Tuesday, January 6, 2015

People are self-organising

If you look at the world's leading, most effective, most resilient "organisations" (Google, Apple, MSF...), one of the things they have in common is that they enable their people (both staff and clients) to be self organising.

Their organisational structures, policies, processes enable the people involved to be self-organising around significant goals ("attractors").

The opportunity to be self-organising is a fundamental human need. Many societies punish offenders by reducing their capacity to be self-organising - offenders are put in gaol, denied the right to drive, fined, grounded, lose their mobile phone for a week... When people are constrained from being self organising in one area they tend to find new ways to meet this need.

Some of the quickest, cheapest ways to improve any organisation (and do more with less):
  • Make the goals more attractive to those involved and
  • Expand the opportunities for collaboration (negotiated self-organisation)
This works because it takes less effort to do "what we want to do" than "what we have to do".

Unfortunately many of the dominant management ideas that counter the above
  • We need managed organisations because people can't/won't organise themselves (why not?)
  • We need to safeguard against people making ill-informed choices (but remote managers continually assume they make better choices?)
  • Leaders need to be in control (but in reality, they are only in charge at best)
  • Compliance is more important than contributing (but people need to contribute)
The above ideas are not new: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” (Lao Tzu 600 - 531 BC)