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Organizational Design >> What's a democratic organization?

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We believe a democratic organization could exhibit the following characteristics:
Relationships are adult-to-adult, not parent to child.
Leadership happens at every level.
You're paid for the value you bring to the organization, not your job title.
Decisions are made quickly and efficiently.
Everyone knows to whom and for what they're accountable.
Transparency isn't considered scary.
Formality and polices are avoided in favor of informality and principles.
Humor and having fun is actually encouraged.
You work with people, not for anyone--you're your own boss.
You can access real-time financial information about your organization's performance anytime you want.
Change = life, not death.
It takes only a few days to implement an idea you proposed for improving
a product.
The CEO's salary is no more than ten times the lowest paid worker.
There are no more than five layers of management.
The employee manual can be summed up in one sentence: "Use common
You look forward to meetings where you can collaborate and share ideas.
You own stock in the organization and there's a spirit of ownership in every
project you do.
You either helped create or strongly share in the organization's
purpose and vision statements.
Incentives aren't used to motivate employees -- meaningful work is.
You never have to ask to go to the bathroom.
Your life outside of work is as valued as your life at work.
You receive real-time, on-going constructive feedback from your co-workers, and you're often publicly acknowledged for excellent work.
Your leader knows you are capable of doing just fine when he or she is gone.
Failure is seen as a right-of-passage to success.
Thinking differently and challenging assumptions is encouraged.
Alignment comes from a shared sense of purpose, not automatic agreement.
Love is the killer app.
Your job is one of your favorite places to be.

Sound utopian? Hardly. Organizational democracy is more than a management or leadership style. It's both a mind-set and a system of principles, practiced at all levels as a coherent organizational system.

We're not talking about a bunch of job perks here. We're talking about creating an environment and culture any organization must develop in order to survive in a fast-paced, decentralized, globalized world.

We're the people who design those spaces. Welcome to our world.

Organizational Design >> So why go democratic?

There's a growing demand for organizations to adapt rapidly to market changes and customer demands, act responsibly and openly, and provide employees with meaningful work experiences. There's also a desire for a system which humanizes the workplace while creating sustainable and financially successful enterprises.

The problem is that while organizations are trying to generate growth and progress they are simultaneously creating barriers severely stifling or even blocking this growth. Rules, policies, codes, mundane tasks, bureaucracy, departments, formality, restrictions, fragmentation and hierarchy are all restrictive forces that choke the life-blood needed in order for individuals and organizations to achieve high levels of success.

Blu has the solid conviction that a democratic environment based on principles and practices is germane for any organization -- whether a small business or a Fortune 500 corporation -- interested in becoming a powerful, competitive and humane force in the world. We believe that when an organization's internal environment is healthy then high levels of performance, motivation, efficiency, customer service and social responsibility naturally follow.

Ultimately, it's not just about designing democratic organizations -- it's about unleashing human potential and creating a more dynamic and sustainable social fabric in the process.

Organizational Design >> Method

Forget pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all solutions to designing highly successful organizations. Because each organization is different, the design of its organizational environment must be as well. That's why at Blu we've pioneered a method we call the Organizational Democracy Framework?. We begin with a set of timeless democratic principles and work with our client to apply each principle into a system of best practices appropriate to the organization's context, size and long-term goals.

In the end, our objective is for our clients -- whether a start-up or a Fortune 500
company -- to be completely comfortable with the principles so that as their organization grows and matures they can continue to use the principles to evolve new practices. This is our commitment -- educating and empowering our clients for continuous improvement of their organizational environments year after year.

Organizational Design >> Results

What can our clients expect to see as the result of designing and implementing a democratic organizational environment over time? According to our research, some of the outcomes could be the following:
Increases in productivity, profitability, sales and efficiency.
Improvements in customer service ratings.
Steady growth rates, including increases in market share.
An increased ability to attract top talent.
Decreases in turnover.
Increased levels of creativity and innovation.
Increased organizational alignment and overall levels of trust and communication.
Increased organizational flexibility and adaptability.
A heightened awareness of an organization's surrounding community and opportunities for civic engagement.

Just one of these anticipated results should be enough to impel anyone to consider the positive and financially rewarding possibilities of building a democratic organization.

