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Bruce Holland

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In my last Snippet I suggested that many companies are really struggling because they are still following policies based on a mechanical model of how the world works. Other companies are winning by following policies consistent with the laws of life: flexibility, robustness and self organisation.

Since 1992 I have been working with these ideas in Virtual Group Business Consultants, a company dedicated to improving human endeavour , and in itself a model of what we want to achieve. We have quite deliberately used Virtual Group as an experiment to test concepts of self management and self organisation. We have pushed the boundaries far further than I would risk when advising a client. It all started with a strong belief that there has to be a better way to organise human endeavor so that people grow and contribute to their fullest potential.

Let me give you a sense of how Virtual Group operates by quoting from our Operating Manual:

Under business conditions such as these it's best to keep as many options open as possible and to aim for what works rather than optimalisation. Relationships and speed are critical requirements.

We believe that ideally Virtual Group's Local Network should be based on the following principles:

  • Virtual Group is a network and as such relationships are critical, both between consultants and with clients
  • It will be equitably controlled by all members. There will be no managers. Everyone is expected to be a leader in their field, sometimes being the Project Leader, sometimes being a Project Member.
  • It will be equitably owned by all members. There will be 50 shares in total. Each member will own one share.
  • Power and function must be distributed to the maximum degree. No function should be performed by any part that could reasonably be done by a more peripheral part.
  • Governance must be widely distributed. Ideally the Local Networks will have significant control over major decisions which will operate on the "80% rule".
  • It must be infinitely malleable yet extremely durable. It should be capable of constant, self-generation without extensive external intervention.

We also use Craig Reynold's three rules of complexity (discussed previously). We have found, due to their simplicity and clarity, they are about the only things we need to keep in our heads as we go forward.

Now it's important to realise that I'm not putting Virtual Group up as a model to be copied because we don't have all the answers yet. However in the seven years we have learned a great deal about how people work best in a self organising structure. We have found things that work and things that don't. And whilst we don't have all the answers, I have no doubt that we have made significant progress in improving human endeavour, and we are probably further down the track than most people are.

Let me know if I can help or if you'd like to discuss these ideas further.

Best wishes


Bruce Holland

Helps large organisations be focussed, fast and flexible. Places where people have more meaning, depth and connection.

Expert in Strategy, Structure, Culture and Leadership Development.

One of NZ's most experienced change agents.

Liberating the Human Spirit at Work
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