/ sociocracy

Self Organization - Do's and Don'ts

Our unit was established summer 2015 and is a merger from three different teams. Right from the start (with little to no knowledge of holacracy and sociocracy) we used circles and consent (IDM). This combination results in circles that are primarily formed around competences and a decision process that nobody liked. Early in 2017 we started to learn more about sociocracy with an initial workshop from Bernhard Bockelbrink from S3 and with the help and consulting from Ted Rau from SoFA. The entire company Europace is striving for self organization. On our way we made some observations, inside and outside of our unit, and have some learnings we like to share.


  • decision making and discussions aren't separated and take a lot of time
  • it's unclear how autonomous a circle is and what it is accountable for
  • circle domains overlap and reduce the autonomy further
  • interaction between circles is unclear
  • often the work inside a circle is not transparent
  • often it's not clear who takes care when the circle malfunctions
  • it's unclear if and how non-members can integrate their topics
  • some circles have lead links, but a role description and its accountabilities are missing
  • we used elements from sociocracy and holacracy without understanding them well enough


good enough for now, save enough to try

Do small steps. Every step that moves you away from current pain is good enough. There is no perfect next step, so don't hesitate, move on and learn while you are moving.

people who work together, decide together

We want to make decisions where the knowledge is. We want to distribute power to the most specific layer.

a circle is transparent and actively promotes relevant information

Use a tool like holaSpirit to show others who's there for what and to show your policies and accountabilities as well as your meeting minutes.

circles have a purpose and should help simplify organization

Don't form circles around competences. Better start with less circles than too many.

each circle should have a circle coordinator (leader)

The circle coordinator takes care of the vitality and healthiness of the circle. She also takes care of its integration or deletion when necessary. We don't use the term leader because it suggests that only one is leading.

each circle needs a clear mandate (purpose, aim, domain, accountabilities)

The parent circle defines and gives the mandate to a sub-circle. It can also change or remove that (in consent with the sub-circle). So there is hierarchy (circular hierarchy), but one that is driven by purpose not power.

a circle is semi-autonomous

A circle is part of the whole and can't give itself a mandate.

a circle should have regular governance meetings

How regular depends on your needs.

a circle makes clear how people can interact

It should be clear how people can give feedback and how they can address their topics.

domains should be clear and circles shouldn't overlap
use rounds

Rounds make it easy to hear everybody's voice. Instead of a yes, but you establish a yes, and (see e.g. S3 Pattern 8.1).

don't ask for volunteers

A selection/nomination is much stronger than simply asking for volunteers. It gives feedback to more than one person and you will get nominees you didn't expect (see e.g. S3 Pattern 1.9).

a nomination is not an election!

It's not collecting votes! The facilitator can and should propose a nominee that fits best in the current situation. This could be the one with the most votes, but don't need to.

use operational roles (circle coordinator, facilitator, secretary)

Their presence makes meetings more effective and transparent.