Self-organising organisations require members to both self-organise and self-manage. The key to ensuring this is done effectively is for everyone to clearly understand what is expected of them and how their work contributes to the organisation's purpose.
This is where Nestr comes in. We provide a tool that helps self-organising organisations align around a common cause, focusing on shared agreements and clearly defined roles. Built specifically for non-hierarchical organisational structures, or flat organisations, Nestr’s features allow self-managing members to better understand their role in the organisation while making it easy for them to connect, contribute and collaborate with other members.
Nestr does this by linking the key aspects of self-organisation: organising work according to roles and accountabilities and anchoring governance in the form of shared agreements.
Keep reading for an understanding of why organisations following a non-hierarchy organisational structure require specific tooling and to deep dive into Nestr’s key features.
(Note on non-hierarchical and flat organisations: these terms are often used when describing decentralisation or self-organisation. While we use them in our article, they are not an entirely correct description. Self-organisation and decentralisation does almost always rely on hierarchy to some extent, and is thus not flat nor non-hierarchical. It’s just that the hierarchies are formed around purpose, rather than people. Read more about this in our article A hierarchy of purpose, not people: What does it mean for your organisation?)
In organisations opting out of the traditional management hierarchy, it’s important to implement specific processes that help keep everyone in alignment with what work needs to be done – and who’s accountable for it.
There are many online project management and collaboration tools available to help develop and manage processes, but they’re not structured in a way that’s beneficial for self-organisation. One of the biggest challenges faced in self-organisation with most conventional tooling is that work is delegated through managers instead of requested through peers. There’s also no notion of roles.
For effective self-organisation, roles must be clearly defined and attached to specific accountabilities. Holacracy and Sociocracy do this well by distributing work to different Circles and roles and assigning Circle Leads. Each Circle outlines their strategies, priorities and accountabilities, and each project is defined by outcomes. Members can create their own projects based on their role accountabilities or request other roles to take on projects.
This way of working has fundamental differences from organisations following a traditional management hierarchy. Which is why, if using conventional tooling, self-organising organisations miss out on truly reaping the many benefits of decentralisation. They need specific tooling that allows them to fully explore the notion of being governed by roles, accountabilities and shared agreements.
At Nestr, we support organisations that make a meaningful impact in their work by allowing members to express their values.
Nestr comes from the term “to nest,” referring to the hierarchy of purpose which aligns with nested purposes. In Nestr, users can “nest” different teams or circles inside the organisation's "nest.”
Our features are built specifically for distributed collaboration and teams following general self-organisation, Sociocracy, and Holacracy. When setting up your workspace, you are asked which structure your organisation follows (general self-organisation, Sociocracy, Holacracy, or none/consensus). Your workspace is then automated according to that structure.
Shared agreements are a prerequisite form of governance in decentralised organisations. With no traditional management hierarchies, authority needs to be anchored in shared agreements. In Nestr, all members are able to view and easily collaborate on the organisation’s shared agreements—referred to as policies.
Policies are a way to record clear agreements and can be for the entire organisation or for specific Circles. For example, you can create a policy describing how team retrospectives are organised. Members can easily access policies to refresh their memory and propose to create new or change policies.
Nestr also allows you to set domains. Domains are set up to specify if anything is only allowed to be done by certain roles/Circles. For example, you only want specific roles to be allowed to update your company website. In that case, you can set that as a domain for the marketing department. That means updating the website can be exclusively done by specific marketing roles. A domain can be owned by a role or a Circle—meaning either the role filler or any Circle member can impact it.
In self-organisation, everything is centred around a shared purpose. The same goes when working in Nestr.
All “nests” within Nestr allow you to set a purpose. For example, a purpose for the greater organisation and a purpose for each Circle and role. When you are doing a project or task, this purpose is always visible to remind you.
In Nestr, work is managed by creating different roles, each with clearly defined accountabilities. However, it’s important here to note that accountabilities are not exclusive. You’re not the only one who can do the work, but you are expected to do it and can be held accountable for it.
Different roles are assigned projects, which are organised on your dashboard according to Current, Waiting, Done and Future.
Nestr’s dashboard is designed so that all members can quickly see the different roles they fill, the projects they’re assigned and their list of to-dos. This way, it’s easy to know what’s happening within your own ecosystem in the organisation and what work needs to be prioritised.
Collaboration can be another challenge among distributed teams. When members aren’t physically in the same room or even in the same time zone, it’s imperative to find a way to still be able to effectively collaborate.
Nestr helps organise collaboration within and between distributed teams. It provides a place for teams to capture and track projects on the Circle and role project boards.
For example, you can create a project that details everything about that project under the Notes feature. Here you can add files, URLs and detailed instructions, as well as assign roles to each project. Each project can have as many nested (sub) projects/tasks as needed, allowing you to tackle larger complex projects as well. Organising the different sub-projects/tasks into “nests” makes it easier to see the bigger picture and how everything contributes to the project’s outcomes.
Each project also has an activity stream to track all changes as well as a place for members to discuss the project. Keeping discussions within the project boards helps streamline and organise the communication for all roles impacted by the project.
Collaboration also requires feedback from peers. Nestr offers a feedback app for you and your team to request and provide peer-to-peer feedback on roles, work and culture.
For distributed collaboration to work, regular communication is essential. Nestr provides a Circle-based communication feature similar to Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord and other team servers. It allows members to focus their communication involvement only on what is most relevant for them and ignore the rest. For example, members can opt to only see conversations related to their Circles or roles.
Of course, as transparency is key, members can also opt to view organisational-wide communication and updates. However, overwhelm is a major challenge in many organisations as people feel they need to read everything – but they usually don’t. With the option to turn this off, members have more control over what information comes their way.
Another important communication feature is meetings. In self-organisation, periodic meetings are essential. They’re also structured a bit differently than in traditional organisations – which is why Nestr has a specific feature that allows self-organising organisations to better manage and streamline their meetings.
In addition to general catch-up and maintenance meetings, Nestr helps teams process tensions and evolve the organisation.
Each meeting is organised by the secretary role of the Circle and facilitated by the facilitator role. Facilitators are provided with helpful tools when running a meeting on Nestr, including a structure for going through a quick check-in, metrics, projects review, tensions and reflections. Role-fillers can also add agenda items to the meeting – these would then be discussed in the tensions portion of the meeting.
Following this clear structure, updates are captured in live time, with any new actions or projects assigned to specific roles in the meeting. Everything that gets discussed gets actioned – and should anyone miss the meeting for any particular reason, they can easily catch up on what was discussed and the outcomes.
This way of organising a meeting allows you to work with your defined governance to create new projects and actions based on existing tensions.
There are many incredible benefits of following a self-organisational structure. Nestr is a great tool to help teams enjoy those benefits by structuring their work in their own way – and not trying to squeeze into conventional project management tools.
Most importantly, Nestr helps decentralised organisations align around purpose, prioritise roles and make power dynamics and hierarchies explicit, by rooting them in governance.
Using a tool like Nestr allows for transparency throughout the organisation so that all members know exactly what is expected of them and what others are doing. It also allows members to focus on work that contributes to their role while not getting distracted by other roles/Circles.
The tool is easy to set up and is free for non-revenue generating or poorly funded organisations and communities. For larger organisations, members can sign up for between $4-$7 per month per user.
What are you waiting for? Sign up to Nestr today and start exploring our features!