Friday, May 05, 2006

An Integral Governance System?

About three weeks ago, in a conversation with Ken Wilber, I was introduced to a unique governing system called "Sociocracy." During that conversation, Ken referred to it as "Sociocracy" and "Holacracy."

In a nutshell, Sociocracy is all about agile organizations, natural holarchies, and integrating the world, and is a form of government based on synergic consent, wherein everyone wins.

Brian Robertson, founder and CEO of Ternary Software, Inc., was pioneering Agile software development processes long before the term "agile" was coined, and presented at SD Best Practices 2005. Ternary's unique organizational design, governance structure, and business practices have forged new ground and tested new possibilities in the fields of human organization and culture.

There are four primary practices of Sociocracy:
  • Decision making by consent: Consent is a method of decision-making whereby the arguments presented in discussing a decision are of paramount importance, and the the result of the discussion is that no one present has a reasoned and paramount objection to the decision being made.
  • Circle Organization: The organization is built of a hierarchy of semi-autonomous circles. Each circle has its own aim, given by the higher-level circle, and has the authority and responsibility to execute, measure, and control its own processes to move towards its aim.
  • Double-Linking: A lower circle is always linked to the circle above it via at least two people who belong to and take part in the decision making of both the higher circle and the lower circle. One of these links is the person with overall accountability for the lower-level circle’s results, and the other is a representative elected from within the lower-level circle.
  • Elections by Consent: People are elected to key roles exclusively by consent after open discussion (this is not a democratic majority-vote election!). Most notably, the election process applies to the representative elected from a lower-level circle to a higher-level circle.
Sociocracy needs to be understood as a whole, not as a collection of independent practices – for example, consent-based decision making (the first practice) doesn’t work well unless it is done in the context of a circle of individuals with regular contact working together towards a common aim (the second practice).

We used a trial of this process at a recent SeattlIntegral Core Group meeting, and everyone was favorably impressed with how it works. Of course, we have much to learn about this process, but, upon first glance, it trully appears to be an integral approach to governance.


The Zero Boss said...

I believe this originated as a system of governance in intentional communities. My wife and I are looking to it as a model for a spiritual community we intend to build over the coming decade. We've been exploring intentional communities and co-housing for years, but haven't thought of taking action until now. It'll be interesting to see how this works in the IS group. said...

hey gary,

casey from IN here. Love your posts. have you considered replicating this blog over at They are a community of over 5000 and growing fast and would love your integral perspective! let me know if i can help.

tom mull said...