Social Structures

If you’ve never done it, it takes years of experimenting and a great deal of frustration to figure out how to operate in social models. If you start from scratch without the help of experience, you will go through many iterations and failures before you reach a point where everything works. We can definitely help you shorten that journey.

It is easier to understand social models if we can express them in structures, of course. As you will see below, the structures we propose actually undo more rigid structures and are not themselves constructs with a permanent form. Instead, they are de-structured and perpetually adapting to events. They are, nonetheless, clearly defined.


cropped-hive21.jpgThe first construct is the HIVE, a specific approach to defining communities and directing communities.

In traditional, functional hierarchies, people are grouped by like-skills or Functions and Functions are further grouped at higher levels thus forming a hierarchy. These structures don’t work well in today’s fast-paced world where 3/4 of what individuals work with are exceptions to standard processes, where workflows need to be improvised. Functional structures are very slow at improvising.

Communities or HIVE’s (Human Intercation Virtual Environments) are groupings of people with multiple skills where the grouping is driven by a common mission or objective (e.g., keep production cycle times short; or maintain high service levels to customers; or penetrate a new market). Flexibility comes from the formlessness of the structure where individuals are empowered to deal with any event that gets in the way of the mission.

This capacity to resolve issues very quickly comes from the way the approach liberates the greatest capability of human beings: spontaneous association – the ability of a group of people of diverse skills to improvise action pathways to deal with a common challenge. We see it at work in natural disasters (think Haiti, Katrina or Nepal) and we see it in spades at the workplace.

HIVE is a cultural concept as much as a mechanism and fostering HIVE’s is all about developing culture, a culture that will transform the operation away from traditional silos. You can read more about it here and here.


The second construct is called NeON and it means Neural Operational Network. NeON is a model of processes that transforms classical sequential processes into clusters of tasks around individual Roles, where these individuals interact on impulse (rather than on specific directions like “do this”) and sequentiality doesn’t exist,. Essentially, NeON takes a HIVE beyond a cultural concern and adds to it professional practices, by redesigning and simplifying Roles and Tasks by using the Straightline™  approach.


Transformation Process

How then do we take an existing, classically structured operation and guide it to the ‘promise land’ of HIVE’s working in NeON mode? Following is a brief outline of the process we recommend to evolve to these structures.

1 – Work on culture

You begin with HIVE.

Building a HIVE is primarily a behavioural challenge. As simple as it may sound, the single most important goal here is to teach people how to work in community-mode, rather than what we sometimes call in ‘cubicle-mode’.

When individuals in a HIVE work in a community, they work in the community. They don’t go there, discuss some issues and then go back to their cubicles. They stay in the community. I.e., they are never alone, they are always surrounded by colleagues with multiple skills, interacting on an ongoing basis, resolving problems and making decisions.

This habit of working in a community – thusly defined – is contrary to what happens in a command-and-control functional hierarchy. It takes a great deal of coaching, time and patience to get there. It requires that we work with Managers on one side and ‘doers’ on the other, since the work habits of both must change dramatically.

2 – Evolve to NeON models

Implementing HIVE’s is an exercise where we focus on culture, not on structure. We don’t strive to change processes or attribution of tasks. Once HIVE’s are operational, we want to leverage that highly dynamic and very fast model and simplify and optimize the operation. Without NeON’s, we can simplify an Enterprise but with HIVE’s present, we can achieve a higher degree of Simplification by an order of magnitude! And that is the objective of NeON models.

NeON models, essentially, are individuals in clear roles, with clusters of tasks associated to them. Contrary to linear process models, NeON’s are void of sequentiality – i.e. there is no sequence on a NeON model.

The pathways that you would normally see in a process map are not prescribed in a NeON. Basically, what you have is this:

  • There is a HIVE with a clear mission and with individuals in clear roles within that HIVE.
  • You associate tasks to those roles based on their definition. It’s important that there is no redundancy of tasks between roles.
  • HIVE’s respond to events – be it disruptive events (e.g., a sudden increase in market demand) or regular events (a customer order) – by spontaneously combining the skills of individuals and constructing workflows to respond to events.
  • With time, as events repeat theselves, the same pathways are re-utilized. This ‘memory’ of action pathways and ability to derive other pathways therefrom, constitute the collective intelligence of the HIVE.

Imagine the adaptability of an operation consisting of HIVE’s with clear missions with individuals operating in a NeON concept without sequence. What such a social network can do is beyond what may have been prescribed in linear business processes.

The competitiveness of such a self-learning, adaptable operation is unmatched by traditional structures.

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