Going Horizontal, Read for You

Author: Denis Cristol
Translation: Oscar Chica
Originally published in MagRH, No 5 (March 2019)


Samantha Slade is a Quebec specialist in learning and self-management. She puts her talent at the service of the great causes of human development, about which she is passionate. Her book Going Horizontal is a compendium of collective intelligence practices taken from the management of Percolab, the company she created and developed in several countries.

Samantha starts from a simple observation. While we know how to lead our private lives, we are completely disempowered in our professional environments. The intention behind Going Horizontal is to initiate a movement towards greater engagement regardless of one’s place in the organization, starting with small steps, one after another. It is less about waiting for a hierarchy to solve all the problems than about thinking and acting horizontally while relying on one’s own talent and the talents of others.

For Samantha Slade, the horizontal is different from the flat, which erases all asperities. In a horizontal company, everyone finds their place. The practices that are proposed in this book help us to progress in a world where the hierarchical way of doing things is more and more obsolete.


Samantha Slade. Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.

Methodologies and tools:

3 Strategies to Change your Workplace Culture by Changing Your Meetings

Author: Samantha Slade
Originally published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers


Meetings are an organization’s cultural backbone. How you run your meetings says more than you might think about how your organization functions. The bottom line is that meetings are an effective barometer for gauging how well your organization is doing in terms of productivity, innovation, and teamwork. If you dream of an engaged organization where people show up with their full creativity and potential and really share responsibility, meetings are an easy, low-risk place to grow this dream.

Most people find meetings stressful or boring and drag themselves to them. Hence, there is ample evidence to suggest people are ready for something new. When organizations are able to correct bad habits that stymie creativity, meetings become an ideal leverage point for transforming entrenched habits and beliefs in your culture.

Here are three simple meeting steps that invite everyone at the meeting to show up differently and collaboratively. With them, we tap into our collective agency and creativity. It’s a practice, which means you won’t get there by talking about it; you need to do it, reflect on how it went, and do it again. That’s how we change habits. We cannot expect it to be perfect on the first attempt.


1. Identify purpose and time

Ensure that your group agrees on the purpose and time of the meeting, because people have different assumptions, and this can create confusion and frustration. For example, a 60-minute meeting that focuses on clarifying the next steps of a project will be different from a 90-minute meeting that aims to find ways to improve relationships with the project partners. If you find yourself in a meeting where purpose and time are unclear, you can let the organizers know what your assumption is.


2. Co-create the agenda wisely on the spot

No single person can really know all that should be addressed at a meeting, nor should one person have to hold that on their own. Redistributing the responsibility of setting agenda items can be done by emphasizing the importance of initiative. The principle goes: “If there is something you see that is important to address, then write it on the agenda yourself and facilitate your agenda point.”

Identify to the group how much of the collective time and attention you want for your agenda item. Using the four agenda categories below shapes what will happen at each point and can boost intentional consciousness among the group:

  • Announcements (when you just want people to listen to you);
  • Feedback (when you want to listen to others);
  • Co-creation (when you want to work with your colleagues on something);
  • Proposals + decisions (when you want a collective decision on something).

Here’s an example of what a co-created agenda might look like (Bonus tip: Using a web-based collaborative tool, such as Google Docs or Asana, can make editable, live agendas a breeze to co-create):


Purpose of the meeting: the next steps for our project (60 min total)

Category Person Topic
Information/announcements Hana


Schedule update

Partner relations

Feedback/consult Paul


Results from interviews

Presenting our new service

Co-create / work together Hafid Ideas for next consultation activity
Proposal / decision making Maria Hire students?


Remember there is no rule that everyone needs to be in conversation all the time. You can be creative in how you run your agenda point. You can invite people to think silently for a minute before a go around or to position themselves in the room to express where they stand on a question. It’s up to you.


3. Run the meeting with roles

As an organization, make it a priority to designate meeting roles. Agree on who will be the meeting host, the time holder, and the note taker. It’s also critical to rotate these roles regularly if you want to develop participatory leadership. Setting an expectation around this flexibility can help streamline how roles are assigned. For example, there can be the expectation that everyone has a go at a role before anyone does it a second time or that roles rotate alphabetically by last name.

The meeting host uses the natural connections between points and the group energy to establish the order of the points. The time host supports the facilitator of each point to keep to the time they attributed to themselves, with kindness and care. The notetaker documents the essential items: points of clarity, proposals that take form, decisions made, etc.


