3. do-ocracy, embassy sf style
Do-ocracy is our loose operating philosophy. We have adopted it because we’re excited about the contributions that you will make to our community, and we want to do our best to facilitate them.
To us, do-ocracy means that if you’d like to see something happen, you are encouraged to take action with transparency and communication.
Transparency means letting people know what’s happening, in a way that allows them to get involved if they want, and allows you to proceed knowing they are informed. Communication means inviting feedback before taking action.
The threshold of taking do-ocratic action is reversibility; that is, only take unilateral action if your action is reversible, and you are happy for others to iterate on or disagree with your decision. Otherwise, wait for feedback and consent.
Examples of reversibility might be rearranging the living room (easily reversible), or buying a kettle for the house that you can return if people decide it’s too expensive. Examples of non-reversibility might be organizing a party, throwing something away, or inviting a new roommate to move into the house.
first time do-ocrateers
Start small Find a buddy Do it anyway!
We really value action and for us almost everything is about experimentation. Make sure you communicate what you’re up to, and then go ahead and do it!
practical steps to a healthy do-ocracy
Clearly communicate What is the issue that needs addressing: ‘Our bins are terrible!’ What do you propose to do about it: ‘I’m going to buy more bins and replace the old ones. It will cost $75 and we’ll have to dispose of the old ones ourselves which I volunteer to do.’ Invite constructive feedback: ‘If there’s anything I haven’t thought about, I’d be happy to hear from you.’ When you plan to take action: ‘I’ll order them on Thursday if I don’t hear from anyone.” That you welcome help: ‘If anyone wants to help, let’s meet at x time and place!’ Engage with anyone who would like to help. Get the job done, finish it and leave no trace :) Check in with people to see if they welcome the change that you have made. If not, be open and prepared to reverse it.
being a good do-ocratic citizen
Leave no trace If you take on a task, take on the whole thing, and finish what you start. If it’s going to be a big task (cleaning out the black hole of storage) and you are worried you can’t finish it by yourself, wait until you have a collaborator. Leaving things unfinished increases the chance of negative feedback and reversal, and decreases people's willingness to support your future do-ocratic actions. Support and incentivise action It’s vital to provide positive feedback of good deeds as well as constructive negative feedback of actions taken. Offer to take action yourself if you disagree with something.
benefits of this approach
Low overhead to getting things done Less decision-by-committee often leads to more creative solutions Communicating and enrolling people increases their likelihood of celebrating you
Do-ocracy without communication becomes "Tyranny of the Proactive." It can concentrate power in the form of circumstantial institutional knowledge and alienate potential other doers, creating a reinforcing feedback loop of “doers that do” and others who don’t.
Do-ocracy without reciprocity can also lead to power imbalance.
Possible solutions to do-ocratic pain points:
Imbalance in the Do-ocracy - when it feels like some people are doing all the 'doing' Solution - Provide clear communication of what you need from people to facilitate getting help from others (people often want to help but don’t know what to do). Consider providing lists of jobs/projects to contribute to should they want to.
Do-ocratic Thrashing - when two people are do-ocratically doing and undoing each others’ idea in too short a time frame. Solution - ensure that any changes are left for a week, then as the dooer, check in with people to see if they like it. Don’t leave it to others to give feedback, be proactive in attempting to genuinely enquire whether your actions have made peoples’ lives better!
Belated Feedback - what to do when feedback comes so late that you have already invested lots of time Solution - set a timeframe during which feedback is welcome and a specific time when the action will be taken in the absence of feedback e.g. ‘I’m going to put this thing in place in a week, please let me know if you have thoughts. If i hear nothing back I will do-ocratise it!’ Find out what each person’s minimum time frame is - some people only check their emails once a week!
Absence of Feedback - sometimes the action and accuracy of proactive do-ers is taken for granted. Doers can feel alienated when their contributions are not critically engaged with. Remaining driven to ‘do’ in the face of critical feedback without constructive action is difficult. Solution - Ask for feedback directly and in person.
Hurdles - How to deal with people who don’t ‘do’ but tend to create hurdles to ‘doing.’ Active ‘do-ers’ risk greater and more frequent criticism than those who are more passive.
Solution - Ask people with strong opinions to be involved