Organizational Design >> Success Factors

Whether you're interested in building a democratic organization from the ground up, or transitioning into a democratic model, it takes patience, time and dedication. Here are 10 key factors to the successful practice of the art of organizational democracy.

1. It's A Way of Thinking: Before democracy can be practiced, it is first a way of thinking about human beings and their right to live a fulfilled and self-actualized life. Tyrannical and dictatorial thought-patterns cannot build creative democratic cultures.

2. Democracy is Personal: Democracy is a personal and interpersonal way of interacting and building relationships with people each and every day.

3. Operationalize The Whole System of Principles, Not Just Part: It's easy for an organization to think it's democratic if it implements two or three democratic principles. However, that's like trying to have a body operate normally minus a few organs. Each one of the core democratic principles plays an invaluable role in the system; therefore, Blu believes all the principles of democracy must be practiced in order for an organization to be functioning democratically.

4. Support of Top Leadership: There must be no-nonsense backing from the organization's senior leadership regarding the development and maintenance of a democratic culture if it is to succeed. Front-line employees will take their cues from upper leadership to see how serious they are about employee involvement and empowerment. Senior leadership must be champions of organizational democracy.

5. Support at All Levels: Although a democratic culture must have encouragement from .

6. Built on Authenticity: The desire to build democracy within an organization must be motivated out of a real and genuine desire to create an environment that supports individual initiatives and self-expression versus manipulation or ulterior motives.

7. A Continual Evolution of Practices: Using the principles as a dynamic framework, all practices must be constantly evaluated and changed as the organization grows. The expectation is that as an organization matures, the practices will also need to evolve. A democratic practice can't be mandated. That defeats the purpose and will create a mechanistic, rather than living, organizational system.

8. Timing is Key: Whether an organization is newly transitioning into a more democratic environment or continuing to evolve new practices, the speed at which the principles are realized will vary from organization to organization. It's important to be sensitive to the rate of implementation.

9. Degree of Practice: As an organization implements democratic practices, it will soon discover that each person will have a varying level of need regarding the degree to which a principle is practiced. It's important to consider how the principles can be practiced at all levels and to the degree appropriate for each individual's needs.

10. A Commitment to Financial Discipline and Performance: The organization needs to be managed well financially if organizational democracy is going to thrive. Financial discipline creates a healthy level of tension that holds the entire democratic system in balance and each member of the organization accountable to a measurable standard.

the top, it must also be supported at all levels throughout the organization

Organizational Design >> Myths of Organizational Democracy Debunked

Let's face it, when we hear the word "democracy" we all have our own preconceived ideas about how it's defined and the conditions where it can -- and can't -- work. Drawing from Blu's years of research into democratic organizations, we debunk some of those myths here

Myth 1:
An organization is democratic if it practices voting and consensus-building.

An organization may choose to practice the principles of participation through the practice of voting or consensus-building, but these practices alone do not guarantee that an organization is democratic.

Myth 2:
Democratic organizations are totally flat.

Democratic organizations are not completely flat. Instead, they tend to focus more on being decentralized rather than flat.

Myth 3:
Democratic organizations have to be small if they're going to be successful.

Democracy works well for organizations of all sizes, and often especially well for larger organizations. The models we've studied range in size from fewer than 100 employees to as many as 31,000 employees.

Myth 4:
Democratic organizations don't have a leader.

One of the primary goals of a democratic organization is to cultivate leadership at all levels. Democratic organizations function on the foundational understanding that each person is a leader in his or her area of expertise.

Myth 5:
Democratic organizations do (or do not) have unions.

Democratic organizations sometimes do have unions. However, when a democratic organization does have a union they've found it's rare that the union ever needs to strike. If there is a strike, it's often settled quickly and unceremoniously.

Myth 6:
Democracy is an American concept that only works in American organizations.

Democracy is a universal concept because it is based on a set of universal and timeless principles. We are constantly learning about new models of organizational democracy on nearly every continent.

Myth 7:
Democratic organizations are slower and take longer to build.

Democratic organizations, by nature of their design, are often fast and flexible. However, like the parable of the tortoise and the hare, democratic organizations may get off to a slow start but often win the race.