Building a horizontal culture

These three strategies, used together, are geared toward a collaborative and conscious way of working. Running meetings consciously builds a horizontal workplace culture because team members feel empowered, heard, and valued for their specific contributions and reach larger, collective goals.

A group takes on shared responsibility for what is addressed, how it is addressed, and the time management. Meetings become enlivening, democratic, co-creative spaces. This is the opposite of conventional meeting culture, which revolves around one or two people.

It is not a free for all. It’s the opposite, in fact. Clear structuring elements allow self-organization to take place efficiently.


Building team trust

Really, though, this is all about learning to trust again. Trust your colleagues to care about things and put them on the agenda, trust people to be able to share the time, and trust that the right things for today are addressed. It’s truly liberating.

Once you get the hang of this in meetings, you’ll find it spilling over into other areas of work. You’ll be stepping forward for what you care about while trusting others to step forward with what they see and care about. You’ll be more apt to give space to your colleagues to self-organize. You’ll be able to tap into the diversity that surrounds you better. All of this brings life back into the workplace and puts flexibility and flow into the cultural backbone. In fact, reconnecting with our capacity to trust each other is part of our collective journey to reconnect with our humanity. Organizations desperately need this now, and so does the world.


Methodologies and tools:

I don’t work, I practice

The more I work and live my life, the more I have the strong feeling that everything I’m doing with others – clients, friends or family – is a way to practice my humanity and deepen my relationship with all of these people and the world.

What do I mean by practice? Practice for me it refers to what Plato said about the term – it is about acting concretely both in a technical and ethical dimension. In this sense, I see practice as acting to develop myself as a human being at every moment of my life. It means not treating work or an activity as something fundamentally external. It is internal. And so, not a burden but a blessing, an opportunity to grow.

Practicing humanity and deepening my relationships requires good conversations. And a good conversation is a space where I can truly be myself; where I can express who I am, how I feel (good or not). It’s a space where I may speak my mind, without judgment; a space where creativity is valued; where decisions are taken together; where we are all responsible for the well being of the group and a good production.

Practice in (and out of) action

I remember a meeting with some people in my city, two years ago. We were there, volunteers to organize a large citizen consultation about democracy. I really tried to catch up with the way the conversation was held. A young guy, very excited by the purpose, was leading us at such a rhythm, it was almost impossible to understand everything. I called for something slower, allowing everybody to be able to express their view and take common decisions. I proposed a talking piece. Nobody complained. After maybe 10 minutes (no more) the young guy decided that it wasn’t efficient for the group. I never came back and the consultation was never launched.

A very opposite experience, in 2011, I was with a group of 10 people (coming from Turkey, Germany, Belgium, France…) for a workshop with Iida Shigemi, a Buto dancer and old Japanese body techniques practitioner. We all were waiting for Iida’s leadership, instruction and learning. Every day, he lead us to the river bank, and that’s all! He was there, lying on the sand, letting us do whatever we wanted to. We spent these 6 days, together, slowly, “doing nothing”, mostly silently. Eventually, still silently, we co-created a sculpture with wood and stones found there; or rather a sculpture emerged. The energy emerging with the creation woke up Iida, and he joined us. We spent 6 days weaving bonds, allowing us to do something together. The art of living together doesn’t always need to end with a co-creation, but time is key. Rather, the aim is to be able to make progress having not so easy conversations; to go on anyway, with an open heart, trusting in our collective capacity to find suitable solutions. To grow up together, to be wiser together. A practice, indeed!

This is mainly what I try to transmit in my work. Almost by definition, working places are intentional meeting spaces where, unfortunately too often, people try to build small private territories to protect themselves from others. They hope to find a comfort they don’t have with their colleagues.

Many people are in this extreme paradox: the need to cohabit in offices without any desire to do so, eight hours a day! Do they find happiness trying to isolate themselves? I don’t think so. But they don’t know how to get out of this trap. They ask or are asked to join the other team, the other office, hoping for something better and reproducing, again and again, the same pattern…
Employees in companies are in the same situation. The purpose of their daily work disappears because they don’t have a global vision that has been built together. They work in a department sometimes without even knowing what their colleagues are doing.

