Getting everyone to work together in a large organization is nearly impossible. I propose it is actually impossible when approached by brute force. Making employees work together is about as fun as making a two year old eat his Gerber plumbs.
Self organizing entities do somehow work together with seemingly little effort. Think of the large flocks of birds or large schools of fish as the fly or swim together. There is no time for top down orchestration -- it just works. There is an invisible feedback loop that reinforces certain behavior that causes the actors to act together, all without a single email or meeting.
Here are a few basic principals to try when thinking about using self organization to your advantage:
- Keep it Simple - and reinforce: Yes, one of the oldest maxims when it comes to marketing and advertising. A simple clearly communicated message is essential. All messages must reinforce a theme.
- Listen hard for feedback: Feedback is everywhere and to be effective leading a fragmented organization listening is tied for first as the most important part of the formula. This means not over-reacting to outliers too.
- Many small adjustments: The theme here is constancy; constant communication, contstant feedback, and constant adjustments. These are not gigantic launches with canyons of silence between them.
- Let the "stick" take care of itself: So many programs are tied down by rules and their enforcement. Not only do these establish barriers between top performers and their goals, but they take valuable resources away from communicating, listening, and adjusting. Left alone, the outliers will take care of themselves.
When coordinating marketing activities across large organizations, particularly those like our clients that also involve tens of thousands of partners that are in fact outside of the company, some of this self organizing stuff is helpful to think about.