Myth 8:
Democratic organizations share a common set of best practices.

Although there are some common practices among democratic organizations, each one ultimately develops its own unique and individual system of practicing democratic principles appropriate to its context, purpose and strategic vision.

Myth 9:
Democratic organizations are less efficient and profitable.

Democratic organizations are some of the most highly efficient and profitable enterprises because of democratic practices such as profit-sharing, open books and decentralization. Several of the organizations we've studied have been profitable every year since they've developed a democratic organizational system.

Myth 10:
Democratic organizations have to be built that way from the beginning.

Our research found that even organizations with an entrenched history of top-down, authoritarian or mechanistic structures can successfully transition into a dynamic democratic organizational model.

Myth 11:
Democratic organizations offer their employees lots of perks.

Perks such as an on-site gym or day care facilities do not mean that an organization is democratic. In fact some perks, such as executive parking spots or an executive dining room, promote inequality and exclusion rather than a healthy, inclusive democratic environment.

Myth 12:
Democratic organizations are great places to work, for everyone.

Only individuals who "fit" well with the core philosophy and demanding standards of a democratic company will enjoy working there. If you go to work for a democratic organization you will likely flourish or be miserable.

Myth 13:
Democratic organizations don't operate as well as command-and-control organizations.

Democratic organizations often operate better than command-and-control models because they are designed as living, dynamic and responsive systems allowing for shared responsibility, quick distribution of information and instant feedback. They have sustainable cultures that are not dependent on one individual's ego.

Myth 14:
Employees in democratic organizations take advantage of the open and flexible environment.

An organization chooses to develop a democratic culture because its people do in fact trust one another. A transparent environment, coupled with positive peer pressure and democratic standards, naturally encourages employees to be honest. If an employee does take advantage of the system, they are dealt with fairly and individually, rather than clamping down on everyone because of the actions of one.

Myth 15:
A socially responsible organization is a democratic organization.

Socially responsible organizations focus on a "triple bottom line" in three areas: the financial, the environmental and the community. Organizational democracy, on the other hand, focuses on developing the internal culture of a company, which often ripples out into socially responsible interactions with the community and the environment. However, just because an organization considers itself socially responsible doesn't mean that it's also democratic.

Myth 16:
CEOs of democratic organizations are pushovers.

CEOs of democratic companies have a remarkable ability to achieve high standards with flexibility and collaboration, confidence and humility. They create environments which develop more leaders, rather than allowing their ego to oppress the leadership potential in others. To that end, they are some of the most visionary, principled, trustworthy and dedicated leaders found in organizations today.

Organizational Design >> Is your organization already democratic?

Think you already work in a democratic organization? We'd love to know about it! We're always looking for organizations of various sizes and across industries that are designed and built on democratic principles.

If you believe you work in an organization that practices organizational democracy in innovative ways, please let us know. Tell us about your organization and about your specific democratic practices. Your organization's best practices of democracy could be a model for other organizations interested in going democratic.

To tell us about your democratic organization, please send an email to


What's a democratic leader?
Let us share with you why we believe democratic leadership is the new, global model of leadership.

Why become a democratic leader?
Other models of leadership have been effective in the past. So why would someone want to become a democratic leader today?

Guidelines for Democratic Leadership
Read here about the 12 keynotes of democratic leadership.

Are you already a democratic leader?
Think you're a democratic leader? Tell us why!

Leadership >> What's a democratic leader?

Command-and-control, top-down, hierarchical leadership is out. What's in is leadership that is personal and interpersonal, networked and systemic. Leadership isn't about being the toughest or smartest, or about forming an elite cadre of informed and "inspired" individuals.

The new model of leadership is rational and emotional, inclusive and decentralized. Today's leaders are free of the tyranny of ego and are willing to step up and be accountable for their actions. In a word, it's leadership that's democratic, and Blu is pioneering this new global model of leadership.

So what's a democratic leader? At Blu, we believe it's someone who creates an environment that creates more leaders. Democratic leaders move us, transform us, push us and inspire us to think in bigger and bolder ways. They create environments that are healthy, not toxic. They work to unleash hearts and minds, creating spaces where individuals can thrive and succeed. Democratic leaders value transparency, individuality, innovation and collaboration. Most important, they check their ego at the door. Their style of leadership is based on principles, not personality.