I have been an employee, in various structures, from a large company to a small NGO… I remember how difficult it was to maintain the purpose of my daily work. How rarely I was involved to build a shared vision, to understand why I was there. How I tried to escape, as much as possible, what a burden it was…Impossible for me to imagine creating my own company!
Then, I was an independent for almost 15 years with the burden of loneliness…

Discovering new practices

So, how did I came to create Percolab in France? First, I explored collaboration with Samantha Slade (co-founder of Percolab in Québec), then I discovered the Commons Movement which gave me a larger purpose than my own sustainability; then the Art of Hosting community helped me to deeply believe in collective intelligence. I dove into this Art like a fish discovering all of a sudden that there is an ocean – not only a bowl – to swim my life in. Last but not least, I enjoyed the happiness and responsibility of self-organization within the Percolab team.
Today, the combination of these 3 sets of practices (Commoning, Art of Hosting and self-organisation) functions like 3 pillars on which I rely to work and live. And this is what I give to my clients.

I’m called in to “change the management for more innovation”, to “get out of silos and work more transversely”, “to build a common vision” or “an action plan”, to “help take collective decisions”, to “transform our organizational model”.
In other words, to renew the art to be, work and live together.
Interestingly, it’s often named “a new way of working”. Is it new, really? Our humanity is built on collaboration, we just forgot!
I notice that it’s more and more frequently called ‘to work better together’ and ‘(re)discover the power of co-creation’.

What would be possible if work was a place of daily practice? During a writing retreat I attended last summer, a question was raised: “What trace do you want to leave in the world?” My answer could be this: give to others the inner feeling and strength to transform the way they work as a practice for life.

Curious? Interested by this approach?
Why not join us to experiment during our next Going Horizontal training in France in October? Contact me! nadine (at) percolab dot com



Methodologies and tools:

Le kata appréciatif : qu’est-ce que c’est?

Dans votre organisation, les difficultés sont-elles perçues comme des problèmes ou comme des opportunités? Les gens sentent-ils qu’ils ont droit à l’erreur ou vivent-ils dans la peur d’essayer de nouvelles choses? Bref, dans votre culture organisationnelle, cherchez-vous avant tout à assurer le fonctionnement d’un système ou à permettre aux gens d’être créatifs et de donner le meilleur d’eux-mêmes?

Souvent, quand quelque chose va mal dans une organisation, nous sommes portés à poser des questions telles que :

  • Quels problèmes avons-nous?
  • Qu’est-ce qui ne fonctionne pas?
  • Quelles pertes avons-nous subies?
  • Quelles données possédons-nous concernant le problème?
  • Qui est à la source du goulot d’étranglement?

Les questions de ce genre mettent l’emphase sur le négatif et dénotent une tendance à chercher des problèmes, voire même à chercher des coupables. Or, quand on cherche des problèmes ou des coupables, on finit toujours par en trouver! Cette approche tend à créer une culture du blâme, est peu génératrice d’énergie et est ultimement démobilisatrice.

Si on abordait les difficultés non pas comme des problèmes, mais plutôt comme des opportunités d’apprendre et de valoriser les forces qui existent au sein de notre organisation? Heureusement, il existe des approches plus positives que celle que nous venons de décrire?

L’approche du Toyota kata  

Le Toyota kata, tel que formulé par Mike Rother, est une approche d’amélioration continue qui est axée sur la résolution de problème et qui favorise l’émergence d’une culture d’apprentissage. Avec cette approche, Mike Rother propose de poser des questions différentes de celles présentées plus haut, telles que :

  • Quelle est la condition cible?
  • Quelle est la condition actuelle?
  • Quels sont les obstacles?
  • Quelle est la prochaine étape?
  • Quand pouvons-nous voir les résultats?

De ces questions découlent quatre routines d’amélioration :

  1. Comprendre le défi;
  2. Saisir la condition actuelle;
  3. Établir la prochaine condition cible;
  4. Expérimenter dans la direction de la condition cible.

L’approche du Toyota Kata met l’emphase sur la recherche de solutions plutôt que sur la recherche de problèmes et permet aux gens de travailler en faisant des essais et des erreurs. Ce droit à l’erreur fait en sorte qu’on évite de créer une culture du blâme.

Cependant, il peut arriver qu’une emphase trop grande sur la recherche de solutions nous fasse perdre de vue le vécu humain. Nous avons observé que dans les organisations où existe une forte exigence de performance et de rendement, l’approche du Toyota Kata tend à exacerber cette exigence et à générer des pressions supplémentaires sur les gens, surtout s’il n’existe pas une solide culture appréciative.

