Section 10 of 16
In Progress

Adapt Mode

Ravi Resck 30 de July de 2021

Contrary to what many people think, most decisions in an Organic Organization are not in groups, or by consensus. Doing so would be extremely counterproductive, given the sheer volume of decisions we make daily (how to decide to write this paragraph in this way) in addition to the bias and undesirable effects of consensus.

We usually describe O2 as a “distributed autocracy”, that is, a system where we seek to give autonomy so that people in their roles are able to make most decisions in an autocratic (individual) way. For this to be possible, we use a organizational structure explicit and composed of roles, circles and restrictions. It's ours agreement map with agreed upon how far the autonomy of each role goes.

The organizational structure, however, needs to be dynamic. It is good to remember that our organizations navigate in an extremely volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment (VUCA). Every day we learn new things that need to be incorporated into our agreements. Therefore, the agreement map is constantly evolving and adapting.

The systemic impact of the distribution of authority

In the role of Content Producer, I can decide to produce several texts for this blog, as I am doing now. I didn't consult anyone for that. I just had the idea (and the will) to write another post on O2's ways and started this one. Of course, that makes sense for my role, whose purpose is high quality content and optimized for search engines. I combined my individual motivation with a shared organizational meaning (the purpose).

Now, imagine that I decide to ask Rodrigo, who also plays this role, to review this text. This may come as a surprise to him, as there is no explicit responsibility on paper for this. That would be what we call a implicit expectation. As much as Rodrigo has the autonomy to do this, if he thinks it is relevant to the role of Content Producer, it would be unfair demand that of him. Imagine if anyone could expect anything from anyone within the organization. That would be an impractical rule of living, because there would be no limits to these expectations.

But it turns out that to charge someone for something, I need to clarify that expectation through a responsibility. This rule that Organic Organization Meta-Agreements allows you to establish a filter and limit the possibilities. And as we have seen in another text, paradoxically some rules that limit are really liberating.

The same goes if I want to stop someone from doing something. For example, I may wish that no one edits blog posts without first consulting the Content Producer. This restriction is also implied until I update the organizational structure, or our shared agreements.

The conclusion is that unlike a decision that is already my responsibility and that I have the autonomy to execute (how to write this text), changing which decisions the roles may or may not make has a systemic impact on other roles and the organization. That is why O2 requires that any and all changes in the structure require the consent of the circle in the mode adapt, which we'll look at in detail below.

Integrative Decision Making

Meta-Agreements define that decisions in the adaptation mode must start from a tension and follow the integrative decision-making process. Let's use the example of the Content Producer.

I, as a Content Producer, realize that there is great value in other people reviewing the texts before they are published on the blog. In the text I wrote about organizational structure, if other people had revised the text, I would have identified the spelling errors before posting on our blog.

This is a perfectly valid tension, which makes sense for the role and contains an example of a past situation in which it was experienced by the sensor, in this case, me. Now comes the proposal time:

I propose to add the responsibility of proofread texts and content on the Content Producer role. With that, I can always ask other Content Producers to review the texts I produce and this will no longer be an implicit expectation.

This is the first part of an Integrative Decision, where the person feeling the tension can explain it by presenting a proposal to resolve it. In some cases the participant only brings tension and asks for help from the group to create a proposal.

Meta-Agreements (in version 2.2) do not require the facilitator to follow a pre-defined process, but only that a few steps / elements are present:

Presentation: The participant who brought Tension (the proponent) must be able to submit a proposal to resolve it. Alternatively, the Facilitator can allow the proponent to seek help from others to build the proposal. If this is the case, the Facilitator should not allow any consensus-building process. The objective is to resolve the tension of the proponent, and not to satisfy everyone.

Questions: Participants can ask questions of the proposer in order to better understand the tension or the proposal being presented.

Reactions: Each participant can also express a reaction or opinion regarding the proposal.

Change: After hearing the reactions and questions, the proposer can make changes to his proposal.

Objections: Each participant can raise one or more Objections in relation to the proposal.

Integration: If there are objections, they must be integrated into the proposal, one at a time. The objective is to modify the proposal so that it resolves the original Tension, but without causing the objection raised. If the proposal is changed, the Facilitator should provide another opportunity for participants to raise Objections. If a proposal is taking a long time to integrate, the Facilitator can discard the proposal entirely in order to move on to the next item on the Stress list.