Blu is committed to developing democratic leaders and supporting them with the tools and mind-sets they'll need to succeed. Democratic leaders work with the principles of democracy on three levels: personally, in their own daily practice; interpersonally, with others; and organizationally, designing environments in which individuals are free to uncover and express their unique leadership capabilities.

Leadership >> Why become a democratic leader?

A recent cover of Fast Company magazine asks:
"Raise Your Hand If Your CEO Gets It."
The cover depicts a group of people frowning with their hands on hips.
No one is raising their hand.

Current models of leadership are proving to be ineffective and inadequate to meet the demands of a globalized, diverse, interconnected and empowered world. We've got it all wrong and our failure to update Sir Isaac Newton's long obsolete mechanistic theory is to blame. Our mental models of the universe, from which we've derived our concepts of organization and leadership, are inaccurate at best. The universe, as Newton hinted, is not a giant clock. People are not cogs in a well-oiled machine that have to be compartmentalized, regulated and managed. Traditional concepts of leadership, modeled after Newtonian concepts and operationalized as regulators, commanders, and know-it-alls, have missed the point.

Command-and-control leaders view their primary goal as retaining their position as leader, having all the answers, micromanaging and creating environments in which all things are predictable and efficient. The problem is, this style of leadership can never be effective because people, (and the world!), are not manageable and predictable, not compartmentalized and disconnected. This model of leadership is exhausting to the person trying to practice it because perfect control can never be attained. Organizations striving to be adaptable, living, dynamic and competitive can only be managed -- but not led -- using a command-and-control style of leadership.

What's needed are organizational environments that are less hierarchical and more relationship-orientated, promoting a sustained dialogue among all people involved in the project, team or company. Leadership must be grounded in a fundamentally new understanding of how the world works.

Democratic leadership, which is guided by democratic principles, allows the leader to adjust their leadership practices to the demands of the situation. Democratic leaders are highly accessible, have a clearly defined vision and are transparent about their expectations. They see themselves as creating environments that encourage others to find answers, and they give their colleagues space to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. They measure their success by their ability to create more leaders. And they believe that any form of leadership that makes people more dependant on them as leader is not leadership -- it's tyranny.

Democratic leadership is rapidly proving to be the new, global model of leadership which can radically and powerfully transform our world.

Leadership >> 12 Guidelines for Democratic Leadership
Democratic leaders succeed when they create environments that uncover the leadership potential in others.
Democratic leaders use principles, rather than one-size-fits-all practices, to guide their process of leadership.
Democratic leadership is a dialogue -- not a monologue.
Democratic leadership is not a new-fangled management strategy. Management of people is out. Management is an excuse for not leading.
Forget feel-good, over-simplified leadership strategies. Democratic leaders know that enduring and sustainable leadership is often complex, confusing and uncertain.
Democratic leaders challenge themselves and others to break the cycles of conformity and debunk the status quo.
Democratic leadership isn't an individual experience that happens in a vacuum. Effective democratic leaders understand that their relationship with their "followers" has everything to do with their success as leaders.
Democratic leaders understand that positional power is not leadership.
Democratic leadership isn't about psycho-analyzing human beings as personalities. Instead, the meta-lesson of democratic leadership is inspired
Democratic leaders understand the paradox that while no one is in charge everyone is in charge.
Democratic leadership is as much an inner journey as an outward process.
Democratic leaders serve humanity, not their ego.

Leadership >> Are you already a democratic leader?

Think you're already a democratic leader? We'd love to know about you! We're looking for case studies of individuals practicing democratic leadership by creating environments that create more leaders. Are you creating an environment that supports participation and collaboration, accountability and openness? If so, let us know how you're practicing the art of democratic leadership!

Tell us about yourself and the specific way you practice democratic leadership. Your best practices of democratic leadership could inspire others individuals interested in becoming a more democratic leader. We look forward to hearing from you!

Tell us about you practice democratic leadership, please send an email to


Organizational Design Services
Click here to find out about our assessment tools, seminars, coaching and organizational design services.

