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At Panter, sociocracy is not a buzzword, but an everyday reality. And a success story for the company and our employees.

Flat hierarchies, collaboration and agile working methods: these three principles have been central building blocks of Panter’s DNA since day one. As the company grew, however, this created organizational challenges. Structures and processes that functioned smoothly with a single-digit number of employees eventually reached their limits.

New forms of (self-)organization were therefore needed – Sociocracy 3.0 (S3).

What exactly is Sociocracy 3.0?

Sociocracy 3.0 comprises a large number of ideas and approaches that have been tried and tested in practice to strengthen agility and resilience in companies. The iterative and flexible approach allows growing organizations in particular to easily adapt their internal structures to new or changing requirements.

The method is based on 7 fundamental principles:

  • Effectiveness: Only invest time in things that contribute to achieving your own goals.
  • Consensus: Consistently look for possible objections in every decision and take them into account.
  • Empiricism: Check all assumptions through experiments and constant revision.
  • Continuous improvement: Implement small, incremental changes to enable continuous learning within the organization.
  • Equality: Involve all employees who are affected by a decision and keep them informed.
  • Transparency: Make all information freely accessible to all members of the organization. Exceptions are possible, but must be well and transparently justified.
  • Responsibility: Acting independently, consistently adhering to agreements and always keeping an eye on the entire organization

The tool kit is based on these basic principles with more than 70 so-called patterns. These are concrete practices or schemes that serve to solve acute problems or overcome challenges.

This gives individual teams the tools they need to make far-reaching decisions affecting their area independently and autonomously.

Apply sociocracy: Evaluate and moderate meetings

Patterns can be freely implemented according to the organization’s current needs. Once meetings have been identified as a problem, the patterns “Evaluate meetings” or “Moderate meetings”, for example, can be used to make them more efficient. Once the problem has been solved, the organization can sort the sample out again.

Download the practical guide to Sociocracy 3.0 as a PDF now

Work culture and sociocracy 3.0 at Panter

Since its foundation, Panter has emphasized flat hierarchies and short information channels. At the same time, all employees were expected from the outset to think entrepreneurially and play an active role in the further development of the company.

However, once the company had more than 30 employees, it became clear that changes were needed to maintain the corporate culture, agility and innovative strength from the start-up phase.

This is because coordination within the projects became increasingly complex. As a result, meetings dragged on and the sense of togetherness within the company diminished. “The idea of flat hierarchies was in danger, as we needed a higher authority to coordinate everything,” recalls Peter Schiratzki, Senior Product Owner and Scrum Master at Panter. “We didn’t want that.”

With the Sociocracy 3.0 toolset, working methods were defined and redeveloped without neglecting the original Panter culture. “Much of what S3 encompasses has always been practiced at Panter. However, with the tools and templates, we have now been able to explicitly work out many processes that were previously only implicitly defined,” says Peter. Three key steps towards this goal were

  • Breaking up the existing hierarchy levels by forming several groups and circles that operate almost completely independently.
  • The transfer of responsibilities from the management to the groups and circles.
  • The introduction of consensus decisions as an important pillar of the new organizational orientation.


With the formation of groups, the organization was divided into several semi-autonomous, self-organized and self-directed groups. At Panter, there are 3 groups in total, all with their own projects and customers, which they manage independently from acquisition to ongoing support.

In order to be able to fulfill all these tasks, the groups have far-reaching competencies that previously lay with the management.

At an organizational level, they are responsible for resource and personnel planning as well as recruiting. At the same time, it is the group’s responsibility to ensure that the planning ultimately works for the team members and for the company.

At project level, the Group is responsible for planning, controlling and reporting, pre- and post-sales support for its own customers and the selection of technology and software.

It is important that personnel stability is maintained within the groups in order to ensure planning security for all groups. In concrete terms, this means that employees are permanently assigned to their group. Personnel changes between groups are possible, but should be handled via a clear process.


The Circles are the second central pillar of the organization alongside the groups. In these meetings, employees from all groups work together to develop concrete proposals for solutions to important issues and topics that affect the entire organization.

This means that the opinions of representatives of all groups are incorporated from the outset and objections can be raised at an early stage. Decisions taken are therefore broadly supported.

Panter currently has more than 10 fixed Circles with a specific focus. Among other things:

  • Project Management
  • Strategy
  • Innovation
  • Design
  • People
  • Cloud & Data

Consensus decisions

Shifting responsibilities to groups and circles makes decision-making at Panter more effective and efficient. But it also poses challenges in terms of communication within the entire company.

Groups and Circles are therefore obliged to inform the organization as a whole on a regular basis. Several formal and informal committees and exchange opportunities have been created for this purpose.

Each and every employee can raise reasoned objections to the proposals submitted at any time. For example, if an activity or decision is not in the interests of the organization as a whole.

However, an application should be accepted if an individual, group or circle can basically live with it. Decisions are not made forever. They are reviewed at a later date and revised if they have not proven themselves in practice. “Processes such as consensus decisions, participatory problem-solving and delegating responsibilities must also be constantly practised and optimized,” adds Peter. Only in this way can the entire organization continue to learn and develop.

Conclusion: Is S3 a successful model?

For Panter, the introduction of Sociocracy 3.0 and the implementation of the necessary steps have paid off. Employees can identify better with the subgroups, responsibilities are better distributed and administration is more efficient than before. However, it’s not all positive: on the flip side of the coin, cohesion within the entire organization is less automatic and those responsible need to focus more strongly on this point.