Sociocracy: Agile's missing (double) link (Nick Emery and Erin Young)

schedule Oct 4th 01:45 - 02:35 PM place B201b

Many Agile transformations have settled for trading in old ways of product delivery for newer ones, leaving existing power hierarchies and command and control structures untouched. Businesses have mistaken agile for a methodology, rather than the disruptive and emergent practice that it is supposed to be. The foundations of agile - in systems and complexity theory - have become blurred: We have lost focus on authentic self-organisation in favour of out-of-the-box solutions.

We propose that the reasons for this are :

  • inherited governance models reinforce power structures, ensuring that workers at the front-line can not influence policy
  • middle management is ostensibly a political barrier aimed at ensuring the status quo
  • transparency remains one-way traffic - teams offer full openness while management trades on secrecy
  • the understanding of whole systems is truncated, where leadership cherry picks practices without embracing the full spectrum of systems services required for emergent self-organisation.

Companies and Leaders with a genuine interest in cultivating a living system of innovative and emergent work should consider incorporating sociocratic principles and practices into their culture. Sociocracy is a collaborative decision-making and governance system. It distributes leadership through an organisation (based on self-organisation & whole-systems design) allowing those with domain skills to make decisions about how they do their work. By creating effectiveness, equivalence, and transparency, Sociocracy has the power to evolve businesses organically. It is a Teal-level practice chronicled in works such as Frederic Laloux's 'Reinventing Organizations', and Aaron Dignan's 'Brave New Work', and provides the foundations for Holacracy.

In this session, Erin and Nick will provide an overview of the shared goals and concerns of the agile movement and sociocracy, and explain how lasting transformative and evolutionary change can be introduced at organisations, large and small. They will also explore regenerative design of social permaculture and why it ought to be a goal of any 21st Century business.

Erin Young is a consultant, trainer, mediator, and facilitator. Collaborative decision-making and governance tools (Sociocracy) and holistic design for people systems (Social Permaculture) are her primary frameworks; all nature-inspired and informed.

Nick Emery is an Agile consultant and coach, Scrum Master, and Systems Thinker. His understanding of complex systems and culture has formed through experience, research, and post-grad studies in Sociology.


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

  • Introduction - who we are
  • Part 1 - Why businesses defy change efforts - a brief re-cap of complex adaptive systems
  • Part 2 - The Venn diagram of Sociocracy and Agile - organic self-management and self-organisation
  • Part 3 - An overview of the processes and principles of the Sociocratic Circle Method (SCM)
  • Part 4 - A discourse on the concept of social permaculture and its philosophical relevance to the agile movement and modern business
  • Closing - an invitation to the movement of Reinventing Work.

Learning Outcome

We would like attendees to walk away from this session with the following:

  • Understanding of why agile transformations and business agility efforts often fail
  • Understanding of the future of work, self-management and self-organisation
  • Understanding of a whole-systems governance model (sociocracy) that balances direction and control with self-organising distributed leadership
  • Understanding of social permaculture and its philosophical relevance to the agile movement and modern business
  • An enthusiasm for these ideas, an understanding of their application, and an interest in learning more about them.

Target Audience

People wishing for purpose in work, for their voice to be heard, and for complexity to be tamed. Leaders wishing to have purposeful and effective teams who's voices are heard and creativity engaged for greater impact.

Prerequisites for Attendees

Knowledge of complexity theory and systems thinking is important. A solid understanding of Agile values, principles and practical application of them. Also a deep belief that businesses must slow down to make great impacts.

schedule Submitted 3 weeks ago

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