Self organizing systems exercise LO13343

Debbie Broome (
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 11:38:14 -0500

Replying to LO13323 --

Bette Gardner writes:

At 06:41 PM 4/20/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Has anyone seen an exercise successfully used for demonstrating self
>organizing systems?


I cannot recall any specific exercises, although I am sure that I have
participated in some. My experience has been that the exercises are not
very real-world, because several things that "drive" self-organizing teams
are difficult to simulate. From a recent example of a self-organized team
that I was a part of, here are what I believe to be some of those
"drivers" that are difficult to recreate.

1. Everyone is there because they want to be, they are invested in the

2. Everyone is working toward the same broad goal and unlike much of the
"training" we receive on group process, you do not spend a lot of time
articulating that goal and discussing it. In fact, I do not recall any
discussions in my recent experience to "formalize" the "goal." The goal
is very simple and very broad, like "We want to win this bid."

3. The groups forms around a very specific task and members are
recruited, not through a formal hierachy, but because of their expertise
or what they can contribute.

4. There was incredible time pressure to get something done, so we had to
be (and were) very focused.

I must admit this experience was most enjoyable, but in all of the "team"
training, leadership classes, etc. I've experience over some 20 odd years,
I've never seen it duplicated and I'm not sure why. I think one of the
reasons the self-forming team did work is that we all felt "empowered" to
do what we needed to do. There was an incredible amount of support among
team members for each other as well. Perhaps developing those skills lead
to successful self-forming teams.

As an interesting aside, I heard Margeret Wheatley speak at a conference
last fall on "The Simplier Way," which in large part delves into the whole
notion of self-forming teams. One of the things that stuck with me is the
example she provided of a self-forming organizing process. When the
Okalahoma City bombing occurred, all or most of the "Managers/Leaders" of
the disaster response team were out of State at a conference (I think on
how to be a team). Consequently, none of the formal leaders were
available to coordinate the disaster response and yet by all accounts, the
response was successful, despite the terrible incident.

I guess, I also go back to the basis of self-forming, self-organizing
systems, which is rooted in nature. If you look at it that way, nature
just is, there is no design for an experiential experience to learn, you
just have to jump in and do it.

Debbie Broome			e-mail:
Assistant City Manager		phone:  972-461-7465
City of Plano Texas		fax:  972-423-9587
P.O. Box 860358
Plano, TX  75086-0358

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