Re: Can We Live Without Hierarchy?
From: Pare Gerou (
Date: Tue, 4 Aug 2015 10:59:15 -0700 (PDT)
The article you offered is very interesting.  I am reading "Holacracy: The
Revolutionary Management System That Abolishes Hierarchy" by Brian
Robertson in an effort to better understand what leaders like Sharon
Villines, Diane Leafe Christian, Jerry Koch Gonzales and others are
advancing in cohousing governance. I am comparing Holacracy and Sociocracy
to the thoughtful and arguably improved N Street Consensus "2.0 model" as
well as to the traditional consensus-with- unanimity model.  It is easy to
read and understand the advantages Holacracy and Sociocracy- your article
talks about distributed authority as enabling the "larger complexity of the
collective behavior" and Holacracy claims a similar advantage that allows
rapid processing of "tensions" to enable better educated responsiveness or
innovation.  So, the advantages seem plentiful.  We have some great minds
in cohousing, and I would love to hear what some of them have to say about
the disadvantages of Holacracy or delegated or distributed authority
governance for cohousing.  Any of you have the interest in mentioning the
disadvantages or problems using this model?
-Pare Gerou

Pare Gerou
1725 Belvedere Place
Charlottesville, VA 22901

On Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:33 AM, Daniel Lindenberger <daniel [at]
> wrote:

> I'd put forward that while you can't have hierarchy without structure,
> there are plenty of ways to have structure without hierarchy. (Note that
> I'm not saying hierarchy is necessarily a bad thing, nor that its
> nonexistent in cohousing culture, either in terms of authority or social
> pecking order).
> Thought I'd share an interesting paper that (to drastically oversimplify)
> shows the move from individual to hierarchical to networked organization as
> natural (and potentially optimal) as systems become more complex:
> Differentiation and delegation don't require hierarchy, though that's the
> model many of us are most familiar with. I've been part of several
> organizations where differentiated roles developed without any hierarchy
> being in place (some went on to develop a hierarchy, others not).
> To risk waxing overenthusiastic, I'd put forward that the efforts within
> cohousing to create functional forms of non-hierarchical structure is an
> example of part of what my "big picture" brain loves about Cohousing - in
> various ways I think we often are wrestling with precisely the issues and
> challenges that we as a species need to figure out. Differentiated 'power
> with' roles rather than 'power over' roles definitely be on that list for
> me.
> Sleepy thoughts for the evening,
> Daniel
> On Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 3:11 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>
> wrote:
> >
> > Folks —
> >
> > I’ve been (re)reading the Coho US “6 Defining Characteristics of
> > Cohousing”, and keep getting hung up on Number 5:
> >
> > 5. Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making. Leadership roles
> > naturally exist in cohousing communities, however no one person (or
> > persons) has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two
> > “burning souls.” As people join the group, each person takes on one or
> more
> > roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most
> > cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus, and, although
> > many groups have a policy for voting if the group cannot reach consensus
> > after a number of attempts, it is rarely or never necessary to resort to
> > voting.
> >
> > "Non-hierarchical structure" is something of an oxymoron:  Structure
> > implies hierarchy, where distinct components have differentiated purposes
> > and relationships.  Without hierarchy, you don’t have structure, you have
> > just a blob.
> >
> > Well, let’s not get hung up on parsing the language.  Here’s the real
> > problem:  What about delegation?  In an ideal world, perhaps, all
> decisions
> > are made by all the members in the room at the same, in “plenary” or
> “full
> > circle” or whatever.  But in the real world, hardly any of us work that
> > way.  Instead, we (meaning, in cohousing, plenary) subdivide aim and
> > decisions into logical groupings, and delegate the authority to make
> these
> > kinds of decisions to “committees” or “circles” or whatever.  So, we
> have a
> > hierarchy:  Plenary, plus the committees to which plenary has delegated a
> > defined amount of discretionary authority.  Some cohos even have
> > sub-committees that also have powers as well as duties.
> >
> > All of which sounds like hierarchy to me.  Lacking any delegation, all
> you
> > have is centralized command and control.  I am not persuaded that central
> > command and control is an OK organizational model, even when the center
> is
> > plenary (or, especially when the center is plenary).  So I am wondering
> if
> > Characteristic 5 needs a clarification or re-write …
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Philip Dowds
> > Cornerstone Cohousing
> > Cambridge, MA
> >
> > mobile: 617.460.4549
> > email:   rpdowds [at]
> > _________________________________________________________________
> > Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
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