Section 11 of 16
In Progress

Circle Constraints

Ravi Resck 30 de July de 2021

Self-management with the Organic Organization starts to be fun when we start thinking about more sophisticated and creative mechanisms to distribute authority. This generally takes the form of restrictions of circle, an element of the organizational structure that we still do not explore much in our texts.

This is an advanced reading for those who already practice O2. If you still don't know the general operation of the method, we recommend read more about or participation in our courses intensive and / or online.


Searching for the concept of restrictions, we find the following sentence in Meta-Agreements of O2:

2.5 Restrictions

“Restrictions” are limitations of authority that apply to all Roles in a Circle. Restrictions are made up of a name and a description.

Just like a paper or an inner circle, a constraint is created inside the circle using Adapt. However, its function is quite different. Instead of setting performance expectations, as we do with responsibilities, restrictions limit participants in a circle in their actions.


To go deeper, I bring the context of a fictional circle structure to use as an example. Imagine the following organization:

Estrutura Mangia Operações

In it we find some circles, such as Operations, which appears detailed with their roles. We also have Development and Marketing, two other “sister” circles. Any of these circles can have several restrictions defined.

Now imagine that within the Operations circle, you, as the Stockholder and as responsible for organizing the stock, start to worry about the fact that Dr. Bacteria constantly messes up the ordering of products on the shelf. Dr. Bacteria, when checking the expiration date of products, often changes the layout and organization of canned goods. To make matters worse, the basketmaker also does this when assembling the order baskets.

One way to deal with this tension of yours as a Stockman is to define the Stock Layout artifact on your paper, creating an exclusivity. But this may create other tensions for Dr. Bacteria and Basket Wrench, as they also need to handle the stock on occasion. You are not always available at the company office, which would make it difficult for them to ask you for permission all the time.

In this situation, a restriction could save you. Through a process, you could limit access to inventory, but without creating an artifact. Then you decide to go to the circle meeting and propose the following change.

Add Restriction: Stock Organization

After handling the products in the stock, you must re-organize them back according to the layout defined by @Estoquista. If you come across a stock out of layout, you should notify @Estoquista before making any changes.

With this restriction in the defined circle, both Dr. Bactéria and Cesteiro still have authority to access and manipulate the stock, as long as they follow the conditions established in the restriction. Magical, isn't it? It is a more sophisticated agreement that allows you to maintain an organization, but without centralizing an artifact on paper.

Constraints can be useful in a variety of situations because of their flexibility. But that same quality also brings some dangers, so they tend to be misused. Below we will see some counterexamples of restrictions.


Restrictions are to restrict the roles of a circle, not to control people's behavior. So never define a constraint like this:

Delays: No one will be able to be late for the circle meeting.

Restrictions are agreed by a circle through adapting, so it is generally not effective to try to push a rule that seeks to punish people or try to control them. If there is a problem with confidence, better to use caring way for this. Restrictions are only effective if members of the circle see meaning in them and seek to respect them. Also, saying that no one should be late usually doesn't make people arrive on time. :P

Another common failure to understand restrictions is to try to use them to define an expectation. Consider the following constraint:

Scale: Everyone must follow the scale defined by @Escalador.

Realize that the constraint does not have a condition, but seeks to define that someone does something on a recurring basis. In this case a responsibility can be much more effective. You can create a role with the responsibility to “Follow the scale defined by @Escalador” and invite everyone in a circle to energize this role.

Another real example

At Target Teal, the distribution of clients among consultants takes place according to a restriction defined in our structure. Putting this as the artifact of a paper would not suit us, because if it were judged by one person, it would certainly be filled with bias. As we are all consultants (and therefore interested in being “owners” of customers), we opted for a distributed process. This restriction has already undergone numerous changes and has been growing as new tensions have emerged. As of the writing of this text, it looks like this:

Restriction: Customer Assignment

Any potential customer from:

  1. public emails from Target Teal;
  2. another online channel where the customer is looking for Target Teal as an organization (without looking for a specific consultant), or;
  3. contacting multiple partners at the same time

... will be considered “customer without owner”. As soon as a partner identifies an unowned customer, he must contact all partners through a special channel called: tt-unowned-clients , provide all the information he has about the customer and ask if anyone is interested in becoming the Customer Owner. After everyone has responded or a 24-hour deadline has been reached, one of three situations will be possible:

  • Only one partner is interested, so he becomes the Client Owner of that customer.
  • No partner is interested or available, the person who first posted on the channel talking about the client must return to the client and tell him that, at this point, no one is available to carry out new projects. It is advisable for him to refer the client to someone or some company on the extended network.
  • More than one partner is interested and they have not reached an agreement on ownership or shared ownership of the client. The Client Owner is chosen by a lottery.

If a partner is contacted personally by a potential customer and he is not sure if he is looking for Target Teal (therefore, an ownerless customer) or just his services (ownerless customer), he should ask a version of the following question:

"Do you make a point of being served by me specifically or can some other Target Teal partner serve you?"

If the answer is something like: "Yes, my preference is to be served by you", the client will be considered to belong to the partner. Otherwise, the customer is ownerless and will go through the process described above in this restriction.

If, for any reason, a Customer Owner does not want or cannot continue to be a specific owner, he can pass the customer on to any partner, using his own discretion and even negotiating financial returns.

Two important principles must be observed by partners who discuss customer ownership: “Serve customers in the best possible way and share job opportunities with all partners”.

Restrictions and Artifacts

The restrictions go hand in hand with the artifacts. This is because a circle cannot restrict something that it does not control. Imagine, if in that structure that we presented before, the Development circle tried to create a constraint on top of the stock. This would not be allowed by Meta-Agreements, because the Development circle has no authority to do so. This restriction would be in violation of the “Inventory Layout” artifact, which is defined in the Operations circle. For this change to be allowed, Development would first have to gain control of the stock through the corresponding artifact in its definition.

Let's imagine another scenario in which the Inventory Layout is not defined in any circle as an artifact. In this case, it is as if the artifact were from the general circle and the entire organization could access it. With this configuration, even if Operations defined a restriction internally in its adapt mode, this rule would only apply to the roles within Operations. A constraint only applies to the circle in which it is defined and its internal circles. To make it valid for the entire organization, it could be defined in the general circle (the broadest in the structure).

This gives a great deal of power to the wider circles to define processes, outlines or how some of the organization's resources can be used. Even so, at O2 we guarantee a greater representation of internal circles through the concept of double bonding (external link and elected internal link), thus avoiding abuses of authority.

Originally written by Davi Gabriel da Silva and published ON HERE