Thursday 26 April 2018

Chaordic Management

by Trevor Watkins

A friend referred me to Dee Hock’s wonderful book One from many - Visa and the rise of the Chaordic Organisation which was published in 2005. I devoured its contents in less than a week, taking notes as I went along. This article is an overview of the book and those notes.

This book predates Swarmwise - the tactical manual to changing the World by Rick Falkvinge by a couple of years, but the two books share many similar ideas. Both books describe a management style ideal for the “herding cats” challenge of managing an organisation made up of of libertarians and individualists. It is an approach that I believe should be used within the Individualist Movement as well.


In the foreword to One from many Peter Senge writes:
Few even well-informed business leaders seem to recognize Visa as the largest business organization in the world, despite a turnover that is some 10 times that of Wal-Mart and a market value that is, conservatively speaking, more than double that of General Electric.I have often wondered why this is so.How could the world’s largest business also be one of the business world’s best kept secrets? It is certainly not that its product is little known, nor that it is the leader of an obscure industry. There are few companies that could claim that one-sixth of the world’s people were its customers last year! Yet, over the past decade, there have been well over a thousand feature articles in Business Week, Fortune, and Forbes on Microsoft, over 350 on GE, and about 35 on Visa.
How could a company of its extraordinary scale have only about 20,000 employees—about 5000 in Visa International around the world and then comparable numbers in several regional VISA organizations? How could it have no stockholders—and be owned by its members? How could it be organized as a network with little central authority—with member rights and responsibilities of participation rather than stock, and governed by a constitution, more like a democratic society than a business? Indeed it may simply be the best business example of an emerging revolution in organizing, kin to such diverse organizations as the Internet, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and the worldwide air traffic control system. Each is a network of free agents, none of whom understand the whole of the network nor do they need to, but each of whom knows the ground rules for participating.
On every front, we face problems for which the dominant hierarchical, authoritarian organizations are inadequate.As Dee Hock says,“We live in an era of massive institutional failure.” He saw clearly that it was “beyond the power of reason to design an organization” capable of coordinating a global network of financial transactions of the sort that had started to develop.Yet,he also knew that nature regularly achieves just that. Why, he wondered, couldn’t a human organization work like a rain forest? Why couldn’t it be patterned on biological concepts and methods? “What if we quit arguing about the structure of a new institution and tried to think of it as having some sort of genetic code?”
We will need a willingness to question our most deeply held habitual ways of seeing organizations and management.We will need a willingness eventually to embrace the seeming chaos of an organization that no one “runs” and where we all share responsibility. We will need to embrace continually mistake-making and correcting, nature’s learning process. And we will need a willingness to surrender the personal need to control—“the closet Newtonian” that Dee says resides in all of us.

Chaordic management

chaordic \ kay′ord-ick \ adj. [fr. E. cha′os and ord′er] 1. The behavior of any self-organizing and self-governing organism, organization, or system that harmoniously blends characteristics of chaos and order. 2. Characteristic of the fundamental, organizing principle of nature.

What are some of the basic principles of chaordic management?

  • Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, employ good people, and free them to do the same. All else is trivial
  • Understanding events and influencing the future requires mastering of four ways of looking at things; as they were, as they are, as they might become, and as they ought to be.
  • The truth is that an organization has no reality save in the mind. It is nothing but a mental construct to which people are drawn in pursuit of common purpose; a conceptual embodiment of a very old, very powerful idea called community.
  • The possibility of that which has never occurred cannot be determined by opinion—only by an attempt.
  • Attempting the impossible is not rational,though reason may play some part in it. It is beyond reason. It is a matter of hope, faith,and determination.
  • The theology of chaordic organization writ simple. Heaven is purpose, principle,and people. Purgatory is paper and procedure. Hell is rule and regulations.
  • “I am as great to me as you are to you, therefore,we are equal.
  • One need not know and be able to prove in advance what could be accomplished. One need not have a precise plan about how to get there. In a complex, rapidly changing world, a clear sense of direction, a compelling purpose and powerful beliefs about conduct in pursuit of it, seemed to me infinitely more sensible and robust than mechanical plans, detailed objectives, and predetermined outcomes.
  • Making good judgments and acting wisely when one has complete data, facts, and information is not leadership. It’s not even management. It’s bookkeeping. Leadership requires ability to make wise decisions and act responsibly upon them when one has little more than a clear sense of direction, proper values, and some understanding of the forces driving change.
  • Studium ad prosperandum,voluntas in conveniendum, The will to succeed,the grace to compromise.
  • Therefore, clear, meaningful purpose and compelling, ethical principles evoked from and shared by all participants should be the essence of every institution 

Individualist Movement

The Individualist Movement embodies the principles of chaordic management and the Swarm wise approach within its structure.

The movement is based on just four explicit principles contained in the Individualist Manifesto. All members must endorse these principles.

Significant authority and responsibility is vested in each member. A member may speak on behalf of the organisation, may initiate any project, and takes credit for any success or responsibility for any consequent failure.

Nobody gets to tell anybody what to do. You lead by inspiring others, by example, not by instruction.

The leadership is administrative and advisory, not authoritarian.

The leadership sets exciting, realisable goals. The membership accomplishes the goals independently of the leadership.

Trust, transparency, speed and scalability are the key concepts.

The future

The Individualist Movement is dedicated to defining and disseminating the concepts of individual sovereignty and consent. It will identify and enable a group of individuals who align themselves themselves with this objective. But it will also be a testing ground for new and different models of management. It should be an interesting ride.

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