Leadership Services
Interested in becoming a democratic leader? Click here to learn how you can.

Services >> Organizational Design Services

Design Consulting Services

The core of our work is in designing democratic organizations with and for our clients. We are committed to building the organizational models of the future, capable of propelling any company towards achieving even higher levels of success. Democratic design is about fusion -- not fragmentation.

We follow a step-by-step process to organizational design based on our Organizational Democracy Framework? which begins with an assessment process and is followed by seminars, consulting and coaching relevant to each client's needs.

Members of the Blu' design team explore the principles of organizational democracy with our clients and then work to design best practices of the principles appropriate to their organizational context. Principle by principle, practice by practice, we design and build generative, adaptable, and sustainable organizational environments.

Assessment Tools

The Organizational Freedom Scorecard?
The first step in the process of becoming a more dynamic, highly-effective organization is for employees at all levels of the company to take The Organizational Freedom Scorecard?. Blu uses our unique scorecard and one-on-one interviews to evaluate the organization both quantitatively and qualitatively in several core areas. The Organizational Freedom Scorecard? reveals a clear picture of your company's democratic health and an opportunity to determine the next steps needed for your organization's evolution.

The Democratic Leadership Scorecard?
This scorecard is similar in nature to The Organizational Freedom Scorecard?, however, it is specifically tailored to assess the leadership skills of individuals. To read more about our definition of leadership, click here.


The Freedom-Centered Organization?
This three-day seminar focuses on the advantages of building a democratic organization, introduces the Organizational Democracy Framework? and provides case studies of best practices used by organizations demonstrating the principles of organizational democracy. Our interactive, participatory and hands-on approach is designed to equip participants with the tools and perspectives needed to develop their own democratic organizations.

This seminar is the foundational course for all Blu' design work. It is open for public enrollment or is held privately for an organization's executive team.

The Freedom-Centered Leader ?
This three-day seminar explores various models of leadership, introduces the democratic leadership style as a new global model of leadership and provides case studies of democratic leadership around the world. Participants are encouraged to think deeply about how they can develop democratic leadership within themselves, others, and their organizational environment by using the principles of organizational democracy. The seminar uses a highly engaging and interactive approach which catalyzes personal transformation. Participants begin to develop the tools and mind-sets they need to become visionary and highly effective democratic leaders.

The Freedom-Centered Leader? is held either privately for an organization's executive team or for public enrollment.


Our coaching service couples Blu' designers with executives for guidance and coaching in the areas of democratic leadership and democratic organizational design.

This service is available for:
1. Individuals committed to practicing the art of democratic leadership either within an organization or in their personal of life.

2. Senior-level executives pioneering the democratic transformation processes at their company.

Frequency of communication is designed to suite the needs of the individuals with whom we're working.

To find out more about our services, please email

Services >> Leadership Services

The Democratic Leadership Scorecard?

This scorecard assesses leader's ability to demonstrate the principles of organizational democracy. To read more about our definition of leadership, click here.


The Freedom-Centered Leader?
This three-day seminar explores various models of leadership, introduces the democratic leadership style as a new global model of leadership and provides case studies of democratic leadership around the world. Participants are encouraged to think deeply about how they can develop democratic leadership within themselves, others and their organizational environment by using the principles of democratic leadership. The seminar uses a highly engaging and interactive approach, encouraging personal transformation. Participants are equipped with the tools and mind-sets they need to become visionary and highly effective democratic leaders.

The Freedom-Centered Leader? is held either privately for an organization's executive team or for public enrollment.


Our coaching service couples Blu's designers with executives for individual guidance and coaching in the areas of democratic leadership and organizational design.

This service is available to:
Individuals committed to practicing the art of democratic leadership either within an organization and/or in the personal spheres of their life.
Senior-level executives pioneering the democratic organizational transformation processes at their company.

Frequency of communication is designed to suite the needs of the individuals with whom we're working.

To find out more about our services, please send an email to


The Organizational Democracy Framework?
Learn about our unique method of designing and building democratic organizations.

What is a principle?
Our organizational design and leadership method are based on democratic principles. So what's a principle?