L’approche enquête appréciative

L’approche enquête appréciative, telle que formulée par David Cooperrider, est issue de la psychologie positive. Elle est axée sur les forces des gens et favorise l’émergence d’une culture appréciative au sein de l’organisation.

Les 6 prémisses de cette approche sont :

  1. Dans chaque organisation, quelque chose fonctionne bien;
  2. Ce sur quoi nous portons notre attention devient notre réalité;
  3. On affronte l’avenir avec plus de confiance si on apporte avec nous un fragment de notre passé;
  4. Ce qu’on apporte dans l’avenir doit correspondre à ce qu’il y a de meilleur chez chacun;
  5. Il importe de valoriser les différences;
  6. Le langage crée la réalité.

Cette approche nous mène donc à aborder les difficultés par le biais de questions appréciatives telles que :

  • Qu’est-ce qu’on veut atteindre?
  • À quel moment performons-nous le mieux?
  • Qu’est-ce qui nous permettrait de progresser?
  • Qui nous inspire?
  • Que peut-on apprendre de l’autre?

Les questions de ce genre permettent aux gens de trouver leur direction et de découvrir les forces et ressources qui les aideront à surmonter les obstacles et à atteindre leurs objectifs. Ceci permet d’aborder les difficultés non pas comme des problèmes, mais plutôt comme des opportunités de mieux comprendre et d’être plus créatif et innovateur.

Et si on jumelait les deux approches?

C’est ici qu’intervient le kata appréciatif, qui est une fusion du Toyota Kata et de l’approche enquête appréciative. En unissant ces deux approches, on peut générer de la vitalité et une plus grande efficacité au sein de l’organisation.

Le kata appréciatif consiste à superposer des questions appréciatives sur les quatre routines d’amélioration du Toyota Kata.

  1. La routine « comprendre le défi » se pose maintenant comme la définition de notre futur désiré. Exemples de questions appréciatives : Quels sont nos meilleurs espoirs? Quelle serait la situation idéale?
  2. La routine « saisir la condition actuelle » se pose maintenant comme une phase de découverte qui permet de mieux analyser d’où on part. Exemples de questions appréciatives : Quels ont été nos bons coups? Quelles sont nos forces? Qui sont nos alliés?
  3. La routine « établir la prochaine condition cible » sert maintenant à définir le plus petit pas possible (PPPP) et correspond à la phase déploiement, c’est-à-dire l’action la plus immédiatement accessible qui nous mettra en mouvement le plus rapidement possible tout en générant immédiatement du succès. Exemples de questions appréciatives : Quelle est la chose la plus facile à faire? Qu’est-ce qui serait le premier signe de succès?
  4. La routine « expérimenter dans la direction de la condition cible » se pose maintenant comme le design ou terrain de jeu à l’intérieur duquel nous pourrons expérimenter, saisir de nouvelles opportunités, nous développer et acquérir de nouvelles compétences. Exemples de questions appréciatives : Quelles sont nos opportunités d’amélioration? Sur quoi voulons-nous expérimenter?

L’approche traditionnelle, avec sa vision plutôt technique, voire pessimiste, met l’emphase sur les problèmes, les obstacles et les outils qui doivent servir à les surmonter. Elle peut favoriser l’émergence d’une culture du blâme qui est démobilisatrice. Par contraste, le kata appréciatif, avec sa vision plus humaine et optimiste, met plutôt l’emphase sur les forces des gens, leur enthousiasme et la richesse de leurs relations. Il favorise l’émergence d’une culture appréciative qui permet aux gens de créer du sens, de développer leur autonomie et de donner librement le meilleur d’eux-mêmes.

Pour en savoir plus sur les quatre routines du kata appréciatif : « Le kata appréciatif pour progresser »



Methodologies and tools:

Pourquoi vous devriez (re)commencer à dessiner (3/3)

Voir les deux épisodes précédents “Partie 1 : renouer avec le dessin” et “Partie 2 : Retrouver des pouvoirs oubliés”

Partie 3 : Décupler sa capacité à penser

Vous êtes prêt·e·s à vous saisir du crayon pour libérer les images tapies dans votre mental ? Vous sentez que vous allez prendre plaisir et que ce n’est pas le résultat qui compte mais bien le processus ? C’est parti !

