Article 1: Circles and roles

1.1 What is a role

A role is a collection of work executed by one or more people. These individuals are the Role Lead for that role. A role has a name and one or more of the following elements:

  • Purpose: the overarching goal that the role pursues
  • Domains: resources, processes, or other things that are considered the exclusive property of the role
  • Accountabilities: ongoing activities that the role performs, either at the request of other roles or because it serves the role's purpose

You may also create policies about what others may or should do within the authority of your role.

1.2 What are you responsible for when you energize a role

Intent: Actively improve the organisation in your roles as best you can.

As a Role Lead for a role, you have the following general responsibilities:

  • Identifying and resolving tensions: differences between how things are now and how they how you think it could or should be (article 1.2.1)
  • Regularly translate your purpose and accountabilities into projects (desired outcomes) and next actions (actions you can take immediately) (Article 1.2.2)
  • Regularly translate your projects into next actions (article 1.2.3)
  • Maintain a list of your role's projects and a list of your role's actions (article 1.2.4)
  • Prioritizing and executing your actions (article 1.2.5)

1.3 What is a circle

Intent: When there is too much work, a Role becomes a Circle so that multiple roles will maximize the circle’s purpose.

A circle is a collection of roles and policies with a shared purpose. These roles and policies form the circle's governance (governance arrangements).

Each role is a circle on the inside, which you can (if and when you find it useful) further subdivide into sub-roles. We then speak of a sub-circle of the broader super-circle. (article 1.3.1)

If a circle assigns a domain to a role (e.g., "The company car"), then anyone within that role may manage that domain, for example, by establishing policies that everyone must adhere to. (Article 1.3.2)

The widest circle of the organisation is called the anchor circle. This circle has no super circle and, therefore, may define and modify its own purpose, accountabilities and domains through a policy. (Article 1.3.3)

Through a policy, a circle may invite a role from outside the circle to make a crosslink. This means that the role becomes part of the circle. The circle may not change the linked role's purpose, domains and accountabilities, but the circle may add to it and remove or change these additions. This link can be broken from both sides, after which any additions to the role automatically expire. (Article 1.3.4)

Each circle may appoint a Facilitator and a Secretary. These roles have a fixed purpose, domains and accountabilities that you may not change or delete. The circle may make additions and change or delete these additions. (Article 1.3.5)

1.4 What is a Circle Lead

Intent: a Circle Lead helps to fulfill the circle's purpose by assigning the right people to roles and helping the circle with the right strategies and relative priorities.

Since a role is automatically a circle, a Role Lead is automatically also a Circle Lead. The role of Circle Lead has the same purpose and accountabilities of the circle, to the extent, they are not (yet) delegated to roles within the circle.

As Circle Lead, you assign roles within the circle. This may be to one person or multiple people, as long as they are willing to fulfill the relevant role. These people can return their roles anytime, and you, as Circle Lead, can revise the person/role assignment at any time.

If you assign a role to multiple people, you can assign a focus to each person within the role. A focus is a specific area or topic which applies to the person energizing the role. You can change the way roles are assigned through a policy. (Article 1.4.1)

If no one fills a role in the circle, then you, as Circle Lead, are considered the role filler. (Article 1.4.2)

As a Circle Lead, you may set priorities for the circle’s work. You may also formulate general strategies; these are rules of thumb that circle members can follow in setting their own priorities. (Article 1.4.3)

A circle may not remove the Circle Lead role or change the purpose of the role. You can remove domains from the role, but only by moving (delegating) them to another role or mechanism within the circle. You can add domains or accountabilities to the Circle Lead and change or remove those additions again. But beware: those additions automatically apply to the Circle Lead roles of all subcircles, subcircles of subcircles, etc., so not only in your own circle. (Article 1.4.5)