What is organizational democracy?
A brief refresher on what democracy is and how it relates to organizations.

Method>> The Organizational Democracy Framework?

This is our "brand" of democracy, or, more specifically, our method of building democratic companies through the principles of organizational democracy and the practices of democratic leadership.

The Organizational Democracy Framework? is a system based on 12 universal and timeless principles of organizational democracy such as transparency, accountability, choice, innovation, an absence of tyranny, dialogue and justice. When practicing the complete system of principles, an organization evolves to become more generative, adaptable and ultimately sustainable.

Our goal has been to go beyond the incessant buzz of management trends to discover the timeless principles of democracy and their applicability to the development of democratic organizations with healthy cultures. We believe these principles are universal, robust, practical and adaptable to a variety of organizational contexts.

Through applying The Organizational Democracy Framework?, Blu designs and builds healthier, more profitable and more people-centered companies around the world.

Method >> What's a principle?

The word principle comes from the Latin word principium meaning "a beginning." A principle is often acknowledged to be a fact or a rule. We don't invent them. Instead, principles are the natural laws that govern the universe. They are as inviolate and unchanging as the law of gravity. That is why at Blu, we begin our design work using a set of core principles.

Method>> What is organizational democracy?

"Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." -Harry Emerson Fosdick

The term democracy comes from the Greek words demos, "the people," and kratein, "to rule." The people -- not one person -- rule.

We are not about transplanting the concepts of political democracy into the organizational realm. We are about the essence of democracy, which lies in the vision that people have power, day in and day out, to shape their lives and their future, both individually and collectively.

An organization practicing organizational democracy leverages the principles of democracy to create an environment where individuals can realize their fullest potential. In turn, the organization thrives.

Click here to read about companies practicing organizational democracy.


There are many ways to design and lead democratic organizations.

Higlighted below are selected models of organizations using democracy to build the business model of the future.

General Electric, Durham
The General Electric plant in Durham, North Carolina builds some of the world's most powerful jet engines. But the plant's real power lies in the lessons that it teaches about the future of work and about workplace democracy.

The management breakthrough that may prove most important for Motek's future -- and most effective at binding new employees to old -- is actually its simplest idea: Motek's warts-and-all embrace of the people who come to work every day . . .

Grupo M
The largest private employer in the Dominican Republic, Grupo M makes clothes for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, and Tommy Hilfiger. But this is no Third World sweatshop. Instead, Groupo M is stitching together a sophisticated pattern of growth.

AES is big, rich - and unlike any company you've ever seen. It builds power plants by handing power to workers on the front lines. Its radical business model has worked wonders in the United States. Can it also work in Hungary, China, and Brazil?

Its performance is the envy of executives and engineers around the world. For techno-evangelists, Google is a marvel of Web brilliance. For Wall Street, it may be the IPO that changes everything (again). But Google is also a case study in savvy management -- a company filled with cutting-edge ideas, rigorous accountability, and relentless attention to detail ...

Atlas Container
How does an old-line manufacturer in a stagnant industry manage to grow 25% a year for 10 years? By taking its employees seriously.

The Blu 2003 Leadership Roundtable>>
The Roundtable Vision

All great movements start with an idea, build momentum with a conversation, and reach a tipping point because a few individuals, who already live what they believe, band together and hone their vision into reality.

The vision for the Blu Leadership Roundtable is to harness the power of the top visionary leaders in business to proactively design the evolution of business through organizational democracy.

We are inviting to the roundtable only those whom we feel are:
Not afraid to take risks
Bold enough to challenge old school concepts of command and control leadership
Humble and intelligent enough to create successful organizations through actually freeing and empowering the most important resource within their organizations--people!

Blu has been searching, for nearly a decade, to understand the common principles practiced by leaders which enable organizations to survive and thrive at the speed of change. We are close to some answers, and we want to dialogue with you about them--now!

The time is ripe for business to evolve. We're at a watershed moment, a blip in the business cycle, a lull in the momentum, a point of uncertainty where the business world is looking for answers and waiting for someone to take the lead.

If you believe in this vision, we look forward to seeing you in November.


