The Organic Organization Meta-Agreements
Organic Organization (O2) is a catalyst that helps organizations adopt self-management. O2 is composed of its Meta-Agreements described in this document, in addition to an ever evolving Pattern Library.
A "Meta-Agreement" is an agreement for the formation of new agreements. In this document, the initial Meta-Agreements of the Organic Organization are described, each identified by a title and a description. The Meta-Agreements are hyperlinked to each other to demonstrate their interdependence.
This document does not define how the Meta-Agreements are adopted, how they can be modified or what the Evolutionary Purpose of the Organization is. This is usually established through a social contract, corporate by-laws or agreements between a group of people that created the organizational entity.
- Organizational Structure
- Rights and Duties
- Circle Meetings
- Only Circle Members can process Tensions
- Meeting Format
- Facilitation Restrictions
- Review Mode
- Sync Mode
- Adapt Mode
- Select Mode
- Care Mode
- Essential Roles
An "Organization" is an entity created to express an Evolutionary Purpose. An Organization has assets that it controls and a clear boundary with the outside world.
1.1 Evolutionary Purpose
An Organization has an "Evolutionary Purpose", which corresponds to the deepest creative potential it can sustainably express in the world. The Evolutionary Purpose is the Purpose of the broadest Circle in the Organizational Structure.
When pursuing the Purpose of one or more Roles, Partners can identify a difference between the current reality and the potential they sense. These gaps, which may be issues or opportunities identified, are called "Creative Tensions", or simply "Tensions". Tensions move the Organization towards its Evolutionary Purpose.
2. Organizational Structure
Partners may govern and define a layer of agreements that establishes expectations and limitations of authority between them. This layer, called "Organizational Structure", is organized in a hierarchy of Circles and consists of Roles and Restrictions. Each Circle governs its own Organizational Structure, which can only be changed in the Adapt Mode of its Circle Meeting.
- A descriptive name;
- A "Purpose", which is a capacity, potential or unreachable goal that the Role will pursue or express;
- Zero or more "Accountabilities", which are ongoing activities other Partners can expect the Role will perform;
- Zero or more "Artifacts", which are assets the Role can exclusively control and regulate on behalf of the Organization.
A "Circle" is a Role that has the authority to break itself down in smaller Roles, contained within itself. When a Role is transformed into a Circle, the Partners who filled it become the Outer Link of that Circle. Circles are defined exactly as Roles, that is, through the elements name, Purpose, Accountabilities, and Artifacts.
2.2.1 Circles cannot modify their definition
2.2.2 Circles cannot structure their inner Circles
A Circle cannot modify the Roles, Circles and Restrictions of an inner Circle directly. However, a Circle can perform some operations in its Adapt Mode, like moving Roles from itself to one of its inner Circles and vice versa.
2.3 Circle Artifacts
2.3.1 Circles can delegate Artifacts
2.4 Circle Members
- Fill at least one Role defined in the Circle;
- Fill at least one of the Essential Roles in the Circle;
- Fill the Outer Link Role or the Inner Link Role in at least one of the inner Circles.
"Restrictions" are limitations of authority that apply to all Roles of a Circle. Restrictions are composed of a name and a description. Unless otherwise specified in their definition, the effect of a Restriction applies to all Roles and inner Circles from where it is defined. A Restriction is part of a Circle, as well as a Role or an inner Circle.
2.5.1 Restrictions cannot establish expectations
Restrictions cannot establish expectations, because that is the goal of an Accountability. Nevertheless, a Restriction can demmand action, but only for the Partners on which the Restriction applies and in the specific condition that triggers it.
3. Rights and Duties
All Partners may enjoy the "Rights" presented below, but also are bound by their "Duties".
3.1 Right to refuse requests
Partners may refuse requests, if there is no explicit corresponding Accountability in the description of the Role being requested. However, Partners must always accept requests that make sense to the Purpose of one of their Roles, even if no explicit Accountability is recorded.
3.2 Right to act for the Purpose
3.3 Right to act heroically
Partners may temporarily ignore these Meta-Agreements if this is useful and necessary for expressing the Evolutionary Purpose of the Organization. Initiatives or requests that have this quality are called "Heroic Acts". Partners must seek to repair any damage caused after a Heroic Act, by proposing changes to the Organizational Structure or even to these Meta-Agreements if necessary.
3.4 Right to leave Roles
3.5 Duty of expression
Each Partner is responsible for identifying one's Tensions through each Role one fills. Each Partner is also responsible for trying to solve those Tensions, engaging other Partners in their Duties or by proposing changes to the Organizational Structure.
