The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Dave PollardDave Pollard writes: Several of my key solutions to making our world better — Natural Enterprises, True Collaboration and Model Intentional Communities
most notably — rely on the ability of groups of people to self-manage
more effectively than large hierarchical organizations are, or can be,
managed top-down. Derek Woolverton over at Technical Difficulties… 
commented on my post on WL Gore (“no ranks, no titles, no bosses”) that
self-managed organizations, if they don’t have any rules, can be much
worse than badly-managed ones. He sent me a link to a manifesto written
back in 1970 by Jo Freeman called The Tyranny of Structurelessness,
lamenting how the women’s liberation movement of that day had
degenerated into anarchy, cliquishness and petty politics for exactly
that reason. Her article lays out these seven principles of democratic
structuring for self-managed organizations: 1) Delegate specific
authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic
procedures, after they’ve expressed an interest or willingness to do
it. Don’t just let people choose their own jobs. 2) Require all those
to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to all those who
selected them. The group retains the ultimate say over how the power is
exercised. 3) Distribute authority among as many people as is
reasonably possible, to prevent monopoly of power and encourage
learning and consultation.  4) Rotate tasks among individuals
often but not too often, so people learn many jobs adequately and to
avoid turf wars.  5) Allocate tasks using objective criteria:
competency, interest, responsibility, and opportunity to learn new
things with appropriate mentoring.  6) Diffuse information to
everyone in the organization as frequently as possible. The more one
knows about how things work, the more politically effective one can be.
7) Provide equal access to resources (equipment, skills and
information) needed by the group. Freeman’s manifesto is dated, but
these principles make sense when dealing with the proclivity (I think
it’s learned, so I won’t say ‘natural tendency’) of people in groups to
dominate, bully, gang up, hoard, compete, take perverse pleasure in
others’ failure, and do things without adequate consultation. (12/22/04)