Thoughts on Agile BOSSA Nova in the Context of Sociocracy 3.0

Occasional I am asked about Agile BOSSA Nova and recently it has come up in a thread of dialogue between attendees of a recent Sociocracy 3.0 (S3) meetup in the Netherlands, organized by one of our partners RebelWise. So I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts and reflections in the context of Sociocracy 3.0 and of approaches to organizational development that pull on sociocracy in synthesis with agile.


Agile BOSSA Nova brings together Sociocratic Circle Method (SCM)Open SpaceBeyond Budgeting and the concept of agile into a proposition that pulling-in elements of all of these, is arguably valuable for an organization. This is an argument I agree with, provided this occurs in response to needs an organization actually has, and isn’t done simply for the sake of it. Users "pull”, rather than advocates “prescribing, promoting and pushing”. Beyond its proposition, BOSSA Nova offers analysis of component parts and suggestions for synthesis in a variety of contexts.


Sociocracy 3.0 is a collection of modular and complementary patterns that can be observed in use in various organizational contexts to navigate complexity. It posits and offers certain concepts as valuable. In some cases we’ve (co-developers of S3) made changes to patterns we chose to include, to bring coherence with others, or with the core concepts and Seven Principles of S3.  In other cases we have evolved these patterns based on experimentation and evaluation as they’ve been applied in practice in a wide array of contexts.

Sociocracy 3.0 includes many patterns from Sociocratic Circle Method, however in almost all cases they have been evolved. Omission of, or changes made to patterns pulled from SCM have been based on objections to those patterns. You can learn more about some of the elements we retained and those we changed in this recent presentation where I explain about 
Sociocratic Circle Method vs Sociocracy 3.0: Differences and Common Ground.

 

Sociocracy 3.0 also incorporates numerous other patterns developed among people seeking to evolve approaches for improving flow of value, inspired by lean and agile thinking. Ultimately the focus of S3 is on enabling people in organizations to develop a more sociocratic AND agile mindset, and use this to help them more effectively meet their organizational needs, rather than to endorse any particular methodology.

 

Sociocracy 3.0 includes many patterns from Sociocratic Circle Method, however in almost all cases they have been evolved. Omission of, or changes made to patterns pulled from SCM have been based on objections to those patterns. You can learn more about some of the elements we retained and those we changed in this recent presentation where I explain about Sociocratic Circle Method vs Sociocracy 3.0: Differences and Common Ground.

 

Sociocracy 3.0 also incorporates numerous other patterns developed among people seeking to evolve approaches for improving flow of value, inspired by lean and agile thinking. Ultimately the focus of S3 is on enabling people in organizations to develop a more sociocratic AND agile mindset, and use this to help them more effectively meet their organizational needs, rather than to endorse any particular methodology.

 

Sociocracy 3.0 does not touch on Beyond Budgeting besides the indirectly related pattern “Transparent Salary”. There is an enormous body of work in the public sphere related to Beyond Budgeting and I heartily recommend people to check it out. S3 also has the pattern “Open Space for Change” which is inspired by and very much based on Daniel Mezick’s Open Space Agility, an application of Open Space for agile transformation, which in turn is based on Open Space Technology.

 

Agile thinking and related practices observable in the world of organizations today, has had a major influence on and in many cases contributes patterns to Sociocracy 3.0. Therefore it can be said that S3 offers a thorough synthesis of sociocracy and agile inspired patterns.


Having advocated for, applied and taught the Sociocratic Circle Method in numerous contexts since 2001 and until 2015, I came to realize I had too many objections to SCM to continue advocating for it. Of particular significance in this regard, I have observed that in almost all cases (relative to the number of organizations who have experimented with SCM as a whole system approach to organizational governance) people in organizations ultimately take what is applicable for them, adapt patterns, synthesize with all of the other awesome ways they have learned to create value, and discarding the rest. The positive and negative consequences of taking elements of SCM are worthy of consideration of course, but the point is, SCM as a whole system methodology is in most cases too inflexible and often simply inappropriate for an organization’s needs.

 

Regarding BOSSA Nova, I would love to see an evolution to propose a synthesis of Beyond Budgeting and Open Space, along with comprehensive guidelines that synthesis what is useful from SCM, with tried and tested practices related to a more agile and lean approach to creating value, along the line of what Sociocracy 3.0 offers. In fact, considering the rapid growth of adoption of S3 patterns into organizations, and especially those focused on achieving or improving organizational agility, perhaps S3 itself would be a worthy guide to endorse.

It’s my opinion that at this time, there are numerous bodies of “wisdom” that have been documented and are now available for organizations to pull from. I think that BOSSA Nova’s endeavour to bring attention to 4 of them is honourable and important. Equally, I’m of the opinion that we should exercise caution at the proposition that any one particular approach, or indeed, synthesis of approaches, is in all cases valuable. The world of organization’s is immensely complex, both by virtue of the environments in which they exist and the inevitable complexity that arises from any collaborative endeavour between human beings. We do well to keep our options open and ultimately, to build the skills to integrate the extensive wisdom of those that came before us, and in each specific case, craft that which is most suitable for (or at least good enough and safe enough in a given moment) a particular organizational need.

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Thoughts on Agile BOSSA Nova in the Context of Sociocracy 3.0

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