There has been an onslaught of organisations adopting new digital tools over the past few years. According to a McKinsey report published in October 2020, companies adopted as much new technology in 2020 alone as they had over several years prior. The pandemic caused what McKinsey called a “quantum leap” in digitalisation.
Because of this massive uptake in using digital tools, we’re also seeing a host of new niche tools appear. Some for specific tasks like financing and project management, some for specific businesses and industries, and others for both.
Nestr, for example, is a digital collaboration tool designed to support decentralised self-organisation, centering purpose, roles and shared governance. This article aims to highlight purpose-driven organisations, specifically self-organised, purpose-driven organisations, and how they can incorporate digital collaboration tooling to improve collaboration and governance.
What is a purpose-driven organisation?
By purpose-driven organisations, we’re referring to organisations that work towards something greater than shareholder value, striving to impact a community broader than just those affected by the business (i.e. beyond customers, shareholders and members).
Patagonia is a good example of a purpose-driven company. They’re truly living out their mission statement: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” In 2022, the company permanently transferred its ownership to a trust and nonprofit, meaning all profits are used to protect the planet as opposed to enriching shareholders.
But there’s another way to look at purpose within an organisation. And that’s by using organisational purpose as the starting point for governance. Here, purpose both defines the outer boundaries of the organisation, and, within it, forms the base for internal governance.
Why self-organisation need to be purpose-driven
By nature, self-organising organisations distribute authority. Without centralised management, organisations can look to a common purpose to anchor their decision-making and how they organise themselves around tasks and priorities.This is why self-organising organisations follow a hierarchy of purpose and not people. Following purpose helps members within an organisation better prioritise projects and support decision-making.
In managerless companies, hierarchies of purpose ensure members are on the same path and can contribute to the organisation’s long-term success. This purpose becomes the north star of the organisation. It provides guidance and helps members know what direction to take when deciding or prioritising work.
Because self-organising organisations tend to follow more of a “Sense and Respond” mindset (opposed to a more conventional “Predict and Control” mindset), they need a way of making informed decisions about new and unexpected challenges and opportunities.
Where digital collaboration tools are useful for purpose-driven self-organisation
Purpose-driven organisations can benefit from tooling to support collaboration as, unlike traditional organisations where managers delegate work, members lead their work autonomously and use purpose, strategy and priorities to align.
Here are a few key areas where tooling is essential for purpose-driven self organisations:
Being able to contribute to the purpose
As we’ve mentioned, self-organising organisations are anchored in purpose. But to achieve that purpose, work needs to be split up into various sub-purposes. Self-organising organisations often do this via roles, and, in Holacracy, circles. In Holacracy, each circle has a sub-purpose of the organisation's main purpose is formed of roles (with each role dedicated to a specified purpose). Projects and tasks are created by a role or circle and need to contribute to the purpose of that role and/or circle.
Without a tool helping to facilitate this, it can be easy for members to lose track of a role or circle's purpose. Nestr helps keep everyone on track.
Agreed governance, such as Sociocracy or Holacracy, is essential to successful self-organisation. Many self-organising organisations support their governance through creating and evolving shared agreements.
The right tooling set-up allows for transparent collaboration on shared agreements. With a well-organised online collaboration tool, each person in your organisation will also see which roles are active, who fills them, and the purpose and accountabilities for each.
Nestr allows you to capture and continuously upgrade your organisational structure, circles, roles, accountabilities, policies and domains – all useful ways to support your organisation’s governance.
Defining roles and responsibilities
To disrupt the power dynamics and norms of traditional management hierarchies, many self-organising organisations utilise roles and role purposes to move the company towards its purpose. In Holacracy, a role is “a capacity, potential, or unrealisable goal that the role will pursue or express on behalf of the organisation.”
When you fill a role, you’re fully aware of what you’re contributing to. This makes the impact of your work more visible, increasing motivation as you know exactly how you’re helping your organisation move closer to its purpose.
Nestr helps organisations allocate work to the relevant circles and roles while ensuring that each role is crystal clear on its purpose and accountabilities.
Structured collaboration is essential in self-organisation. When self-organising, it’s each member’s responsibility to figure out how and when to complete their projects and tasks. However, this usually involves collaborating with other role holders. For example, a specific project may require some design work. An online collaboration tool, like Nestr, can help you search for roles that are accountable for design. This makes it easy to find who fills that role and make the request.
Other useful collaboration features include shared documents, meeting facilitation, and a space for discussions and to provide feedback on work.
Effective communication is essential for all organisations, with self-organising organisations being no different. In fact, it’s even more important in self-organisations since there are no centralised managers to control and delegate work or decision-making. There is, therefore, a significant need for peer-to-peer communication.
It can be helpful to set up communication structures for all members to keep each other up-to-date, ask questions and provide feedback.
Nestr offers a circle-based communication feed, which is similar to a Slack channel for each circle or team. This way, members can discuss work specific to their role and or circle without always involving the broader organisation.
Nestr: a collaboration and governance tool for self-organisation
There’s a digital tool for almost every aspect of running a business, from finance and bookkeeping to project management and collaboration. For purpose-driven organisations, collaboration tools are essential. Utilising a tool that puts purpose at the forefront of everything can help ensure that each project and role contributes to the organisation's purpose.
Nestr is designed to help its clients align around a common purpose. Our goal is to support organisations to make a meaningful impact and support their members to express the values they care about. Nestr helps clients share agreements, collaborate, improve communication, and align work to the organisation's purpose.