Tight vs loose practice

I notice in the Advocates meetings sometimes the problems that arise seem to be as a result of practicing Sociocracy in a kind of relaxed, laid-back way. I can see the attraction of relaxing the guidelines of any practice. It can seem kinder than “being controlling” or “being domineering.” One of my community’s recent Explorers noted that there’s a certain aspect of autocracy in Sociocracy, and after some thought I have to agree. If you have a group that tends toward popcorning and cross-talk, doing rounds can feel like an imposition. It may even feel controlling – and that’s actually what I like about Sociocratic meetings. They’re controlled! We know who’s coming, and the people there know the business of the group very well, because we have a well-defined Circle, with members selected according to our selection criteria. We know what the agenda is because we agree to it – nobody can just add something to it without the consent of the Circle – whose members know our priorities. And I don’t dread meetings, because I enjoy listening to the good ideas of my colleagues – to whom I can listen in a relaxed, open-hearted way because I know I’ll get my turn to speak because the Facilitator will make sure we’re doing rounds. There’s an ironic aspect to the “rigidity” of the structure – firm structure allows us to lean on it, rely on it, and relax. I’m guessing in most communities --especially those to whom Sociocracy is newish (we’ve been using it for three years, so we’re newish) there are some circles who are a little looser than others in their practice of Sociocracy. That’s true for my own community, and I tend to participate in Circles that practice Sociocracy in a tighter way. My range of tolerance for popcorning, cross-talk, domineering talkers and quiet mice, and meeting with a loose agenda and loose times has decreased since I’ve been practicing Sociocracy.

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Rules make a game playable. If the rules are unfair, or not clear or people ignore them, then the game isn’t much fun. That is why the game of meetings is traditionally not much fun. If the game itself is not so much fun, you can change the rules and see if you can make it more fun. That’s what sociocracy tries to do. A well-run sociocratic meeting should add energy, not drain it.

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One of the most important aspects of “playing by the rules” in sociocratic governance is that it builds trust; it transparently reveals all the important information needed to make decisions. When sociocracy is “nearly adhered to”, it is impossible to assess where the pitfalls will develop. Being almost sociocratic allows stronger-minded players to take the forefront, which is the antithesis of sociocratic governance. Trust dissipates, decisions become suspect, agendas are hidden, and the whole thing threatens to fall apart. I profoundly believe that sociocracy is most effectively practiced in its whole form.

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