or sociocratic organizational structure, its interdependency, and transparency makes sense in Society30 organizational thinking.
These sociocratic circles could (should!) also include ‘outsiders’. Because of this permanent interaction between all stakeholders within the increasingly hazy boundaries of organizations, a creative culture originates that makes the organization cyclically innovative. Innovation is finally no longer a goal, but an imbedded strategic weapon that can push the distinguishing abilities of the organization to great heights. This applies to all forms of innovation: product, process, and business innovation. All scientific studies show unequivocally that innovative companies perform fundamentally better than their competition, even in bad economic times.
Resilient organizations that understand the art of Event Driven Communication grow into so-called real-time companies, especially if they can change the more traditional EDC into easy accessible subject-centered communication streams. These organizations become a network with permanently connected stakeholders, where informal and formal relationships flourish. They optimally use the Internet and other technologies to create value. They are continually facilitating the coworking process. They are convinced of the fact that thinking in terms of here, now, personal, relevant, and reliable can maximize interconnectivity. Organizations that can achieve this will be happy with a successful right to exist in an innovative and creative manner, together with and in the interest of, all stakeholders, a significant product or service of real value is created.
This is what I like to call Organization 3.0: a sustainable eco system wherein people can be proud of the stakeholder value that is created, and where the people of the organization are stakeholders, themselves. This Organization 3.0 has a slightly different design than is customary, and, in building it, a large role is reserved for global citizens. If you want to read the following pages as management literature, you are obviously free to do so. But, it is actually food for thought for global people.
When we think of high-performing teams, we often think of them as long-term allies-a band of brothers in the organizational worl