Bioteams: Learning from Nature to improve Project Management
You can download a PDF of the full thesis (Portuguese) from Fabio's website here:
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to present the specific case of Bioteaming, a discipline developed in the United Kingdom and based on social animals behavior, that means, those organized on societies that operate in swarms, herds or groups. When studying this topic, new ideas and solutions are introduced and explained, applied to one of the main projects management areas, which is the human resources management, with a structure, teamwork and leadership scheme that may represent the success factor in a given project.
Taking this discipline as the basis, the research exposed on this paper intends to answer the following question: May projects management be benefited from application of new theories and tools of software and communications based on animal behavior?
Keywords: Biomimicry, Bioteams, Management, Organizational change, work teams, Virtual enterprise networks
Bioteaming is a new discipline that, despite on a development process, already offers a set of tools; cases of success; techniques; rules; and recommendations that are easily applicable to projects, organizations and work teams. It is evident that not every process or methodology is applicable, but it is clear that technology will help to explore many more possibilities for teams optimization with work goals. Meanwhile, having modern technology devices is useless if mental and business models are still based on old-fashioned concepts.
Based on the study presented in this paper, it is possible to conclude that Bioteams offer very interesting possibilities to evaluate and implement in several organizational and Project Management's aspects, especially in terms of: team collaboration and teamwork flows; leadership; communications; basic rules and conflict resolution; and about the intrinsic philosophy of work as a team.
The audio visual resources along with the learning and diagnostic tools made available by the Bioteams are very practical and relatively easy to use. Event though, it is good to mention the tip that Thompson remarks about not to start the process with trainings of specific software or communications systems lessons; "there is no a standard roadmap to apply Bioteams, the best way to use the techniques is the "Just-in-time", in the context of current problems and opportunities of the organization". Ideally, a diagnostic is the starting point from a company to know its vision, current business and work teams characteristics. Only after this initial evaluation it is possible to know if the Bioteams model is recommended and if the structure and resources are appropriate to apply it without disruptions. The successful application of Bioteams is not purely organizational and technological; it must have a strategic and projects management vision supporting its implementation.
Case studies and practical experience show, so far, that the three areas or projects types where Bioteams perform better are: business networks -with remarkable performance on Virtual Enterprise Networks (VEN), briefly described in this paper also- fans/supporters communities and virtual or mobile teams.
Nature is an endless source of ideas, however, not of resources, which are finite and, in several cases, closer to depletion. New disciplines like Biomimicry are a warning call to understand that we cohabit in a planet with limited resources, so we must use our intelligence without arrogance. Human subsistence could be at serious risk if development vision is not changed radically, along with design, products' life cycles and material's sources.
Even if we were able to emulate the smart and unbelievably effective organizational structures of nature, human being has interests and freedom of choice, which is commonly blended with personal desires and beliefs. Hence the importance to develop new models, or at least, to increase the number of tools available for human resources management, beyond the traditional "Command and Control", to create truly commitment among the members of our team, with the projects, the work to be done and the organizations we all belong to.
The world and the current projects, in the midst of knowledge era and information revolution, increasingly require that collective leadership is developing within the organizations. Rigid models, with strong hierarchy and processes hindered by bottlenecks or excessively dependent on a single leader, are not able to survive anymore in the modern times of quick adaptation because additional costs related with those old practices would end up turning unviable, or at least highly inefficient, both the organization and its managers.
The Virtual Enterprise Networks (VEN) represent an example of Bioteam, with a proven success as a business model for small and medium enterprises, giving them virtual scale and operational capabilities similar to those that large companies and multinationals have, but without losing its unique characteristics of quick response; flexibility; and operational low costs.
The study of the Virtual Enterprise Networks is a challenge to take advantage of technology and communications and to effectively implement them in a business area or project. Whether with customers, suppliers, the entire supply chain, a prospect strategic partner or even a competitor, there are many ways to create synergies with all of them and also schemes of collaboration within a win-win frame. The key is the mind-set and the strategic use of resources that, in most cases, have been available for years.
Fabio Padilla is an Engineer, keynote speaker and wheelchair tennis player living in Brasilia, Brazil's Capital. Training and Consulting services on Leadership, Work Safety and Sustainability. Currently enrolled in the Sustainability and Environmental Management Program at HARVARD UNIVERSITY Extension School. Fabio can be contacted at http://fabiopadilla.com/
Bioteams Books Reviews
Belbin sees Bioteams as the next step. Dr R Meredith Belbin, regarded as the father of "team-role" theory and one of the worlds foremost experts on teams predicts that we will evolve into bioteam forms. In his book "The Coming Shape of Organisation" Belbin picks out five observations human teams need to learn from "a diminutive masterclass" of social insects such as bees, ants and termites.