Previously in my article, Agile Drupal Support Teams Like Ours Are Self-Organized, I discussed how organizations are viewable as dynamic living entities that are forming continuously improving ecosystems, by following agile principles. Now, I’d like to share further background on self-organizing systems or SOS as a metaphor and how it creates insights and strategic decisions into organizational behavior.

Since the 1980’s, extensive research has been done on SOS. Self-organizing systems have been found that they have a multitude of direct applications across multiple disciplines; especially in humanities and social sciences. The DNA of the SOS meta-theory or the original intellectual crucible lies mostly in physical and life sciences, but particularly in system dynamics.

In short, conceptualizing organizations are not solely self-organizing but self-learning and self-reproducing.

SOS of conceptualizing organizations becomes an “attractor.”

I’ve mentioned how small and medium sized organization retrospectives, similar to project retrospectives, are usable as a tool and technique to define common attractors. These attractors could be of any meaning; from purpose to goals to a singular strategic vision for the organizational ecosystem.

It’s an important point to note that meaning could change. Therefore, this attractor is surely not the point attractor. As such, two critical questions arise:

  • What components in the system influence the trajectory of meaning in an organization or project?
  • Under what conditions meaning can become a point attractor, a periodic attractor, or a different strange attractor?

By system dynamics, some of these variables could become definitions or detractors for point attractors.

  • Market considerations
  • Technology uncertainties – especially for COTS or community contributed open source systems like Drupal
  • Competitors successes
  • System elements like employees in the organization, losing focus on the vision itself
  • A vision that’s extremely difficult to convert to reality

SOS enables conceptualizing organizations to grow up

The SOS metaphor for conceptualizing organizations demands that all autonomous entities forming complex systems and their interrelated dynamics define their behavior and emergence. Therefore by allowing SOS to occur, we realize that when all organization or project members participate in establishing a shared vision, the likelihood of that system gaining emergence and success drastically increases.

“When an organizational meaning ‘attractor’ is in place, people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to.” – Peter M Senge, The fifth discipline

For learning more about SOS, I recommend reading, The fifth discipline. This book will help you to know more about building learning organizations and familiarizing organizational practitioners with the features of non-linear dynamics. On the lighter side, I suggest reading How to Get Along with Each Other for how Axelerant creates the foundation for enabling self-organizing systems from a conceptualizing organizations culture standpoint.

Interested in scaling SOS? Learn about it.