Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aligning People or Letting them Align Part III

Bill Miller, confound him, asked an excellent question. Normally I avoid people asking excellent questions, but as he paid me the compliment of commenting on what I wrote, [Editor: and I made sound intelligent] I felt obligated to respond. And it is an excellent question.

What is the essence of self organization as opposed to their being organized?
The crucial question is responsibility. If a group organizes itself, the group is responsible for the outcome. If someone else organizes the group, the organizer is responsible the outcome.

If ten kids get together to play basketball, then they choose teams, call plays and evaluate the results. If a coach organizes a team, schedules the practices and calls the plays, then the coach is responsible.

Accepting Responsibility Versus Diffusing It
If three people get together and start a company to implement a new idea for running projects, they are responsible for developing the products, the methodologies and finding the customers. If their products and services work, customers continue working with them and the company grows. If their approach doesn't work, the company goes out of business. Those three people and the others who join them are responsible. (This is how CAP was born)

If a company decides that it wants to implement a new program, it picks three people and tells them to implement it. The first thing those people do (if their smart) is ask for more money, more people and more time. In this situation, it is in the three peoples' best interest to make the program as large, as expensive and as time consuming as possible. If they are smart, they diffuse responsibility, but accept credit.

What Advantage do Entrepreneurs Have?
An entrepreneur and the people starting a company take responsibility for making it succeed. People taking a job are responsible to do what someone else organized for them to do.

Are both important? Absolutely.
Which one is likely to effectively produce defined products and services?
Which one is likely to produce innovative products and services?
Which one are you looking for?

1 comment:

Bill Miller said...


Thank you for your considered response. To be honest, I find responsibility as the distinguishing characteristic unsatisfying.

I've seen and been part of being organized where the group took responsibility for the outcome (this is common in organized sports, but I've seen it even organized teams in corporations), and I recall those self organized teams as a kid that broke up in argument with the kids walking away blaming one kid for the loss or for behaviour that ruined the game when all our behaviour and game play required improvement.