The Blu Executive Team
Traci Fenton, Christine Holt Merrifield, Justin Perkins

The Blu 2003 Leadership Roundtable>>
Action Plan

Thursday, November 6th

1:00 - 6:00 pm
Golf Outing (optional) hosted by:
Sanford Wilder, CEO, Communico, Ltd. Blu Advisor

8:00 -9:30 pm
Opening Keynote: Mart Laar, former Prime Minister, Estonia

The Evolution of Democracy and Business: What Estonia Can Teach Us About Building Great Democratic Companies
At age 32, Mart Laar was elected the first democratic prime minister of Estonia and went on to lead the most successful democratic transition of the 28 post-communist countries. In less than a decade, Laar transformed his fledging country into one of the most prosperous and economically stable countries in Eastern Europe. Laar, who served as prime minister from 1992-94 and again from 1999-2002, will share powerful and poignant lessons in democratic evolution and leadership and its relevance to business today.

Friday, November 7th

9:00-9:20 am
Welcome by Traci Fenton, CEO, Blu, Inc.

9:20-11:00 am Roundtable Panel, CEO Participants TBD

Net Effect: Can Organizational Democracy Deliver Superior Bottom-line Results?
Let's face it - say the words "organizational democracy" and any listener might picture an inefficient company that can barely turn a profit. Yet research indicates that companies practicing organizational democracy have a very healthy bottom-line and often lead their industry. What has organizational democracy meant to your company's bottom-line? Is there a connection between democratic work environments and the net effect? What are the results we can expect to see and what have you experienced so far? We'll explore how democratic principles, practiced systemically throughout organizations, have contributed to delivering the hard results. The Roundtable panel will be comprised of CEO participants who have chosen to speak on this topic.

Roundtable Panel, CEO Participants TBD

Design Principles: What Democratic Principles Build Great Democratic Businesses?
Whether you're designing a house or a great company, you have to know some fundamental principles before you can ever build a sustainable structure. So what are the principles of a democratic company? How are they different from an "undemocratic" company? What are the principles on which you build your business? Finally, what are the key design principles that will ultimately yield best practices in organizational democracy?

2:15 - 3:00 pm
Lunchtime Presentation by Mike Wagner, Blu, Inc.

The Next Big Bang: The Case for Organizational Democracy
Michael Wagner is a skilled communicator, facilitator and consultant. His expertise and insight surround leadership, business modeling and the place of technology, particularly as it relates to organizational democracy. Michael has been a speaker and educator for more than 20 years, bringing highly relevant, entertaining and energetic messages filled with real-life stories to audiences around the world.

3:15 - 6:45 pm
Open Space Dialogue
Moderator: Alexander Kjerulf, CEO Emeritus of Enterprise Systems, Denmark

Focus: Burning Questions - What Would You Like to Explore Further?
Open Space meetings are an efficient and structured method of exploring ideas practiced in conferences and organizations all over the world. Alexander Kjerulf is the CEO Emeritus of Enterprise Systems in Denmark. He has a ten year history in the IT business, five of which were spent creating a democratic company in the software consulting industry. He is now the CEO of another democratic organization devoted to spreading happiness at work.


Saturday, November 8th

9:15 - 11:00 am
Roundtable Panel, CEO Participants TBD

The Art of Democratic Leadership: What Does Practicing Democratic Leadership Mean to You and Your Business?
What is a democratic business leader? Why are you one? How is democratic leadership different from other leadership styles? Is it more effective? What has inspired you to lead democratically? Who has been a model for your style of leadership? What unique challenges have you faced as a democratic leader? We will explore these and other questions about the art of democratic leadership during this roundtable session. The Roundtable panel will be comprised of CEO participants who have chosen to speak on this topic.

11:00 - 11:30 am Networking Break

11:30 am - 1:15 pm
Roundtable Panel, CEO Participants TBD

Democracy Reloaded: Best Practices from Democratic Organizations?
How can democracy be "reloaded" and "remixed" for the business environment? In this roundtable session, we'll hear about some of the most creative, intelligent and practical ways CEOs are practicing organizational democracy with sustainable results. The Roundtable panel will be comprised of CEO participants who have chosen to speak on this topic.

