Section 8 of 16
In Progress

Roles and Circles

Ravi Resck 2 de December de 2021

First of all, let's define what we mean by organizational structure. For us, this term refers to how work and authority are divided in an organization. Areas, departments, positions, organization charts and responsibilities are elements often used to represent it. In O2, in particular, the structure is composed ofroles, circles and restrictions. We will only talk about the first two in this post.

The way in which the organizational structure is created and maintained in a traditional organization is completely dysfunctional. Here we list the main problems:

Predictive and abrupt approach. In an attempt to predict the future and prepare for it, many organizations create detailed, long-term strategic plans. Such plans generally involve changes to the organization chart and the current structure to accommodate the new desires of the presidency. It is common for this to be done in long cycles (annual, for example) and abruptly. Obviously, these major reorganizations are not pleasant at all. The stress and uncertainties involved in the change cause a decline in overall productivity. Anyone who has worked in any medium-large company knows what I'm talking about. I myself have stopped putting energy into projects in these turbulent times, simply because I knew they could become obsolete after the change.

Top-down and ineffective. Who does strategic planning in a traditional organization? Usually directors and managers, who are positions that have a very broad view of the system. However, despite being broad, this view is also very shallow. From the perspective of those on the edge (serving the customer, for example) many of these decisions do not make any sense. However, organizational structure is generally the business of the bosses alone. The result of this is that the system changes according to the presidency's wishes rather than from the real problems perceived by those on the front lines.

How O2 treats the organizational structure

In O2, the organizational structure is mainly composed of roles and circles. These elements constantly evolve throughadapt mode, which is practiced by all groups in an organic organization.

Any and all changes in the structure start from some tension felt by someone. Tensions are gaps between the current and the desired reality. That is, any observable problem and opportunity falls into this category. When I feel tension, I can propose a small change in the existing roles and circles. For example:

If we lose our blog, the business will be ruined. And today nobody backs up the site ...  

This is a tension felt by theContent Producer. The following proposal could be made to address it:

I propose to add the responsibility ofBack up your site regularlyin the paperWebsite Manager.

Small changes like these are made all the time. As a result, the organization adapts quickly to the environment.

Now let's understand in more detail the building blocks of the organizational structure in O2.


Paper is the most basic element of the structure. It consists of 3 fields in addition to the name:purpose, responsibilitiesandartifacts. To understand it, let's start from the following example:

Paper: Content Producer

Purpose:The best content about the future of work on our blog.


  • Produce content for the Target Teal blog
  • Produce videos for Target Teal's YouTube channel
  • Add service offers to posts according to @Marketing Wizard


  • Blog posts

THEpurposedefines what the paper seeks and why it exists. It also gives autonomy to those who energize to do anything (with the exception of affecting artifacts and violating restrictions) necessary to express the purpose. In the paperContent Producer, I could do many things beyond what is specified in the responsibilities. If creating a podcast about the future of work helps me achieve the purpose, great! You don't have to be in charge.

Atresponsibilitiesare the minimum expectations on the role. Although I can create a podcast (likeContent Producer), TheMarketing Wizardyou cannot demand or expect me to do that. If this is important to him, it is necessary to add a new responsibility regarding this expected activity. Responsibilities are important to make expectations all explicit.

despiteProduce videos for the Youtube channelbe registered as a liability of theContent Producer, this does not create exclusivity. THEMarketing Wizardhe could also produce a video, if for some reason it was useful for his role. In O2, what creates exclusivity are theartifacts. They denote a resource, process or "thing" that a particular role controls exclusively. WhileMarketing Wizard, I need to ask permission for theContent Producerto make any changes inBlog Posts, given that this is his domain.

O2 roles are important for creating individual accountability. We know that a focus on shared responsibility andgroup decisionsgenerates a lot ofshadowsanddysfunctions.

In O2, collaboration emerges from the rapid interaction between roles and attention to agreements on power and authority.


Roles are great, but they are not enough to compose an organizational structure with more than 10 people. There comes a time when it is necessary to create subdivisions. In addition, meetings with many participants become very unproductive.

In O2, thecirclesolves this problem. The circle is a role that has the additional ability to break into smaller roles. Consequently, a circle can be used to group different roles, but which have a similar purpose and responsibilities.

Circles are not represented by all the people who play roles within them. Instead, special bonding papers, called Elos, do this. In O2 there are two of them: The External Link and the Internal Link. We will talk more about them in an upcoming text. For now, consider that only 2 people represent a circle, even if it has 15 members.

The organizational structure at O2 is formed by different circles and roles, one within the other. We call thisnested circles. In the broadest scope, we always have a large circle that represents the organization as a whole. See the structure of Target Teal, which contains only a circle:Círculo geral da Target Teal

The green and yellow marbles are paper.

Let's look at an example of how circles can be used. Consider that Target Teal now has 20 members and that we are putting a lot of energy into producing content and other materials. Can someone then propose inadapt modeof the general circle meeting the expansion of the Content Producer role in an inner circle:

Circle: Contents & Materials

Purpose: The best content and materials for workshops on the Future of Work


  • Produce content for the blog
  • Produce videos
  • Develop and diagram ebooks
  • Add service offers to posts according to @Marketing Wizard


  • Blog Posts
  • Youtube channel

Note that the description of the circle has exactly the same structure as the role: purpose, responsibilities and artifacts. After the circle is created, so are other roles within it. Inside ofContents & Materialswe could have the following roles:

  • Blog Editor
  • Video Maker
  • Ebooker
  • Opportunity Mapper
  • SEO Master
  • Material Designer for Workshops

These roles would also have purposes, responsibilities and perhaps artifacts. They would be performed by different people. But in the outer circle we would have only 2 people representing the inner circle, as if they played the "role"Contents & Materials. Therefore:

For the outer circle, your inner circles are papers.

Therefore, O2 has a fractal structure of circles.

Roles are not people and circles are not teams

One of the big differences between O2 and a traditional structure is the decoupling between the person who does the job and the role he or she plays. At theadapt modeof O2 we speak only of roles and structure. We don't mention people. The changes in the structure are made according to perceived tensions and related to the general purpose of the company. We do not want to change the structure to meet individual needs, as this would generate a self-centered organization.

We believe that organizations should express a purpose and serve something that is outside. Of course, the environment must be nice and people capable of expressing themselves fully. That’s why O2 also has thecaring way. But that is another story! We will also talk more about this mode in a future text.

Going back to the roles ... A person can play different roles in different circles within O2. Soon this feeling that “the role is mine” ends up being diluted.

The same goes for the circle. They are just clusters of papers with a similar purpose. We also do not insist on strengthening the identity of groups, creating team building activities or forcing everyone to love each other. We believe that people should be free to express themselves and build relationships with colleagues, or not ...

At O2 there is only one big team: the organization.

Evolutionary Design

The organizational structure of O2 (roles and circles) constantly evolves throughadapt modethat each circle develops. This makes the organization able to respond to the environment and adapt.

Obviously, at O2 there is no deliberate strategic planning that will change the structure abruptly and top-down. This is not part of the vocabulary. Instead, small daily tensions shape the papers and circles. This is a concept calledevolutionary design, which is very close to theevolution of species.

Originally written by Davi Gabriel da Silva and publishedON HERE