Sociocracy / Dynamic Governance

Sociocracy, or Dynamic Governance, is a whole systems approach to designing and leading organizations. It is based on principles, methods, and a structure that creates a resilient and coherent system,. It uses transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability to increase harmony, effectiveness, and productivity.

Sociocracy is both:

  • A social ideal that values equality and the rights of people to decide the conditions under which they work, and
  • An effective method of organizing collaborative and productive organizations, large and small.

It is based on a simple, elegant set of principles that provide a solid foundation for effective, transparent governance and decision-making. These principles are:

  • Consent – policy decisions are made by consent. Consent means there are no objections to a policy.
  • Circles – a circle is a semi-autonomous, self-organizing entity within an organization – like a division, department, team, working group, and so on. Circles meet to determine policies in their domain of responsibility, using consent decision-making.
  • Double Linking – provides multi-directional feedback, enabling policy-making that reflects the needs of all those affected by a decision.

Theory U (Leading from the Future as it Emerges)

Theory U proposes that the quality of the results that we create in any kind of social system is a function of the quality of awareness, attention, or consciousness that the participants in the system operate from.

Since it emerged around 2006, Theory U has come to be understood in three primary ways: first as a framework; second as a method for leading profound change; and third, as a way of being – connecting to the more authentic of higher aspects of our self.

In Theory U, the quality of results in any kind of socio-economic system is a function of the awareness that people in the system are operating from. There is a differentiation between four levels of awareness. These four levels of awareness affect where actions originate relative to the boundaries of the system.

I have taught Theory U to corporate leaders and experienced it firsthand. For me, it is a strong practice to both reveal and step into our emerging future.

Immunity to Change (ITC)

The mind, like the body, has its own immune system. Dr. Robert Kegan and Dr. Lisa Lahey spent 10 years developing and researching an award-winning coaching method based on their breakthrough discovery of a hidden dynamic called the “immunity to change”. Their research found that – despite thoughtful plans and and heartfelt intentions – some changes are simply hard to make. It’s as if we have one foot on the gas pedal and a larger one on the brake.

Their research suggests that “lack of discipline,” “insufficient motivation, “the inability to reverse old habits,” are all inadequate explanations for why individuals, teams and organizations don’t change.

They found that people’s failure to enact visible goals is often due to competing commitments. For example, a man who must take anti-cholesterol medicine may unconsciously be more committed to not taking the medicine than to taking it. By not taking the medicine, he can avoid feeling old.

The Immunity to Change (ITC) methodology is designed to bring this internal unconscious resistance to change to light, so that people can attain deeply sought changes.

Structural Dynamics

I work with David Kantor’s model of Structural Dynamics to help leaders, teams and organizations see the underlying dynamics of their communication and collaboration. I am certified in the Kantor Profile, which measures the baseline behavioral propensities and teams in everyday low stakes settings. It also provides a perspective on that person’s behavioral repertoire – their ability to move fluidly among the available actions.

Structural Dynamics is a theory of how face-to-face communication works (and does not work) in human systems. Its roots lie in systems theory, the study of phenomena as systems of interrelated parts. This model was developed through an empirical study of family communication over 35 years ago and has evolved and expanded over time in application to families, couples, teams and whole organizations.

Structural Dynamics is broadly applicable because most of the “work” of human systems and the decisions made there take place in face-to-face discourse. Communicative competency – the understanding of the structure of face-to-face communications in human systems – is the key to sound decision-making and to creating results.

Strategic Focusing

Strategic Focusing® is a proprietary method for focusing a leadership team and an entire organization on the few things that make the biggest difference. The methodology has been used in over 30 global business turnarounds, and has shaped the execution of strategy in some of the world’s largest corporations including McDonald’s, METRO AG, BASF, Telefonica, AkzoNobel, Novartis, Electrolux, HSBC, Santander, BP and Unilever.

Strategic Focusing involves creating alignment, engagement and individual accountability for the execution of strategy throughout the entire organization.

It’s a proven and rigorous method to focus and empower people, create fierce resolve and align organizational capabilities in the execution of strategy.

Art of Hosting

The Art of Hosting is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.

It is a highly effective way of harnessing the collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups of any size.  Based on the assumption that people give their energy and lend their resources to what matters most to them – in work as in life – the Art of Hosting blends a suite of powerful conversational processes to invite people to step in and take charge of the challenges facing them.

Groups and organizations using the Art of Hosting as a working practice report better decision-making, more efficient and effective capacity building and greater ability to quickly respond to opportunity, challenge and change. People who experience the Art of Hosting typically say that they walk away feeling more empowered and able to help guide the meetings and conversations they are part of move towards more effective and desirable outcomes.

World Café

Using seven design principles and a simple method, the World Café is a powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter, offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.


Future Search

Future search is a planning meeting that helps people transform their capability for action very quickly. The meeting is task-focused. It brings together 60 to 80 people in one room or hundreds in parallel rooms.

Future search brings people from all walks of life into the same conversation – those with resources, expertise, formal authority and need. They meet for 16 hours spread across three days. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground. Only then do they make concrete action plans.

The meeting design comes from theories and principles tested in many cultures for the past 50 years. It relies on mutual learning among stakeholders as a catalyst for voluntary action and follow-up. People devise new forms of cooperation that continue for months or years.

Open Space (Technology) or OST

Open Space (Technology) is a simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful approach to leadership in any kind of organization, in everyday practice and turbulent change.

OST focuses on a specific and important purpose or task — but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.

Open Space is the only process that focuses on expanding time and space for the force of self-organization to do its thing. Although one can’t predict specific outcomes, it’s always highly productive for whatever issue people want to attend to. Some of the inspiring side effects that are regularly noted are laughter, hard work that feels like play, surprising results and fascinating new questions.