2:15 - 3:00 pm
Lunchtime Presentation, Fredo Arias-King, founder, Demokratizatsiya and President, T&R Chemicals, Inc.

The Ripple Effect: Why Democratic Transition Theory Holds a Key to Building Sustainable Organizations
Fredo Arias-King has been senior advisor on international affairs to the National Action Party of Mexico and the Vicente Fox presidential campaign and currently serves as advisor to the democratic movements in Moldova and Belarus. He has published numerous articles on transitions to democracy, and is the author of two books, the latest of which, Transiciones a la democracia: Las lecciones de Europa del Este, is forthcoming in 2004. He is the founder of the academic quarterly Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, based in Washington, DC, and president of T&R Chemicals, Inc., in Texas.

3:15 - 6:45 pm
Open Space Dialogue,
Moderator: Alexander Kjerulf, CEO Emeritus of Enterprise Systems, Denmark

Focus: Putting It Into Practice

9:00 - 10:00 pm
Closing Keynote: Victor Aspengren, CEO, Schafer Systems, Inc.
Schafer Systems, Inc.: A Model of Organizational Democracy

News >>Blu 2003 Leadership Roundtable: Pioneering Organizational Democracy

Sponsored by the Employee Owners of Schafer Systems, Inc. in Adair, Iowa.

On November 6-8, 2003 in Washington, DC, Blu hosted the first gathering of business leaders identified by Blu as individuals who are pioneering organizational democracy in their companies.

The keynote address was given by Mart Laar, the former prime minister of Estonia. Mart Laar spoke about "The Evolution of Democracy and Business: What can Estonia teach us about building great democratic organizations?"

Using the concept of organizational democracy as a launching point for designing the business model of the future, the gathering was a focused opportunity for leaders to discuss their experiences, identify best practices, and collaborate to solve common challenges faced.

Find out more about the Blu 2003 Leadership Roundtable

Democracy Builds the Business Model of the Future

Traci Fenton
Founder & CEO, World Dynamics, LLC
Arlington - VA US

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Organizational democracy. It's been discussed in business journals for years, but few have figured out how to actually DO it. Democracy is almost universally considered one of the most effective systems for managing countries but has yet to be fully translated into the organizational realm. We've been tripped up thinking organizational democracy means voting or consensus�building, rather than asking the important question: How do we effectively apply it as a (uniquely) business model? But why consider democracy as the business model of the future? Look no further than the headlines. Organizational democracy is a system built on the very things that corporations have so glaringly lacked -- openness, accountability, equity, justice, ownership, even meaning. And the stakes couldn't be higher. Never has there been a more important time to consider how organizational democracy can transform corporations AND produce the hard (and soft!) results stockholders, employees and customers are craving.

What was your moment of truth?
The moment of truth came on two levels: First, I realized that organizational democracy has to be based on democratic principles rather than practices. Instead of taking political democratic practices and transplanting them into the organizational realm, I realized we had to look at the principles of democracy and THEN derive best practices appropriate to an organizational setting. The practice of transparency, for example, would look different in an organization of 30 versus 30,000 people, let alone in a country of several million. So why force a one-size-fits-all model? Principles are scalable; practices are often not. After six years of research, my second moment of truth came in identifying the 14 principles that MUST be present in order to create a robust and balanced democratic organizational system. Leaving one principle out weakens the entire system. The principles -- such as accountability, diversity, ownership, transparency, equity, justice and spirituality -- together create an environment that unleashes the human spirit to achieve extraordinary levels of success.

What were the results?
First, I identified several potential democratic organizations to evaluate the correlation between democracy and performance. The results couldn�t be ignored. Democratic companies consistently: 1. Led their respective industries 2. Were profitable despite external economic conditions 3. Attracted and retained top talent 4. Were highly innovative I'm writing a book on these findings. Second, I launched World Dynamics (in fall 2002), a consulting studio pioneering organizational democracy building. <> We've developed a quantitative method for building democratic organizations, called Principle-Based Democracy, which includes The Democratic Scorecard � a system which rates how well a company employs the 14 democratic principles. We're now poised to launch several consulting projects in 2003.

What's your parting tip?
Democracy is inevitable. The companies that get this will lead their industry and ultimately build a more democratic world.

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