Quelques conseils pour commencer

  1. Cheminer par étapes, à son rythme, en s’axant sur la simplicité.
  2. Se  concentrer sur ce que l’on sait faire, puis s’en inspirer pour l’améliorer .
  3. Se laisser le temps de progresser au fur et à mesure de la pratique.
  4. S’inspirer, recopier, reproduire (voir les mines d’or dont regorge Internet comme The Revision Guide, les albums Pinterest ou encore des livres sur la facilitation graphique)
  5. Observer autour de soi comment sont fait les objets, les personnes, les décors, de quelles lignes et formes de bases ils sont composés et les reproduire simplement
  6. Se saisir des occasions de dessiner : en réunion, en conférence, un livre ou des contenus vidéos internet qui nous intéressent
  7. Sollicitez des avis sur ce qu’évoque vos dessins pour apprendre le pouvoir du visuel, cadrer les retours demandés pour éviter de tomber dans le jugement.

En bref, une image qui vient en tête ? Un crayon, un dessin ! Et se laisser le temps de l’essai, s’accorder de la bienveillance, se concentrer sur l’aspect positif de nos réalisations.

Pour terminer, je souhaiterais partager avec vous quelques outils simples et efficaces. Que ce soit dans mes activités de formatrice, de facilitatrice graphique ou d’accompagnement de projets, je dois parfois traiter des situations complexes où la solution est difficile à trouver. Voici donc mes trois outils fétiches que j’utilise régulièrement et qui m’ont plusieurs fois sauvé.

Image : liste des envies réalisée par des cadres du Ministère de la Transition Ecologique lors de la formation “La facilitation graphique pour libérer la créativité individuelle et collective” – Janvier 2019


1. Le dessin libre

Oui, mon premier outil est le fait de dessiner librement et sans réfléchir sur un temps donné. Je confie à mon cerveau droit la totale responsabilité de ce qui va arriver et je me fais plaisir. Soit je me donne un temps avec un chronomètre et je laisse filer les pensées  tant que le “bip” n’a pas retenti, soit je dessine jusqu’à ce que j’estime être arrivé à un résultat intéressant ou que je sens que j’ai épuisé mes ressources créatives du moment. Je pourrais alors y revenir plus tard. Puis, j’analyse ce que j’ai créé, je réfléchis à ce que cela m’apprend et, en me basant sur mes ressentis, je décide de la piste à explorer pour avancer.

Ce travail peut se faire sans indication pour réaliser une purge d’idées ou un déblocage de la pensée, ou être orienté avec une question sur un sujet donné pour faire émerger des notions nouvelles.

Image : production libre d’une participante à une formation Percolab sur la pensée visuelle et la facilitation graphique autour de la question “Qu’est-ce que je suis en train d’apprendre” – Octobre 2018


exemple crazy 8

2. Le crazy 8 

Le principe du Crazy 8 est simple. Vous vous saisissez d’une feuille, A3 de préférence, vous la délimiter en 8 cases, et vous avez 8 minutes pour les remplir avec un dessin différent à chaque fois. Il existe plusieurs variantes. Personnellement, j’utilise celle qui consiste à prendre 1 minute par case et je propose au bout de la troisième case de réaliser des combinaisons, des explorations, des variantes, d’ajouter des personnages… Ces indications m’aident à stimuler ma créativité mais elles ne sont jamais obligatoires. Cet outil peut être assez douloureux quand nos deux hémisphères se bagarrent entre “DESSINE !” (cerveau droit) “MAIS QUOI ?” (cerveau gauche) Deux astuces : demander à un ami de tenir le chronomètre pour se plonger entièrement dans le visuel et continuer l’exercice (crazy 16) si l’on sent que l’on n’est pas allé assez loin. Ensuite, j’observe ma production et je fais confiance à mon cerveau droit pour considérer que les idées qui ont émergé sont les bonnes idées qui devaient émerger. Je pars du principe que ce que j’ai sous les yeux est un matériau riche en apprentissages et en pistes d’avancement, quel qu’il soit.

Astuces : il est possible de faire cet exercice debout et au mur pour libérer davantage notre pensée visuelle.

