Self-organization

Build projects around motivated individuals.

Give them the environment and support they need,

and trust them to get the job done.

Scrum and Extreme Programming both talk about "self-organizing" teams. So they both know the power and benefit of self-organization. FAST turns this to the extreme and combines all your dev teams into one tribe - then letting them dynamically self-organize into teams around work. FAST does not enforce collaboration or self-organization, but by creating a vortex of work that needs doing, expectations of a vision and no-instructions, the only way the project can progress is by collaboration and self-organization. FAST Agile creates a void in which the only solution is self-organization. It supports it inescapably.

FAST relies on self-organization to :

    • Form teams around work
    • Have teams resolve dependencies amongst each other
    • Break down work into consumable pieces
    • Decide on the best architecture and design and adapt it as the project progresses and new information is discovered
    • Have the right conversations at the right time with the right people

Priniciples of self-organization

The original "principle of the self-organizing dynamic system" was formulated by the cybernetician Ashby in 1947.[5][6] It states that any deterministic dynamic system will automatically evolve towards a state of equilibrium (or in more modern terminology, an attractor). Once there, the further evolution of the system is constrained to remain in the attractor. This constraint on the system as a whole implies a form of mutual dependency or coordination between its subsystems or components. In Ashby's terms, each subsystem has adapted to the environment formed by all other subsystems.

The principle of "order from noise" was formulated by the cybernetician Heinz von Foerster in 1960.[7] It notes that self-organization is facilitated by random perturbations ("noise") that let the system explore a variety of states in its state space. A similar principle was formulated by the thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine as "order through fluctuations"[8] or "order out of chaos".[9] It is applied in the method of simulated annealing that is used in problem solving.

If you are not convinced that self-organization can work at scale, below are some case studies in self-organization. If after looking at these you are still not sold or at least have your curiosity piqued, then FAST may not be for you at this time.

    • VALVE Software
    • US Navy - Turn the Ship Around!
    • (More to follow... put your company name here)

VALVE Software: A successful self-organized and bossless company

Below is an excerpt from the VALVE Handbook For New Employees. VALVE is an entertainment, software and technology company. Read more about VALVE in this blog.

Can I be included the next time Valve is deciding X?

Yes. There’s no secret decision-making cabal. No matter what project, you’re already invited. All you have to do is either (1) Start working on it, or (2) Start talking to all the people who you think might be working on it already and find out how to best be valuable. You will be welcomed — there is no approval process red tape involved. Quite the opposite — it’s your job to insert yourself wherever you think you should be.

Cabals are really just multidisciplinary project teams. We’ve self-organized into these largely temporary groups since the early days of Valve. They exist to get a product or large feature shipped. Like any other group or effort at the company, they form organically. People decide to join the group based on their own belief that the group’s work is important enough for them to work on.

VALVE Software

Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy's traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control. Before long, each member of Marquet's crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.

Turn the Ship Around!