In the end, all participants must have had a chance to raise objections. If there are valid objections, they are integrated into the proposal. The proposal is accepted when there are no further objections. Below we will see more details about objections.

Valid and invalid objections

One objection is:

One reason why the proposal causes harm and moves the circle backwards.

It's a serious business, right? Yes, what we seek with an objection is really a reason why the proposal (in the example above, to add responsibility) is not safe enough to try.

Remember the VUCA world we live in. Things are not predictable. The same goes for the proposal, which we will only know if it works after we have tested it in practice.

In O2, for an objection to be valid, it must meet the 4 criteria below:

1. Degradation: The Objection is about some harm that the proposal could cause to the Circle. This damage must be explained.
2. Causality: This evil is caused by the proposal, that is, it would not exist without it. Only then can the Objection be valid.
3. Based in Dice: The Objection is based on current data or past experience. In other words, it is not an anticipation of future events. However, if the alleged damage is so disastrous that the Circle would not be able to adapt in the future, then this criterion can be disregarded.
4. Related to Papers: The Objection affects one of the objector's Roles in the Circle.

These criteria are assessed by the person who raised the objection, usually with the help of the facilitator. To help, we created a card:

The objector reads each of the criteria, stating what is written in the “objector” column. The facilitator can ask the questions on the side to help you. The fact is that most objections are invalid. Usually something that “messes up” the organizational structure (agreement map) can be a valid objection, depending on how the objector answers the questions.


For example, if there was a role Marketing with the responsibility of review all Target Teal content and parts, a Content Producer (not who is proposing, but another) could claim that adding this responsibility creates confusion, because he would not know who to ask to review the text, Marketing or Content Producer.

This would be a likely valid objection:

  1. Degradation: It causes an evil, which is confusion.
  2. Causality: This harm is caused by the proposal, because the confusion only exists when the proposal is approved.
  3. Based in Dice: The objection is based on current data, because the confusion is evident. It is not an anticipation.
  4. Related to Papers: The objection affects one of the objector's roles, which in this case is the Content Producer.

With a valid objection, the proposal goes for integration. Before she was:

New responsibility in the Content Producer: Review texts and content

In order not to cause the objection, we could make the following change:

New responsibility in the Content Producer: Review texts and content produced by other Content Producers

That is, by clarifying the responsibility that the Content Producer should only review content produced by other Content Producers, the ambiguity with the Marketing role is removed. Objection resolved, as it still meets the original tension brought.

The objective of integration is precisely that: to integrate perspectives. In other words, find a proposal that resolves the original tension but does not cause an objection.

Beginners discomfort

For those who have never experienced this process, it seems extremely regulated and blocked. But the reality is that this is a new game. After learning to play, it becomes natural and extremely agile. It is a matter of learning the rules and adapting to them.

Another thing that scares people at first is the objection validation criteria. It seems like a process that facilitates the approval of proposals and makes objection difficult. This is partly true, we want objections but we put a high bar and difficult to overcome.

The main reason is that they are proposed agreements that give clarity on expectations, autonomy and authority. They are just the starting point for other decisions. No are decisions about investing or not, in a new and expensive CRM system, for example.

Continuing in this case, this investment decision may not be reversed, and therefore needs a more thorough and careful analysis. Here in Adapt mode, we could decide that it is the responsibility of the “Customer Success” role to buy a tool if necessary. Another decision is who will play this role, by default an assignment of the External Link role, outside of Adapt mode. The third decision would be: which tool and for what value and conditions? Also outside Adaptar.

Do you understand how it is just the starting point? We are promoting the experimentation of new agreements of a very specific type. Those who are in the organizational structure, or the agreement map. When you realize this subtlety, it all starts and makes sense.

Adaptation to the context

I recall that the organizational structure is constantly evolving. I see the adapt mode and O2 Meta-Agreements like ACGT nucleotides, that is, a genetic alphabet that allows the organization to combine and test its DNA, written in the form of agreements (roles, circles and restrictions). Instead of treating people like cogs in a machine, at O2 we take advantage of each person's potential as a powerful sensor. And this allows the organization to prosper like no other "machine".

Download the reference cards to assist in facilitating Adapt mode

Originally written by Davi Gabriel da Silva and published ON HERE