February 24th, 2007

Clear aims

I asked two specific questions on the sociocracy Yahoo group, regarding Trouble at the beginning. First,

Q: Does a circle define criteria for who in an organization is welcome to participate (and thus be heard) and who is not? Or instead, do people self-select, based on whether they embrace the circle’s aim? If the former, wouldn’t the circle fail to meet needs, simply by excluding those who would object to policies that don’t support them.

A: In volunteer organizations or cohousing, where a choice excludes people who are already members of the organization, this is a crucial question. In cohousing, self-selection is the rule.

A: The larger organization should have membership criteria and an aim.
Then when the larger organization creates two circles, it should assign aims and the aims would, in part, determine the membership criteria.


Q: Does a circle define its aim, or does an aim define a circle? (Which comes first?)

A: The aim is defined by the “higher” circle when the “lower” circle is formed. The aim defines the circle.

What I’m getting as the most important piece is that defining aim is fundamental at all levels, and are to be decided by a higher circle in forming a lower circle, rather than by the lower circle itself. Any decisions & actions (norming & performing) that happen without crystal clear aims are bound to generate confusion & disagreement rather than harmony & progress. I guess that’s where we are.

My recommendation is that we say “oops” and take a few steps back to get on track with sociocracy. Specifically, I’d like to see a clear aim for the overall organization and then clear aims for one or more circles.

My hunch is that different people interested in the “Training Circle” have different aims in mind. By clarifying these different aims, I expect that at least two circles will arise rather than one, and those circles will operate more efficiently than one multi-aimed circle, in which different members are focused on different aims. Maybe one circle will address emergence/evolution or supporting those who share NVC, while another addresses “quality” control (“preserving the integrity of the NVC process”). I expect these two circles to have contradictory wishes about accessibility of the organization’s web site and mailing list.

How would we resolve potential strategy conflicts between “evolution” (or “support”) and “preservation” circles? Perhaps through clarity of aim of the higher circle, which is the top circle in our case. What is our organization’s aim? Does it embrace evolution & preservation, or do we want to split it into two different organizations?


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