New Book
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 6 Jun 2015 08:44:36 -0700 (PDT)
We are still working on the revision to "We the People: Consenting to a Deeper 
Democracy, a Handbook on Sociocracy," but Brian Robertson, who calls his method 
Holacracy, has published a very readable and informative book that will enhance 
your understanding of sociocracy. I think it is always helpful to read 
different authors talking about the same thing. A different perspective often 
deepens understanding. 

Robertson worked with John Buck in the development of his software company 
before Robertson began developing his own method. There are essentially no 
differences between the two methods but Robertson emphasizes different things 
and is more emphatic in his style. And more prescriptive. Partly because he 
works specifically with businesses, organizations with employees. The 
principles and rationales are the same.


Robertson has defined more explicitly than the sociocratic literature, 
including "We the People," the definition of a valid objection. Sociocracy 
defines an objection as based on something that interferes with one’s ability 
to do one’s work or to participate fully in the organization. The objection 
must be explained clearly enough for others to understand and resolve it, but  
it is up to the objector to determine if their objection has been resolved. 

Holacracy defines the basis for a valid objection as meeting all four to the 

1. Passing the proposal without addressing the objection would degrade a 
circle’s capacity to achieve it’s purpose ("aim" in sociocracy); and

2. The objection wouldn’t exist if the proposal weren’t proposed — in other 
words the objection must be directly related to the effect of passing this 
proposal; and

3. Is based on known data, not hypotheticals, or if it is a prediction, the 
circle would be unable to make corrections fast enough to prevent harm would be 
done; and

4. If the proposal is passed, the objector would require a new definition of 
their own role in the organization (in sociocracy, a limit in ones ability to 
perform their role).


On one way or another all Robertson’s points are discussed in "We the People" 
but Brian has spelled them out as requirements in the Holacracy Constitution. 
An organization adopts the Constitution when it decides to implement Holacracy.

A difference in Holacracy from sociocracy is that the roles of the circle 
facilitator and secretary are prescribed by the Holacracy Constitution and 
include the absolute right to declare an objection invalid. While a circle 
could define these responsibilities in this way, it is not mandated. Normally 
these decisions are treated as proposed decisions open to objections. They can 
also declare an action outside the appropriate process. In Holacracy, there is 
a time and place for everything. 

Robertson also clearly places emphasis on role descriptions which are modified 
and referred to often. Not only by the role “holder” but by others as well. The 
question "Who is responsible for this?” would be answered by role definitions. 
A person may hold many roles and not all of them need to be in one circle. The 
person’s abilities might fit into several circles. This is common in cohousing 
where one person works on more than one team or project, but it is unusual in 
business, primarily because it is easier to manage. The manage wants control. 
In sociocracy and Holacracy, the manager doesn’t have control. The persons 
responsible for the roles are supposed to fulfill their responsibilities with a 
parental figure managing them.

Consent and buy-in are not sought or discussed in Holacracy. The facilitator’s 
role is not to coddle people but to execute the process, for example, of 
presenting the proposal, taking clarifying questions, reaction round, defining 
objections, and “integration”. Resolving objections, declaring them invalid, or 
amending the proposal. No attempt to coax or deal with emotions is allowed. 
Everything is based on role definition and responsibilities as defined by the 
constitution, the organization, or the circle. 


The language drives me nuts but so does the language of sociocracy. I believe 
that there are enough commonly understood words in the English language to 
cover almost any situation. In fact I would like to learn Ogden’s Basic English 
list of 800 words that are used to teach English as a second language so people 
can talk about things and events in a normal way. His list was later expanded 
to 1000 words to cover work situations. Today, adding new words related to 
everyday technology and social changes might take it up to maybe 1500.

Robertson uses “roles” instead of job descriptions and “accountabilities” 
instead of “responsibilities.” “Tensions” instead of problems or opportunities. 
It makes me tense thinking of tensions. I was once ready to run from the room 
when a person giving a 2 hour webinar kept using tension this and tension that. 
But the more important objection I realized today is that the exhilaration of 
creativity is not included in “tension.”  Exhilaration can lead to a proposal 
just as well as a problem or opportunity. In Holacracy, anything that would 
generate a proposal is called a tension. Having to translate everything into a 
tension in order to effect change seems coercive, not clarifying.


Please do read the book. I think the sections of explanation are very good and 
many of the processes explanations are as well. You just have to groan a bit 
over the full-stop-and-reverse tone of the meeting process.

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy

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