3.6 Duty of transparency
When requested, it is expected that Partners share any relevant information about their Role's work, including each project they are working on, actions identified, prioritization criteria and relevant metrics. When requested, it is also expected that Partners provide estimates and projections of possible conclusion dates of their work, even though those projections shall not be considered deadlines or committments.
3.7 Duty of prioritization
3.8 Duty of attendance
3.9 Duty of preservation
Partners through the Roles they fill must not impact the Artifacts of other Roles contained in the same Circle, without before obtaining an explicit permission from the Partner that fills the corresponding Role. Partners also must note the Restrictions defined in the Organizational Structure and follow the conditions set out therein.
4. Circle Meetings
Circle Members gather regularly in a space called "Circle Meeting" to perform one or more of the 5 special "Modes" described in the upcoming section: Review, Sync, Adapt, Select, and Care. Circle Meetings are scheduled by the Secretary and facilitated by the Facilitator, two Essential Roles.
4.1 Only Members can process Tensions
4.2 Meeting Format
Circle Meetings should start with a check-in round, where one at a time, each participant shares how one is coming to the meeting. The Facilitator then fills the meeting with one or more of the 5 Modes, according to the time available and the needs of the Circle. The Facilitator must declare the name, goal, and clarify the rules of each Mode before starting it. Circle Meetings end with a closing round, where one at a time, each participant shares a final reflection about the meeting.
4.2.1 Tension List
The different Modes are used to process specific Tensions felt by the participants. Specially before Sync and Adapt, the Facilitator must ask the Secretary to build a "Tension List" to process. Each participant feeling a Tension must name it using two or three words. The Secretary then captures the name of the Tension, along with the name of the participant.
4.2.2 One Tension at a time
After the Tension List is built, the Facilitator must focus in one Tension at a time. This means the Facilitator should not allow other participants to try to include their perspectives in the Tension being processed, unless the participant who originally felt the Tension believes that perspective is useful.
4.3 Facilitation Restrictions
During the facilitation of each Mode, the Facilitator can make choices about which patterns to use and how to facilitate each moment. However, the Facilitator must always keep one's choices aligned with the goal of each Mode and the necessities of the Circle. A Circle may also adopt one or more Restrictions that further limit how each Mode is facilitated. The Facilitator must respect those limitations.
4.4 Review Mode
The "Review Mode" is a moment of the Circle Meeting whose goal is to give transparency about the work performed by the Circle. It is up to the Facilitator to decide specifically how the Review Mode is facilitated, unless a Restriction determines otherwise.
Check the Patterns for Reviewing in the Pattern Library.
4.5 Sync Mode
The "Sync Mode" is a moment of the Circle Meeting whose goal is to quickly process Tensions that do not require the Circle to update its [Organizational Structure]. Typical outputs of the Sync Mode include actions, projects, help requests and information sharing. The Facilitator must simply allow each participant who brought a Tension to engage others in their Roles and Duties, until a path for solving the Tension is identified. The Secretary must record any requests accepted by other participants in their Roles, or as Heroic Acts.
Check the Patterns for Synchronizing in the Pattern Library.
4.6 Adapt Mode
- Adding, removing or modifying Roles of the Circle;
- Adding, removing or modifying inner Circles;
- Adding, removing or modifying Restrictions of the Circle;
- Moving its Roles, Restrictions or inner Circles to an inner Circle;
- Moving Roles, Restrictions or inner Circles of an inner Circle to itself;
- Transforming one of its Roles in an inner Circles, and vice versa.
During the Adapt Mode, the Facilitator must facilitate a process that allows the participant who brought the Tension, the "Proponent", to craft a "Proposal" for solving it. This Proposal must contain only the operations described as valid outputs for the Adapt Mode.
The Proponent of change to the Organizational Structure must be able to present examples of past or present situations where each part of the crafted Proposal would solve or reduce the Tension. If the Facilitator considers the Proponent was not able to present the required examples and clarifications, the Facilitator must discard the Proposal. However, the Facilitator must not judge the accuracy of the arguments presented, but only if they were presented with logical reasoning and are thus reasonable.
The Facilitator must give each participant the opportunity to raise one or more "Objections" to the Proposal presented. An Objection is a reason the Proposal would cause harm and move the Circle backwards. The Facilitator may ask questions to help the "Objector" understand whether what one brought are "Valid Objections" or not.
4.6.4 Valid Objections
- Degradation. An Objection is about a harm that the Proposal may cause to the Circle.
- Causality. This harm is caused by the Proposal, that is, it does not exist without it.
