Chaordic Organizations - Characteristics

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The characteristics of chaordic organizations

The chaordic commons is a network infrastructure created to support P2P-like initiatives, created by Dee Hock, the former chairman of Visa International and author of The Chaordic Age. Here are the principles behind the movement.

• Are based on clarity of shared purpose and principles. • Are self-organizing and self-governing in whole and in part. • Exist primarily to enable their constituent parts. • Are powered from the periphery, unified from the core. • Are durable in purpose and principle, malleable in form and function. • Equitably distribute power, rights, responsibility and rewards. • Harmoniously combine cooperation and competition. • Learn, adapt and innovate in ever expanding cycles. • Are compatible with the human spirit and the biosphere. • Liberate and amplify ingenuity, initiative and judgment. • Are compatible with and foster diversity, complexity and change. • Constructively utilize and harmonize conflict and paradox. • Restrain and appropriately embed command and control methods.

The Chaordic Design Process


"The chaordic design process has six dimensions, beginning with purpose and ending with practice. Each of the six dimensions can be thought of as a lens through which participants examine the circumstances giving rise to the need for a new organization or to reconceive an existing one.

Developing a self-organizing, self-governing organization worthy of the trust of all participants usually requires intensive effort. To maximize their chances of success, most groups have taken a year or more on the process. During that time, a representative group of individuals (sometimes called a drafting team) from all parts of the engaged organization or community meet regularly and work through the chaordic design process.

The steps involved in conceiving and creating a more chaordic organization are:

1. Develop a Statement of Purpose

The first step is to define, with absolute clarity and deep conviction, the purpose of the community. An effective statement of purpose will be a clear, commonly understood statement of that which identifies and binds the community together as worthy of pursuit. When properly done, it can usually be expressed in a single sentence. Participants will say about the purpose, "If we could achieve that, my life would have meaning."

2. Define a Set of Principles

Once the purpose has been clearly stated, the next step is to define, with the same clarity, conviction and common understanding, the principles by which those involved will be guided in pursuit of that purpose. Principles typically have high ethical and moral content, and developing them requires engaging the whole person, not just the intellect. The best will be descriptive, not prescriptive, and each principle will illuminate the others. Taken as a whole, together with the purpose, the principles constitute the body of belief that will bind the community together and against which all decisions and acts will be judged.

3. Identify All Participants

With clarity about purpose and principles, the next step is to identify all relevant and affected parties - the participants whose needs, interests and perspectives must be considered in conceiving (or reconceiving) the organization. As drafting team members pursue their work, their perceptions of who constitutes a stakeholder will typically expand. They now have an opportunity to ensure that all concerned individuals and groups are considered when a new organizational concept is sought.

4. Create a New Organizational Concept

When all relevant and affected parties have been identified, drafting team members creatively search for and develop a general concept for the organization. In the light of purpose and principles, they seek innovative organizational structures that can be trusted to be just, equitable and effective with respect to all participants, in relation to all practices in which they may engage. They often discover that no existing form of organization can do so and that something new must be conceived.

5. Write a Constitution

Once the organizational concept is clear, the details of organizational structure and functioning are expressed in the form of a written constitution and by-laws. These documents will incorporate, with precision, the substance of the previous steps. They will embody purpose, principles and concept, specify rights, obligations and relationships of all participants, and establish the organization as a legal entity under appropriate jurisdiction.

6. Foster Innovative Practices

With clarity of shared purpose and principles, the right participants, an effective concept and a clear constitution, practices will naturally evolve in highly focused and effective ways. They will harmoniously blend cooperation and competition within a transcendent organization trusted by all. Purpose is then realized far beyond original expectations, in a self-organizing, self-governing system capable of constant learning and evolution.

Drawing the Pieces into a Whole

The process is iterative. Each step sheds new light on all of the preceding steps and highlights where modifications or refinements need to be made. In effect, the process continually folds back on itself, more fully clarifying the previous steps even as each new dimension is explored. Over time, the elements become deeply integrated. None is truly finished until all are finished.

Two risks are frequently encountered - moving onto the next stage too quickly and allowing the striving for perfection to bog down the process. The first risk is common when working on purpose and principles, where agreement on "platitudes" can often be reached even when underlying differences persist. In these situations, finding an easy answer that pleases everyone is not enough; digging deeper to find richer and more meaningful understanding and agreement is essential. This can be taken to an extreme, of course, which leads to the second risk. Perfection is not required and will never be attained. Getting a very good answer that is "good enough" to move on to the next step is the goal. Keep in mind that what is done at each stage will be subsequently refined.

The most difficult parts of the process are releasing preconceived notions about the nature and structure of organizations and understanding their origins in our own minds. We often catalyze this process by asking the question: "If anything imaginable were possible, if there were no constraints whatever, what would be the nature of an ideal institution to accomplish our purpose?"

There is no absolutely right or wrong way to undertake and proceed through the chaordic design process, but we typically observe the following pattern in our work with organizations:

- One or two sessions exploring the core chaordic concepts with a leadership or initiating group. We urge groups and organizations to take time to assess the relevance and "fit" of chaordic concepts and processes for their circumstances. Having key participants consider and endorse a major change initiative is essential if the effort is to have a serious chance of success.

- One or two sessions determining participants, developing resources and devising a strategy for working through the chaordic design process. One or more months of work are typically required to organize the resources and support that an organizational development effort will need. This includes the development of several dedicated teams with responsibility for project management and staffing, outreach and communications, and organizational concept and design.

- A series of in-depth meetings, each several days in length, to work through each of the six elements. Some elements, such as principles and organizational concept, often take more than a single meeting. It is not uncommon for this series of meeting to take at least a year, sometimes two, especially when dealing with large, complex organizations or industries.

- Ongoing analytic and educational support for process participants. Issues invariably arise that require more detailed research or attention by a special team. Research on industry-specific matters, or mapping potential participants and their current relationships to each other, are examples. Legal analysis is often required.

- Chartering and implementation. Our aim is to create a dynamic, evolving organization. Yet implementation of the new concept can take several month. In the case of existing organizations seeking to transform themselves, a careful strategy for the transition from one structure to another must be created. When a new organization is being formed, it may take some months for individuals and other institutions to elect to join and participate." (

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