Feedback Loops

On my recent post on “timely feedback” I made reference to “feedback loops.” I said that feedback loops are at the very heart of our capacity to self-organize. Self-organizing is the ecological antidote to our industrialized approach to planning. Of course it is important to plan! The problem is that we plan with an industrial mindset. The industrial mindset depends on high levels of predictability. But our increasingly complex world is highly unpredictable.

Feedback is what allows us to adjust behavior, to shift our approach, to adapt in ways that facilitate self-organizing in an unpredictable world. We can structure our systems so that they have simple rules and feedback loops. These make for systems that are emergent, resilient and highly adaptable.  

We do this by pushing power to the edges, decentralizing it, allowing for decisions to get made in the places that are most directly impacted. This is not easy to do. It is very challenging for us to visualize post-industrial organizations. Our minds get stuck on hierarchical org charts. It is hard to do, but it can certainly can be done. When we use tools that work a lot like twitter (chatter, yammer, etc) but do so within an organization, we give every member of that organization the power to say what they want and to promote what they think needs to be promoted.

These tools work best when we are bold enough to get out of our e-mail habits and be transparent about our communications. The most important requirement is that the organization have alignment around what it needs to get done - what is our vision, what is our mission and what are our values. When people know their roles, when they are clear about the organizing principles and when they are not afraid to move things forward (not scared by the possibility of failure), these tools are an excellent way of facilitating feedback loops.

Try it.