Framework 95 Networks of Networks (flat networks)


Traditional paradigms of organisitions, like hierachical structures, etc, are under threat. There is a need to find ways of escaping out-of-date assumptions and develop organisations less restrained by habits and routines. One way is forming collaborative teams, ie

"...non-hierarchical, egalitarian, collaborative teams are possible. Most perform very well, with high satisfaction. Team leaders' responsibilities are given to the team. The team leader then manages the team boundary..."

Bob Dick, 2021a

Unfortunately, attempts to scale up this structure to an organisational level have had limited success.

Why do we have organisations?


"...We are able to pursue and achieve larger or more complex goals when we

    - coordinate our effort and expertise, and

    - direct our effort and expertise towards achieving our shared goals..."

Bob Dick, 2021a

In other words, as organised individuals you can achieve more than as unorganised individuals by coordinating effort and expertise. This is traditionally done through following procedures or protocols, with rules and regulations, etc and/or having somebody in a position of authority to issue instructions that others follow, ie hierarchies.

An alternative could be

"...independent people (individually or in teams) decide to pool their skills and energy. They then, as necessary, adjust in a moment to respond to changing conditions..."

Bob Dick, 2021a

Features of network structures

- ease of interaction (good communications - upwards, downwards & sideways, etc)

- quality of relationships (good personal & professional relationships; interdependencies, etc)

- traffic elements (good exchange of materials, information, psychology, etc; usually the psychological elements receive the least attention, ie neglected or even ignored)

- balance (how balanced is the 'traffic', ie upwards, downwards, sideways, etc?)

- rank and status (minimal impact of rank and status on relationships; encourage autonomy; independent thinking, etc)


"...networks can be inherently democratic and effective..."

Bob Dick, 2021a

Some suggestions to improve democracy at work

- redesign work (to achieve deeper engagement of staff, greater self-determination as to their purpose, etc)

- role classification and negotiation (to encourage more autonomy, self-management, accountability, responsibility, etc)

- stakeholder engagement (more informal meetings with different stakeholders, such as what happens with communities in 'town hall meetings' for organisations and 'kitchen table meetings' for teams)

- bypass existing structures, ie use informal networks (see network mapping)

- use techniques like deliberative democracy, communities of practice, action learning, etc (they democratise and combine education with decision-making; expose people with alternative thinking, etc)

Examples of successful networks

Some examples of diverse, extremely flat networks of individuals and teams that are highly effective, ie autonomous, and with high work satisfaction:

i) Morning Star (the largest organisation in the industry; a person-to-person network in the tomato industry; employs 600 people in the off-peak and 4,000 at the peak; there's an owner and the rest negotiate directly with one another on how they will manage their interdependencies; each agreement is posted on an internally-accessible company intranet; agreements are revised as conditions change)

ii) Buurtzorg (autonomous teams of health-care providers who negotiate with each other; based in Holland with about 900 teams; once team membership reaches 12, it is divided into 2 teams; each team is responsible for the provision of health care within a geographical area; despite each team being fully responsible for all its activities, they have access to expert backup.

iii) Haier (Chinese-based appliance manufacturer with around 100,000 staff worldwide; staff are arranged in almost fully autonomous teams; each team negotiates for whatever services it requires from other teams (including those external to the organisation)

iv) US Army (General Stanley McChrystal bypassed the army hierarchy in Afghanistan; he organised regular meetings of the large number of soldiers, analysts, etc to exchange relevant information, irrespective of their rank and position; this shortened the response times to new intelligence from days to hours, ie intelligence could be acted upon promptly)

v) Australian Facilitators Network (informal self-organised network around 800 Australian and New Zealand facilitators; there is no official hierarchy, no constitution, no office bearers, etc; if something needs to be done, people volunteer and do it, eg over 2 decades, members volunteer to organised and conduct annual conferences)

(source: Bob Dick, 2021a -


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