By Richard D. Bartlett and originally published here.
I recently asked on Twitter and on a mailing list for examples of decentralised organisations that have a public, transparent, well-documented handbook that explains how they work (e.g. decision making, roles, communications tools, etc). The response was overwhelming so I’ve digested it into this page.
Specific examples of organisational handbooks
Permanent (e.g. workplaces, businesses, NGOs)
- Most of my organising experience is in Loomio, a software co-op with a great handbook.
- Loomio is one of many social enterprises in the Enspiral network. The Enspiral Handbookexplains how we self-govern.
- The Gini Handbook is particularly strong on decision-making, with useful sections on communication skills, personal growth, and feedback.
- The Gitlab Handbook is especially relevant for people working in remote teams — they have more than 400 staff and no central location.
- Crisp DNA is the handbook from a self-organising company of 35+ autonomous consultants. They do cool things with money and ownership!
- OuiShare Handbook – structures and practices for the distributed OuiShare network
- A Feminist Organization’s Handbook is a beautiful resource from the Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles. They explain how they work, with the expressed intention of helping others to learn from their experience.
- Alcoholics Anonymous operate as an “upside-down organisation”. Their manual is an up-to-date summary of 80+ years of decentralised organising at scale.
- The IETF is the principal body governing the development of the Internet. Their open, voluntary, self-organising principles are documented in the Tao of the IETF.
- Public Interest Research Center is a thinktank for civil society, helping social movements tell better stories. They’ve recently transitioned to a flat organisational structure. No handbook yet, but they published this excellent story about the transition.
- Platform is an arts /education / research /activism org. No public handbook, but their Social Justice Waging System is impressive.
- How to Start a Tool Lending Library
- Transition Towns’ Essential Guide to doing Transition is available in many languages.
- Valve Employee Handbook – Valve is a software company that works without bosses. They published their handbook in 2012.
- Edgeryders is a unique online community and company, a kind of thinktank and mutual aid network. A lot of their work is done in public, e.g. see their Principles for collaboration and operations in Edgeryders. “No plan is the plan.”
- The Borderland a collaborative community organized around an annual participatory event. It organizes itself using two processes: Dream Prototyping and Consensual Do-ocracy, also known as the Advice Process, influenced by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations.
- Outseta Operating Agreement – Outseta is a SaaS company with a fully distributed team that has adopted self-management. We’ve made our operating agreement public: how we make functional and financial decisions. We also published an overview of what self-management is, an overview to folks new to the subject.
- 350 Seattle – Structure resources for a campaigning org
- Open Coop Governance Model designed for use in the Guerilla Translation co-op, as a model for others to remix
- Scaling Agile at Spotify: explaining how Spotify’s 250+ tech staff coordinate across tribes, squads, chapters and guilds.
Generalised lessons: toolkits, books, etc
- Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux is a really influential book sharing case studies of large organisations in different sectors, successfully operating without centralised management systems. Good wiki too.
- Insights for the Journey – video series to accompany the Reinventing Organizations book by Laloux
- Going Horizontal by Samantha Slade: practices for flattening organisational hierarchies
- 12 Principles for Prototyping a Feminist Business
- Remote Only manifesto for companies that work without a central office.
- Remote Starter Kit – digital tools to support remote collaboration
- Atlassian Team Playbook – toolkit for effective self-managed teams, by the makers of Trello.
- Self-managing organizations: Exploring the limits of less-hierarchical organizing – research paper by Amy C. Edmondson and Michael Y. Lee
- Google’s Team Effectiveness Guide Psychological safety > dependability > structural clarity > meaning > impact
- Corporate org dev consultants The Ready published their OS Canvas – a tool for mapping the present state of your org and planning future changes.
- Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea – business book by Chuck Blakeman
- HyperIsland Toolbox – a collaboration toolkit for innovation, team development
- Liberating Structures – 33 meeting formats for inclusion and creativity
- The Future of Work is Human – practices for holistic meetings, collective learning, innovation.
- Core Protocols for Effective Communication
- Beyond Empowerment: the Age of Self-Managed Organization business book by Doug Kirkpatrick from Morningstar: a pioneering self-managing company & the world’s largest tomato processers
- One from many by Dee Hock (VISA)
- Joy at work by Dennis Bakke (coined the Advice Process at AES)
- Eckart’s notes by Wintzen (BSO) – Dutch
- La belle histoire de FAVI by Zobrist
- The second cycle by Lars Kolind
- Maverick by Ricardo Semler
- Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrsytal – how the US Army developed a networked management structure to respond to urban warfare in Iraq
- A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business series by Ari Weinzweig at Zingermans
- The Haier Model by Yangfeng Cao
- Freedom, Inc.: How Corporate Liberation Unleashes Employee Potential and Business by Brian M Carney & Isaac Getz
- Future of Management by Gary Hamel
- The Do-Ocracy Handbook: organisational types and legal structures by Mark Simmonds (UK legal focus)
- Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)
- Purpose Economy: Steward Ownership model. See Sharetribe for example
- Fairshares model for multi-stakeholder coops
Republished excerpts by Enlivening Edge Magazine under Creative Commons license.
Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.