The next step: Sociocracy Academy

My vision is that in 10 years, we will look back and be surprised to see that there was a time when people still accepted command-and-control in their work environments. In 10 years, I want the ‘future of work’ to be the present. The new normal. What does it take to get there? That’s the question that keeps me up at night.

From not knowing to knowing

To me, sociocracy is one of the tools we can use to relate to each other on a foundation of willingness instead of coercion, collaboration instead of competition, trust instead of control. Making sociocracy accessible is the mission of the organization I co-founded and work for full time. My commitment to sociocracy does not exclude my interest in other forms of governance.

However, I get sad when I think about all the people who suffer in their hierarchical organizations and don’t even know that there are other ways. Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations opened many people’s eyes to better workplaces that are possible.

To provide more content for those embarking in the search for better ways, we have worked on creating resources and introductory training for people who are interested in different ways. We have seen interest and familiarity with sociocracy increase quite a bit, with interest in our resources and events, and click rates for our videos (like this one) constantly on the rise. Together with my colleague Jerry Koch-Gonzalez, in June of this year, I published the sociocracy book Many Voices One Song that gives lots of options, details and examples on how sociocracy can play out in different sectors. In my biased (!) view, with all the existing online resources and the ones we added, everyone who wants to know about self-management the sociocracy way has everything they need to start. (And people are working on mapping out what frameworks best work depending on your needs around self-management, as I described here; mapping, for example, happens here.) The tools will get better every day but we don’t have to wait to use them as they are good enough to go.

So, as for my mission, the knowing is not the issue anymore. In some sectors, we have reached a tipping point where enough people know about new tools. I trust that others will follow.

From knowing to doing

If we want to change the culture, then knowing about something is not enough. The new ways of relating to each other have to be a practice to become real.

However, as we all know, practice is very different from how we imagine things in our heads. Therefore, supporting new and established implementations is my new focus. What does it take to support that?

Implementation — what it really takes to transform

Enter the paradox of teaching and learning self-management. How do we teach something that people really have to do themselves? There is no top-down implementation in real self-management. An organization can only change from the inside.
Frederic Laloux, author of Reinventing Organizations, says (in this one of his many great videos) that there are three ways of getting support during the journey:

  1. a group of allies you invite to help you launch the transformation
  2. a personal coach
  3. a group of fellow CEOs on a similar journey.

The Sociocracy Academy

To support this journey, we are creating a 1-year program that we call the Sociocracy Academy.

The Academy implements the three aspects that Laloux is pointing to and merging it with advanced training:

  • A group of allies:
    The Academy enrolls the 1–3 people who spearhead the implementation circle — the group of allies in the organization. There is no top-down implementation but an internal group that inspires and nourishes the internal transformation.
  • A personal coach
    The Academy matches people with a mentor who can either play of the role of a coach or of a mentor. It is the individualized part of the journey, where the concepts and skills are being narrowed down to specific, doable next steps in the organization.
  • A group of fellow travelers.
    The Academy forms communities of practice of all students to support reflection, mutual support.

The need for companionship

While the need for allies in your organization and for personal coaching is probably obvious to most readers, it’s easy to underestimate our need for community on this journey. There are three main reasons why we think community is important:

  1. Some preaching to the choir sharpens the message.
    We’re up against mainstream, after all — concepts of self-management will still be questioned, maybe even ridiculed. Many people who implement are still new to the world themselves and benefit for a group of allies who reassure them that they are not crazy when they give power to the workers. The words we use in talking about the why, and the how of self-management are important. We need a place to practice those.
  2. “Self-help group”
    A journey towards self-management is not something insular. Self-management requires vulnerability, and the authenticity it brings along can have big effects on the leaders’ lives (as described here). Good to have trusted companions outside of one’s own organization!
  3. Practice. Practice. Practice.
    Another aspect of learning self-management that I find underrated: you can’t practice on your own. You need others to practice it with. Who will you practice with before jumping off the cliff and introducing tools in your own organization? The communities of practice offer exactly that sandbox to play in before you get serious.
    If you are new to self-management, you can also join the mother organization Sociocracy For All (SoFA) as part of the package. Being involved in a real organization (SoFA has 60 members) will make you a more solid practitioner or consultant. There are too many trainers and consultants out there who are not themselves part of sociocratic organizations…

Advanced training in alignment with sociocratic values

I mentioned above that our vision was implementation support and advanced training aligned with sociocratic values. Here are a few examples of how this shows in action:

  • Any sociocratic organization is a learning organization. Feedback loops within the organization make sure the design can be improved over time. Therefore, all circles on the left are double-linked so that information can flow between the different parts and feedback from one group can be passed on to the other parts. Students also have a major voice in how the Academy is run by linking a group of students (the “superpod”) to the Academy Circle where decisions about programming, enrollment and scheduling are made.
  • Certification (a badge system, see below) is built on skills, not effort. And on thorough evaluation, not an exam. The approval process for issuing badges is transparent and based on trust. Peers decide together whether they feel confident enough to approve a badge and move on to new things to learn. We are not in the business of telling others what “the true way” is. But we’re happy to share the good practices we know.
  • There is no limit to learning. Programming and the badge system are designed in a way so they can grow. Below you can see the starting set of badges. Students will have a say on what might be missing — we build the path together while we walk it together.

More information about this new program can be found on the website or click around in this Prezi.

If you are excited by this, talk to me. I have reserved 60 hours in my time budget this fall just to talk to people like you. The Academy Mission Circle wants to open the door in Januar.

I am looking forward to getting to know you.

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