Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Daniel

Ref your presentation at London Futurists, our subsequent texts and your willingness to share ideas, insights and technology.

I’m interested in many aspects of your talk, especially some aspects of Artificial Intelligence, but for now I want to focus on Satalia’s organisational structure.

Since we texted I’ve visited the Satalia website. I particularly appreciated reading more about the ethos – which you had mentioned during your presentation.

As you know, when you first described Satalia’s structure I, wrongly, guessed it might be a Holacracy. My interest in flat, highly autonomous, organisational structures comes from a practical problem I’m trying to solve. I’m most interested in organisations that are not like “typical employers” and that’s why I’m interested in learning more about Satalia’s.

The less like “typical employment” the examples are the better it is for me. My own organisational interests relate to people working together, in many different ways, and often separately from “the day job”. This means that typical “day job” structures and rewards are a poor match for what I need.

My learning so far

It may help our future “conversation”if you know my background ref organisations (in practice and in theory) . My theoretical focus has been on Holacracy and Teal organisations. I have also been pointed towards sociocracy, but have yet to delve into it. My practical focus is less easy to describe, so I’ll only touch on it.

  • I have many years of experience in a variety of online communities of purpose, communities of interest, and communities of practice.
  • I have a considerable network of contacts, widely scattered globally thanks to the Internet, and in London face-to-face.
  • Some of these connections give rise to collaborative initiatives – the lack of a clear organisational structure for such initiatives can be problematic.
  • I came across Holacracy several years ago, and went to a training day.
  • I’ve been revisiting it over the last year or so.
  • Originally I was interested in the context of one particular initiative, but once I started learning and reflecting I saw patterns that pointed to wider applicability and need.
  • I’m attracted by Holacracy’s clarity around roles, purpose, accountability, ways to hold meetings, etc.
  • I read “Reinventing Organisations” in 2015, around the time I was revisiting Holacracy
  • I was involved in a “Holacracy of One” experiment. I found that extremely interesting and influential on my subsequent thinking.
  • My connections with organisational change and Teal people led me to involvement in the Teal for Startups (T4S) group – an online community of purpose (many valuable lessons learned).
  • I met Susan Basterfield through T4S and as a result attended the Enspiral Workshop in London last year
  • The example of Enspiral interests me – especially its structure, or at least my impression of it:
    • Central core of people who know and nurture its structure and ethos
    • People around the boundary who are interested – attending events, reading newsletters, that kind of thing
    • People “inside the boundary” but not active in the central core – people networking with each other and working in a freelance collaborative way thanks to being members of Enspiral

The organisational challenge

The organisational challenge I’m trying to address relates to very loosely structured organisations – so loosely structured that “organisation” is really too formal a word.

I have in mind when people come together informally to help each other in ways that are largely to do with ideas and information and “getting something done”. The attractor is something that they care about (so they become a community of interest or purpose). There may be some localised face-to-face groups within the “organisation” but more likely the bulk of things are online, and people may never meet face-to-face. Organisationally it’s pretty simple early on while people are just sharing ideas, vision and information. It’s not so easy once it moves into “getting things done”.

The old formal structures of committees and suchlike don’t fit these horizontal communities of purpose. Things are fast moving and all the value is in information freely shared. There is no money or physical “stuff” needed to get things started.

It’s possible for things to move quickly (or very slowly). There may be bursts of energy flaring up here and there at different times. It depends on the unpredictable peaks and troughs of discretionary time that people contribute. People take initiatives and it is easy to make assumptions about shared vision, and ethos, and what people will deliver. This can lead to later confusion, disappointment and worse.

What I want to do

I want to create an appropriate, easy to understand, structure for collaboration. My current mental model takes some key ideas from Holacracy (or at least my interpretations of them) but Holacracy is not an ideal fit, which is why I want to learn all I can about different models. These are key ideas I connect with:

  • Blockages happening when something needs to be done and no-one is doing it
  • Tensions are caused when things aren’t done that need to be done
  • Tensions are caused when people find themselves expected to do things that they don’t want to and are not really part of their job
  • Roles clearly expressed are a key to autonomy and accountability
  • People energising a number of roles gives clarity to all, flexibility and opportunities for new involvements.
  • Purpose (and shared purpose as a motivator) – importance of clarity ref role and organisational purpose
  • Motivation – individual motivation is not necessarily the same as shared purpose but is an important element of collaboration and needs to be clear.
  • Accountabilities – if this is clear then much confusion can be avoided
  • Transparency – so people can know what is going on, and what has led to it, and what is about to happen, and make informed decisions.
  • Clear structures for governance meetings and operational meetings – we need effective structures so people can work things out together effectively as and when necessary.

The above is my “mental agenda” and starting point for exploring what you are doing and for learning from you. Thank you for your openness and willingness to share.