With distributed control, there isn’t a single, centralized control mechanism that governs system behavior. Although the interrelationships between a system’s elements produce coherence, the system’s overall behavior usually cannot be explained by the sum of its individual parts. To illustrate, there isn’t one neuron that controls our brain, a developing embryo doesn’t have any cells, controls it. Similarly, there isn’t one entity that controls the economy, the overall behavior observed in a fluctuating market result from countless decisions made by millions of individual people every day.
With organizations, distribution of control is the distribution of decision making and management to each group (we call it entity) and to each member in the group. In reality, it means that each entity in a company or group has the autonomy to make their decisions and to self-manage themselves. This is also applied to any associate (or Robot, although a robot is more controversial). It might sound for many people like chaos, and it is centrally started that way. This chaos emerged into a healthy order quickly, and there are other elements in the system (we will discuss them in later posts) that provide control and balances to prevent ongoing chaos. On the other hand, this operating principle maintains organization in the gray area between chaos and order crucial for business flow.
What I can do to exercise Distributed Control:
When you are starting a new project, don’t define any roles. Collect all the people you believe are needed to successfully run the project, define clearly what their purpose, give them full autonomy to make their decisions and break themselves to subgroups (following the same principle of Distributed Control) and stay away for two weeks (worst-case scenario for a team of 10 people). Base on my experience and as a rule of thumb, it takes a week per 5 people for an order to emerge.
Following the 5 people/week rule visit the group after the time needed for the order to emerge. Although people will beg for help and you’ll fill the urge to fix the chaos, Don’t do it! After the needed time for chaos to turn into order passed, you’ll find one or several groups (depend on the size) that are naturally ordered and operate very well. Yes, you lost central control but you gain new benefits such as: