The four principles of sociocracy

Sociocracy consists of four fundamental principles. In this blog post, we will take a look at these principles and what they mean in practice.

The first principle of sociocracy is that decisions need to be made in consensus. Only if no one raises justified objections will a decision be implemented. Each member of an organization is entitled to give their vote so to speak or in other words, raise objections. However, it can’t just be anything like saying that one does not simply like the decision, the opposition needs to be constructive and argumentative so as to allow further work on it and to make changes to the decision in question that will allow the decision to be passed in a next round.

The second principle of sociocracy is rather similar to holacracy, which we covered in this blog already in the past weeks. The reason for this is that sociocracy and holacracy are closely related and stem from the same school of thought. According to sociocracy, the core organization structure should be circles. A circle, and here we go full circle back to holacracy, is a self-organized cell or entity within an organization that can act autonomously to a particular extent. Every employee can and must participate in the decision-making of the circle that concerns his daily work. This brings us to the next principle of sociocracy.

In sociocracy, there is a sort of double connection between the circles. In practice, that means that a representative from a circle will be sent to take part in the decision making of the next higher circle. This representative is chosen by the members of the subordinate circle. Quite a lot like a democracy where we vote for representatives, for example, regional ones, that we sent to parliament to defend our interests. At the same time, the subordinate circle also chooses a leader from another general circle. The reason for this double linking is to ensure that the information flows both ways: bottom-up and top-down.

The last principle of sociocracy is that the people who belong to circles are selected by their choice and consent to tasks and functions. The members of each circle define the responsibilities and qualifications that a person must fulfill to carry out their duties. The nomination process happens in an open discussion and will be finalized when there are no objections to the choice.

Sociocracy, in theory, sounds like a winning system for organizations, but it remains questionable how sustainable and scalable it is. Like with democracy, it is impossible to get full support for a decision, and while it’s admirable that sociocracy has the build in criteria to make objections constructive and argumentative to keep the discourse alive, it might be a bit too much good will. In the end, it is important to keep the psychological power of giving a stance in mind. Maybe enabling people to give a stance on a decision in a role-based decision-making matrix is the way to the future of sociocracy.

Discover how sociocracy changes the way we organize work in our eBook ‘Work 4.0


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