Image : Crazy 8 réalisé par un participant lors d’une formation Percolab sur la pensée visuelle et la facilitation graphique – Mars 2019

3. La carte mentale

Régulièrement, pour des missions, j’ai besoin de faire un premier traitement d’un grand nombre d’informations. J’utilise alors l’outil le plus rapide du visuel pour organiser de manière logique les informations, la carte mentale. Je commence par placer le titre au milieu, dans une forme agréable, comme un nuage, une bannière ou une police adaptée, je fais partir du centre les branches principales des catégories des informations qui viennent, puis en plaçant en sous-branches les informations détaillées. Si possible, pour chaque information, que ce soit une branche de catégorie ou une sous-branche de détail, je réalise un pictogramme et je résume l’information en quelques mots. Sans pression, en me faisant plaisir, je réalise ainsi mes cartes comme support à ma réflexion. Parfois, je reprends une carte en retravaillant la structure et l’esthétique si je veux un résultat attractif à utiliser par la suite. Quand je veux pousser plus loin ma réflexion et laisser libre court à ma créativité, je peux reprendre les informations structurées de la carte mentale pour réaliser un tableau synthétique de mes idées façon sketchnote.

Image : Carte mentale pour révéler les bénéfices et apports immédiats de la formation “La Pensée visuelle et la facilitation graphique au service des projets” Juillet 2019

Cela vous a plu ? Vous en voulez plus ? Lisez le témoignage d’une participante à l’une de nos formations et vous serez définitivement convaincu-e ! Facilite-toi toi-même graphiquement.

Et pour vous former avec sens, bienveillance et créativité, découvrez nos formations dédiées les 11-12 juillet à Toulouse, puis les 7-8 novembre à Montpellier et les 14-15 novembre à Toulouse (toutes les informations sur notre page formation).

Le crayon est à vous !

Fanny Monod-Mitrev – fanny@percolab.com


Quelques liens pour s’entraîner en douceur :





Methodologies and tools:

The fulfillment of basic human needs in self-managed organizations

#sociocracy #self-management #motivation #futureofwork #systemchange

When I started to learn and use sociocracy in 2010, I looked things up in the academic literature; being a college teacher and having done research before, it’s a place I go regularly to find things out. Just to say, I found next to nothing. So, there is a lot of work to do to bridge the gap between self-management models and organizational science. But, there was an obvious link that stood out of my teachings of human motivation and this is what I want to share with you.

My objective is to outline a mindset that we should nurture to make our organizations and people thrive. It is a mindset about why self-management is the future of work and of social organization. Self-management is not another fad for improving efficiency, it is about a human-centered future.

I want to build a bridge between self-management and Self-Determination Theory in psychology. After a brief overview of the theory, my goal is to show how specific self-management practices are key in nurturing people’s fundamental psychological needs. I hope this understanding will help us focus on the important organizational factors to engage people and foster their performance, creativity, and well-being.

Self-determination theory

Self-determination theory is a major theory of human motivation. It has been developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and refined by numerous scholars over the last 40 years. Last year, Deci and Ryan published a book summarizing the theory and its numerous applications in education, parenting, healthcare, sport, work, etc. You also find lots of information on the self-determination website.

SDT has its roots in humanistic psychology and many of its ideas are similar to previous theories. What distinguishes SDT is its strong empirical base so that its principles are well documented by numerous scientific studies. We are way ahead from Maslow’s hierarchy or pyramid of needs.

This humanistic foundation means that SDT is “centrally concerned with the social conditions that facilitate or hinder human flourishing” which is based on “inherent human capacities for psychological growth, engagement and wellness”. And those capacities are based on the satisfaction of feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness.

As humans and other organisms have certain biological needs, we also have psychological needs. We need to feel we’re good at something, we need to feel in control of our lives, and we need to feel we belong. SDT’s approach differs from other theories about psychological needs, because it posits a core set of basic universal needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Similarly to biological needs, humans share a core set of universal psychological needs.

Like biological needs will be fulfilled by environmental resources such as water and food, basic psychological needs are fulfilled by a nurturing social environment that allows people to grow and actualize their potentials. SDT is as much a theory of human intrinsic needs than a theory of the social context nurturing those needs.

The relationship between the person and the environment is reciprocal and dynamic.

Both are constantly transforming each other, either toward synthesis or toward greater person-environment conflict. This dynamic between a person’s needs and its environment applies to many life’s domains including work; work can be a place of of great satisfaction when it is nurturing our needs but it can also be a misery when we are controlled, watched and isolated.

Before looking into how specific work patterns interact with the basic psychological needs, let’s identify the general social conditions nurturing the needs.

  1. Feelings of autonomy are produced by opportunities for self-direction, listening to one’s perspective, and psychological safety. Rather than control, ignorance, and power over.
  2. Feelings of competence are generated by tackling optimal challenges, neither too easy, nor too hard, by receiving constructive feedback, and by the acceptance of errors.
  3. Third, feelings of relatedness are produced by social interactions and a culture that put people at least at the same level as tasks or organizational needs.

