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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.

Meta-Agreements

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.

Adoption

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.

Summary

  1. Organization
    1. Evolutionary Purpose
    2. Partners
    3. Tensions
  2. Organizational Structure
    1. Roles
    2. Circles
      1. Circles cannot modify their definition
      2. Circles cannot structure their internal Circles
    3. Circle Artifacts
      1. Circles can delegate Artifacts
    4. Circle Members
    5. Restrictions
      1. Restrictions cannot establish expectations
  3. Rights and Duties
    1. Right to refuse requests
    2. Right to act for the Purpose
    3. Right to act heroically
    4. Right to leave Roles
    5. Duty of expression
    6. Duty of transparency
    7. Duty of prioritization
    8. Duty of attendance
    9. Duty of preservation
  4. Circle Meetings
    1. Only Circle Members can process Tensions
    2. Meeting Format
      1. Tension List
      2. One Tension at a time
    3. Facilitation Restrictions
    4. Review Mode
    5. Sync Mode
    6. Adapt Mode
      1. Proposal
      2. Examples
      3. Objections
      4. Valid Objection
      5. Integration
      6. Meta-Agreement Breach
      7. Asynchronous Proposals
    7. Select Mode
      1. Select immediately
      2. Select only in Circle Meetings
      3. Eligible Partners
      4. Tie Breaker
    8. Care Mode
  5. Essential Roles
    1. Elected Essential Roles
    2. Modifying Essential Roles
      1. Essential Role modifications do not propagate
    3. Outer Link Assignment
    4. Assigning Partners to Roles
    5. Facilitator
    6. Secretary
    7. Outer Link
    8. Inner Link

1. Organization

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.

1.2 Partners

The Organization can have one or more "Partners", who are people that fill Roles and express the Evolutionary Purpose.

1.3 Tensions

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.

2.1 Roles

Partners perform the work in one or more explicitly defined "Roles" in the Organizational Structure. A Role is defined by:

  • 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.

2.2 Circles

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

A Circle may govern its own Roles and Restrictions, but it cannot modify its own definition, because that should be made in the outer Circle which contains it.

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

When a Circle has Artifacts in its definition, only Circle Members may impact these Artifacts without violating the Duty of preservation.

2.3.1 Circles can delegate Artifacts

Through its Adapt Mode, a Circle may specify one of its Artifacts in a Role or inner Circle. If that is the case, that Artifact becomes exclusive to the Role or inner Circle.

2.4 Circle Members

Partners are considered "Members" of a given Circle when they meet at least one of the criteria below:

2.5 Restrictions

"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

When pursuing the Purpose of their Roles, Partners are always authorized to take action, unless the Duty of Preservation restricts them.

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

Partners may any time leave Roles they fill in one or more Circles, unless they otherwise agreed with the Outer Link or any process that assigns Partners to 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

Partners must prioritize their work in alignment with Circle priorities defined by the Outer Link, or by any other process that establishes priorities for the Circle.

3.8 Duty of attendance

When requested, Partners must prioritize attending to the Circle Meetings even over working on their Roles.

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

Partners that are not Circle Members cannot process Tensions in Circle Meetings, unless they are invited by a Circle Member to help in the processing of a specific Tension.

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

The "Adapt Mode" is a moment of the Circle Meeting whose goal is to process Tensions into changes to the Circle Organizational Structure. The only valid and allowed outputs in Adapt Mode are:

4.6.1 Proposal

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.

4.6.2 Examples

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.

4.6.3 Objections

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

An Objection to a Proposal that seeks to change the Organizational Structure is considered valid if the Objector believes that it meets all the 4 following criteria:

  1. Degradation. An Objection is about a harm that the Proposal may cause to the Circle.
  2. Causality. This harm is caused by the Proposal, that is, it does not exist without it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

4.6.5 Integration

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

The election process of the 3 Elected Essential Roles must be done only inside a Circle Meeting.

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

In case of tie for the election of any Elected Essential Roles, the Facilitator must choose one of the following criteria to untie:

  • 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

Each Circle contains 4 "Essential Roles" automatically created: Outer Link, Inner Link, Facilitator, and Secretary.

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 Essential Roles of each Circle can be modified during the Adapt Mode. However, the following restrictions apply:

5.2.1 Essential Role modifications do not propagate

Modifying the Essential Roles of a Circle applies only to the Circle where the modification took place. That is, it does not propagate to inner Circles.

5.3 Outer Link Assignment

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 Outer Link is accountable for assining Partners to the Roles of the Circle and may invite any Partner of the Organization, unless a Restriction says otherwises.

5.5 Facilitator

The Role of the "Facilitator" has the following initial definition:

Purpose: Healthy Circle Meetings aligned with the Meta-Agreements

Accountabilities:

5.6 Secretary

The Role of the "Secretary" has the following initial definition:

Purpose: Clear-cut Meta-Agreements and Organizational Structure.

Accountabilities:

Artifacts:

5.7 Outer Link

The Role of the "Outer Link" has the following initial definition:

Purpose: The Purpose of the Circle

Accountabilities:

Artifacts:

The Outer Link holds all Circle undelegated Accountabilities and Artifacts.

5.8 Inner Link

The Role of the "Inner Link" has the following initial definition:

Purpose: The Purpose of the Circle

Accountabilities:

License Attributions

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.

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