Last week I did a presentation talk at the monthly meeting of Agile Leadership Network Houston on the topic of Swarming.

You’ve heard it before, “You are Agile now, go self-organize” and yet exactly how to do it remains a mystery. Beyond giving permission to “go Agile” what else can managers do to help teams capitalize on the power of self-organization? Who’s the real sucker here? Perhaps the question should be, “What can nature teach us about self-organization?” How can we – as managers -use the lessons nature provides to our advantage? Swarming is a dynamic act of being, of exhibiting collective action to solve complex problems which are beyond the capabilities of top-down problem solving. Natural systems have iterated over millennia to hone into simple rules. Studies of ants and bees and other beings in the natural world have revealed some of the underlying principles and techniques. These have found applicability into wide variety of problem domains (e.g., battlefields, drones, supply-chains, autonomous robots etc.)  But people aren’t robots…or insects. Is there a practical way to use these strategies, these lessons of nature, to help provide guidance for those of us trying to create an environment that supports and nurtures self-organizing teams?

The purpose of our talk is to first, elevate the conversation about Swarming in software development from the “psuedo-management-pop” notion of “everybody work on the same thing” approach. And the second purpose, in light of our understanding about how utterly un-understandable complexity really is, we invite you to join us in sharing the questions that truly unsettle us about prevalent management practices.