Therefore, various features of the social environment will fulfill psychological needs resulting in many personal outcomes such engagement, growth, health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that  engagement is an outcome and it is a mistake trying to improve engagement in itself. What engages people are sustainable nurturing environments.

Self-management models have multiple ingredients to build an organizational culture that will fulfill the three core psychological needs.

Nurturing practices

What are those ingredients in the form of patterns, practices and behaviors? For this exercise, I created a table including the three basic needs and three levels of practices: individual, team and organizational. The goal here is not to create a precise and exhaustive classification of all practices but to give us some clarity on which patterns are the most important for nurturing the basic psychological needs. I could have used different self-management models for this exercise: Laloux’s synthesis, Holacracy®, Slade’s Going Horizontal or Dignan’s OS canvas. I used the Sociocracy 3.0 (S3) guide because I feel that James, Bernhard and Lily have done a great job in creating a clear set of well circumscribed and accessible patterns.


Individual Level
(S3 patterns)
Team Level
(S3 patterns)

Organization Level
(S3 principles)





Proposal forming





Peer feedback

Development plan




Continuous improvement


Relatedness Agree on values

Those Affected Decide

Double linking



Role selection




Let’s take a look now at some specific patterns.

Individual level

At the individual level, roles give autonomy to people. Not to mention that they have consented to hold roles. Objection is also a pattern in which individual perspectives are taken into account and brought into collective intelligence.

The structure offered by peer feedback and a development plan is completely aligned with SDT theory about the need for competence. Colleagues can provide clear goals, communicate constructive feedback and a space for errors.

At the individual level, many patterns could be placed for the relatedness need. Agreeing on values makes you align your individual values with those of the organization. Although sociocracy allows circles to make decisions for the whole organization in their respective domain, various means should be taken to include those affected by the decision or evaluation. Lastly, double-linking allows deep cooperation with another team that yours.

Team level

Let’s turn to the team level. Of course, consent decision-making being rational, invitational, and accepting, it is a central force in nurturing autonomy. Proposal forming is about inviting into the diversity of perspectives brought by each one in a team. And domains make it clear what you are responsible for.

On the competence side, I believe that agreements (or proposals) and evaluations are a major force in growing a sense of collective efficacy, a belief in your team’s capacity to deliver.

What are the team patterns nurturing the relatedness need? Let’s put the circle with its capacity to create cohesion and safety among the members. Rounds are powerful in establishing equivalence and belonging to the team. And being unanimously selected by your peers for a role is a strong social validation.

Organizational level

We can look through the organizational level with the seven principles put forward by Sociocracy 3.0. Accountability and consent are about the individual’s responsibility to take ownership of the course of the organization, an autonomy-supportive environment. Empiricism, continuous improvement and effectiveness are about getting better at what we do individually and collectively, a competence-supportive environment. And equivalence and transparency are about being fully involved in the organization. You are not being left out in any way by power and secrecy, a relatedness-supportive environment.

Finally, tensions and drivers are crucial patterns to attend to needs at all levels. These are patterns to become aware of our need thwarting.

Self-determination theory as an organizational mindset

My take-home message is to use SDT theory as a mindset that people should develop to make their organizations and its people thrive whatever model you are applying. This mindset is simple: autonomy, competence and relatedness. This mindset should help you remember or create practices that fulfill the needs of people and yours.

Let’s finished by quoting Deci and Ryan.

“The concept of basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness provides the framework for understanding the implications of SDT for the workplace. Every policy and practice implemented within a work organization is likely to either support or thwart the basic psychological needs. Anyone interested in improving the work context within an organization and thus the performance and wellness of its employees could evaluate any policy or practice being considered in terms of whether it is likely to (a) allow the employees to gain competencies and/or feel confident, (b) experience the freedom to experiment and initiate their own behaviors and not feel pressured and coerced to behave as directed, and (c) feel respect and belonging in relation to both supervisors and peers.”

This article was the content of a presentation given at the International Sociocracy Online Conference, 1st May 2018.



Self-determination theory in work organizations: The state of a science
Edward L. Deci, Anja H. Olafsen, Richard M. Ryan
Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 2017 4:1, 19-43

Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness
Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci
Guilford Publishing. 2017.

Understanding motivation and emotion (7th ed.)
Johnmarshall Reeve
Wiley 2018



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