- Data-based. The Objection is based on current data or past experiences. In other words, it is not an anticipation of future events. However, if the alleged harm is so disastrous that the Circle wouldn not be able to adapt in the future, this criteria can be disconsidered.
- Role-related. The Objection affects one of the Objector Roles in the Circle.
When validating Objection, the Facilitator must not judge the accuracy of the arguments presented, but only if they were presented with logical reasoning and are thus reasonable. Valid Objection must be integrated.
If there are Objection, the Facilitator must facilitate a process for integrating them to the Proposal. The goal of "Integration" is to modify the Proposal so it would still solve the original Tension, but without causing the raised Objection. If the Proposal is modified, the Facilitator must give the participants another opportunity to raise Objections. If a Proposal is taking too much time to integrate, the Facilitator can discard the Proposal entirely, in order to move to the next item on the Tension List.
4.6.6 Meta-Agreement Breach
Any participant can raise an Objection of "Meta-Agreement Breach" if one considers the Proposal violates one of these Meta-Agreements. The Facilitator must then ask the Secretary to interpret whether this is true or not. This special Objection does not need to be validated with the criteria used normaly, but it should be integrated like other ones.
4.6.7 Asynchronous Proposals
Changes to the Circle Organizational Structure can be proposed outside Circle Meetings and are automatically approved if all Circle Members declare they do not have any Objections. If any Objection is raised or a participant declares one would like to treat the Tension in a conventional way, the Proposal must be escalated to the Adapt Mode of a regular Circle Meeting.
Check the Patterns for Adapting in the Pattern Library.
4.7 Select Mode
The "Select Mode" is a moment of the Circle Meeting whose goal is to choose Circle Members to fill one or more of the three Elected Essential Roles. THe Facilitator must facilitate the Select Mode through a democratic election process, where the majority of votes will determine the elected Partner.
Check the Patterns for Selecting in the Pattern Library.
4.7.1 Select immediately
Any Circle Member may ask the Facilitator to jump to the Select Mode and perform an election for one or more of the Elected Essential Roles. If that is the case, the Facilitator must do this immediately.
4.7.2 Select only in Circle Meetings
4.7.3 Eligible Partners
All and only Circle Members are eligible for the 3 Elected Essential Roles, with the exception of the Partner that fills the Outer Link Role, who is not eligible as Facilitator or Inner Link of the same Circle.
4.7.4 Tie Breaker
- The Partner that nominated oneself, if only one of the tied candidates has;
- The Partner that is already filling the Role, if only one of the tied candidates is;
- Randomly choosing one of the tied candidates.
4.8 Care Mode
The "Care Mode" is a moment of the Circle Meeting whose goal is to take care of the tribal space and nurture the quality of relationships between the participants. This Mode must not be used to change the Circle Organizational Structure or engage Partners in their Roles and Duties.
Check the Patterns fore Caring in the Pattern Library.
5. Essential Roles
5.1 Elected Essential Roles
When a Circle has two or more Partners, it must elect in its Select Mode the 3 "Elected Essential Roles" of Facilitator, Secretary, and Inner Link. The only exception is the outermost Circle in the Organizational Structure, which must not elect the Inner Link.
5.2 Modifying Essential Roles
- The name and the Purpose of the Essential Roles cannot be modified;
- New Accountabilities and Artifacts cannot be added to the Outer Link Role;
- The initial Accountabilities and Artifacts of the Elected Essential Roles cannot be removed or modified;
- The Essential Roles cannot be removed.
5.2.1 Essential Role modifications do not propagate
The Outer Link is chosen by the outer Circle by whatever process that assigns Partners to Roles in the outer Circle. The Outer Link of the outermost Circle is determined by the same process that adopted these Meta-Agreements.
5.4 Assigning Partners to Roles
The Role of the "Facilitator" has the following initial definition:
- Facilitating the Circle Meetings
The Role of the "Secretary" has the following initial definition:
- Scheduling regular Circle Meetings
- Recording Circle Meeting outputs
- Interpreting the Meta-Agreements and the Organizational Structure when requested
The Role of the "Outer Link" has the following initial definition:
- Structuring the Circle to express its Purpose
- Assigning Partners to the Circle Roles; monitoring fit; offering feedback to enhance fit; re-assigning Roles to other Partners when needed
- Establishing priorities for the Circle
The Role of the "Inner Link" has the following initial definition:
- Seeking to understand Tensions brought by Circle Members and processing them when appropriate in the outer Circle
- Providing visibility about the health of the Circle to the outer Circle
The Meta-Agreements of the Organic Organization are derived from the Holacracy Constitution created by HolacracyOne, LLC, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This work is licensed under the same conditions. Further information about the license can be found here.