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Dynamic Governance (Sociocracy) is Scrum’s Big Brother

Agile Conference, Dallas, TX  LogoAgile is a software programing method developed in 2001 with the issuance of the Agile Manifesto. Agile principles are parallel to many sociocratic principles and patterns. The double link concept of Sociocracy lets Agile teams known as Scrums scale up to incorporate the larger organization. Are you involved in software development? Consider joining a SocioNet Community of Practice to explore how you can use sociocracy to improve your software development effectiveness.

At the Agile Conference in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday August 15, 2012, Dan LeFebvre and John Buck presented "Meet Scrum's Big Brother, Dynamic Governance. Effectively Delivering Large Programs.  The following summarizes their presentation:
Scrum works great with small, focused teams on small projects. What happens when you need to deliver a medium to large sized program that require more people? Scrum gives no guidance on scaling. There are books and ideas out there (“Scrum of Scrums”, Integration Scrum teams) but none have delivered reliable results. These techniques often reduce the sense of collaboration and agility as the programs get larger. Decisions feel more autocratic, teams have a lower sense of control and happiness. Dynamic Governance (see http://sociocracyconsulting.com/dynamic-governance/) may provide the answer. Called by some “Scrum’s big brother”, Dynamic Governance is an organizational method that uniquely combines best business practices with the principles of cybernetics and systems thinking to deliver a decision-making mechanism that works at scale. Developed in The Netherlands, it has been used successfully in organizations for over 40 years. This workshop demonstrated how Scrum is a Dynamic Governance system for 1 team. It suggested some improvements, particularly for retrospective meetings. However, the workshop focused primarily on applying Agile philosophy and the 3 principles of Dynamic Governance to design organizations at different levels of scale, including top management and organizational units that are not directly involved in the production of software. Decisions are made quickly, are biased toward action, and they stick!

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  • Gilles Charest December 15, 2012, 1:17 pm


    March 27 in Paris, within the framework of Scrum Day, Scrum Alliance, the Agile community in Paris was gathering.
    In a two-hour workshop, Gilles Charest, a Sociocratic expert well known in the French countries, assisted by Laurent Sarazin, an internal consultant at Societe Generale, a large French bank, invited participants to learn from the sociocratic recipe to improve the Agile cooking.
    Agility is a method increasingly used to improve the efficiency and productivity software development project. The method is based on the same values of
    “cooperation” that Sociocracy aims to perpetuate.
    The discovery of Sociocratic governance model gives Agile people not only
    tools to improve their practice, but also hope that the values of their cooperation system
    will spread throughout the organization. A natural alliance is in process between Agile community and sociocratic community.
    To read in French, go to: http://www.ecoledeschefs.ca/Accueil/tabid/37/Default.aspx and look at the BULLETIN CONNEXION
    Gilles Charest also wrote the preface of the Book “Rupture douce” written by a collective of Agile peoples leaded by Laurent Sarazin. This book is in the process of translation into English. https://sites.google.com/site/agileblueteam/

  • Peter Merrick December 15, 2012, 12:42 pm

    It’s certainly true that Scrum is designed for a small group of co-located talented and motivated individuals to work on a software project. But it’s used with big teams, who are not co-located and it inevitably fails (from what I’ve seen). When I worked in a little team it worked well. OK, people want to manage big teams and they think Scrum will do it. And they need help and perhaps sociocracy can help. But, here’s my question, each Agile team is likely to do everything, and not restrict themselves to a discrete ‘domain of responsibility’. So the team in India does stories, code and testing, and so does the team in the US. They may indeed need to cooperate but the models appear incompatible. What I’m saying is that if we had circle 1: stories, circle 2: code, circle 3: test then the DG model can be applied OK. If everything is found in one circle, there are no discrete responsibilities in the circle. I find it hard to see how circles can work where people aren’t colocated. Sorry – everybody wants to use Skype and mail and video conferencing. But it never seems to work from what I’ve experienced. I feel skeptical. What am I missing?

    • yukonconference December 15, 2012, 3:25 pm

      Seems like you are raising two issues (1) how do scrums coordinate, and (2) how do they coordinate across time and space. Ref the first matter: what’s missing from scrum theory is the scrum representative (or “uplink”) to an “uberscrum.” Also missing is the concept of an uberscrum itself being scrummy – rather than just a place to report. Ref item (2), I know a very successful company with four scrums in New Zealand and one in Germany. The uberscrum that coordinates them runs assignment setting, product acceptance, and retrospective meetings successfully via skype despite the 12 hour time difference. Dynamic governance (sociocratic) meeting methods seem to enable a scrum to handle the challenges of “talking from a box.”