-The responsibility of the swarm leaders is not so much managerial as it is janitorial.
-The swarm organizational structure is a combination of traditional and swarm organization.
-Swarm leadership is through inspiring others.
-When it happens, the swarm self-organization feels like magic.
-Central planning and command and control methods should be avoided at all costs.
-The leader’s passion drives the swarm.
-Lead by example.
I will cover each of these points in greater detail. Quoted items are from Rick Falkvinge as stated within Swarmwise.
Janitorial Vs. Managerial Leadership
Rick Falkvinge states that a swarm leader’s responsibility is more janitorial than managerial. This means that rather than directing or managing the activities of others, the role of the leader and officers is to remove impediments that may be preventing the swarm from accomplishing its objectives and care for the overall swarm. Rather than thinking of a leader as someone who assigns and directs activities, in the context of a swarm, a leader should be thought of as someone who states and reinforces their vision, inspires, and facilitates.
In other words, passionately state the top-level objective and then get out of the way!
Swarm Organizational Structure
At first glance the organizational structure of a swarm may look to mimic the structure of a traditional organization (hierarchical pyramid). However, it is really a combination of traditional and swarm elements. In building an organizational structure as outlined within Swarmwise, the officer scaffolding is very similar to a traditional organizational hierarchy (pyramid) and the swarm self-organizes around the scaffolding. The officer’s role is to support the swarm.
Philosophically this approach seems to offer the benefits of a swarm but grounded in traditional organizational behavior principles. In terms of implementation of the organization, the members of the swarm do not answer to the officers, the officer responsibility is to remove impediments from the swarm.
This aspect of the swarm reminded me of one of the Built To Last principles – preserve the core and stimulate progress. The idea being that the swarm should build a strong core of officers, reinforce the mission of the officers to remove impediments for the swarm, and this in turn will result in continuous stimulating swarm progress towards the overall swarm objective.
Leadership in a swarm
Swarm leadership is based on inspiring rather than directing others:
“Remember, leadership in a swarm is received through inspiring others: standing up, doing without asking permission, and leading by example. In this task, the various officers and leaders have no organizational advantage over other people in the swarm: those who inspire others in a swarm cause things to happen.”
In a swarm there is no prestige or any other advantage associated with leadership, it is simply a different role within the organization. Members of the swarm will be inspired by action. Basically just do something to move the swarm forward and others will follow without being told what to do. Relevant action breeds yet additional action.
The Magic of Self-Organization
Self-organization is tricky to accomplish but when you hit the right formula you know it. Falkvinge describes the magic of swarm self-organization as follows:
“The first time you see people self-organize, it feels like magic. What you need to do is to communicate very clearly what you want to see happen and why. If people agree with you, they will make that happen, without you telling a single person what to do further. They will self-organize, and people interested in making it happen will gravitate by themselves to a subtask where they can help deliver the desired result. Each person will do this in his or her own way according to his or her own skill set, with no assignment necessary, causing the whole of the task to happen.”
Furthermore, autonomous behavior is a key mechanism in swarm organization:
“This is also a key mechanism in swarm organizations. You cannot and should not try to tell anybody in the swarm what to do; rather, your role is to set goals and ambitions, ambitions that don’t stop short of changing the entire world for the better.”
I have experienced this first hand on a smaller scale. Many times if you are to direct, or even request that someone accomplish a given task it may be met with resistance depending on the individual. However, if the need is obvious and someone has the skill and resources necessary to meet the need they will usually step up and do it on their own, especially in an environment conducive to doing so. In general, human beings do not like being told what to do, especially capable free thinking individuals. However, most humans like to help others move forward, especially if it is in their own self-interest.
When organizing a swarm the groups should be left free to self-organize as opposed to groups being formed by leadership. This self-organizing aspect also pertains to assignment of specific tasks:
“In a swarm, working groups will form by themselves left and right to accomplish subtasks of your overall vision, subtasks you haven’t even identified. This is part of how a swarm works and why it can be so effective.”
Basically swarm organization appears spontaneously, to just sort of emerge. If leadership interferes with the spontaneous nature of the swarm they run the risk of ruining the magic. Again, the role of leadership is to inspire and remove impediments. Central planning and control should be avoided. Basically build and implement the officer scaffolding correctly and the swarm will emerge around it and take relevant action.
Required Leadership Traits
There are two traits required by a leader to create a successful swarm. The first is passion:
“Your passion for the swarm’s mission is going to be the key in making this happen. You need to constantly show your passion for the end goal, and those who see and pick up on your passion will seek out things they can do to further it – all on their own.”
The passion requirement is nothing new to entrepreneurs. In the early days of starting a company when resources and manpower are scarce, it is critical to the success of a company that the first founder have enough passion to not only start the company, but to sustain and grow the momentum during the roller coaster ride that is to follow. The same appears to hold true for swarm creation.
Secondly, a swarm leader must lead by example:
“Your role is to lead by example. People will copy you, in good weather and bad. Therefore, make sure you’re being seen in good weather.”
The lead by example trait holds true for any context or methodology. People simply will not follow someone whose actions contradict their words. The message and actions of a leader must be consistent. As a leader acts they should be aware that the swarm will take notice and ultimately follow their actions.
The hybrid nature of the swarm organization really fascinates me. The idea that you can create a small group of core officer scaffolding and a swarm emerges around it once the right formula is hit upon is really intriguing.
Image Credit: Lars Mueller Publishers