A Guide to Self Governance

The Why

Everything starts with Why. So, let's start there.

Self-government what?

What is this self-government thing? In the very short version, it’s all about autonomous decision-making. This means that anyone in the organisation have the mandate to make any decisions, if it adds value and is within the agreed framework. Is it radical? Fairly – classic management is still the norm. Does it work? If everyone is on the same page, yes. It increases the levels of both freedom and responsibility in the organisation.

The World

The world is entering a new era that is high in change, complexity and transformation. Some people refer to this as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Everything is changing fast and everyone need to redefine what life and work is about. One might say that "today is the last day everything will happen this slowly". Tomorrow's pace will be even faster.

Moving from one position of business as usual to a new one, change, is sometimes painful but can in the end be very rewarding. Taking full ownership of the desired direction in this situation, as opposed to being frustrated but not doing anything, is the key. We need to adapt, and the sooner the better.

The Organisation

The organisation is at the heart of human society today. This is where the magic happens. Different types of organisations have different preconditions, but since they are all embedded in the larger whole – the planet and the civilisation – they will inevitably be dependent on what is happening in the larger scheme of things. If things are changing in the world, you can safely place your vet on that every sub-system, e.g. organisations, people and life in general, will change with it. Simply put, we have no other option but to adapt. So, let's do it!

Leadership

In a fully self-governing organisation, the manager is transformed into a leader. The difference between a manager and a leader is profound – the manager makes decisions and controls the outcome whereas the leader, she or he, is more of a mentor and a facilitator. Someone who's wisdom you seek when you need to make a difficult decision. A guide, a door opener an enabler. It's an inverted and needs based information flow. She or he is also a breakwater – making sure that the marina, i.e. the company, business unit or team, are protected from the outside volatility and has the capacity to be fully autonomous and self-governing.

Moving from traditional management to self-governing leadership takes time, effort and a shift in mindset. It is not easy. Sometimes the organisation must revert to the old way of making decisions in order to avoid serious harm or not lose opportunities, until more people in the organisation master the new way of thinking and operating. It is a two step forward, one step backward situation. Over time, the reward is large. Practicing patience when transitioning may be difficult but is super important.

People

Strip away the brand, the strategy, the titles, the money, the office and everything else – what's left? People with ideas and relationships. That's what a company is, in its very core. Transforming into a prosperous self-governing organisation only happens if all of us can transform as well. We adopt a new way of seeing and acting in the world so that we become better at making decisions and collaborating with each other. We allow for a greater degree of freedom.

And, as one of the founders of modern society Adam Smith once said, with freedom comes responsibility. Sometimes we forget the latter part. We want the bun without the raisins. Gotta have the raisins though. Self-leadership is a way to help everyone in the organisation being more free and at the same time take more responsibility – for yourself and the whole.

In short, everyone is invited to be a grown up. We call this "wholeness". You are allowed to show more of who you are, behind all the roles you play. It's a more vulnerable position, but also more authentic. You become more free and are allowed to grow together with others. A healthier way of being.

This guide is based on the Sociocracy 3.0 framework.