This is a cached copy of a blog post from‎ because I think this is a valuable thing to keep and share about so-called "leaderless" organizational structures. I'm not the author.

There are no structureless groups

In the past, one of the orgs I founded was an attempt structurless-ness. In some ways it worked out fine, but in several ways, internally especially, it was always tripping over itself. I burnt out and left for related reasons, but something about the situation has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Why didn’t structureless work? Being a bit of an anarchist, I was pretty sure when I started it, that the do-ocracy system would be better than something with more command and control. It’ only a few years later when reading this article on structurelessness that I realized how non-sense the conceit was to begin with.

TL;DR: Every human group has a structure, it’s inevitable. Specialization, interests, skills, or just I-get-along-with-her-better builds a structure. You can’t have a structureless group.

Once you start there, it’s not far to think through to the conclusion that claims of structurelessness is just denial that there is one for whatever reason. I think most common is naivety or idealism of a group, but sometimes more sinister behavior is at play. Anyone organizing unconferences, or open source development projects should read the post and probably dig into the origional article for a more detailed reading. For the skimmers, I leave you with the following:

A ‘laissez-faire’ group is about as realistic as a ‘laissez-faire’ society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can easily be established because the idea of ‘structurelessness’ does not prevent the formation of informal structures, but only formal ones.”

This entry was posted on 2012.09.13, 19:22 and is filed under HackerspaceProfessional. You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response, ortrackback from your own site.


  • #1 by Matt Rogish on 2012.09.17 - 16:04

    How does that jive with Valve Software’s fluid structure? I guess it’s not “structureless” but it is, at least, temporary and self-defining:

    – Matt

  • #2 by FarMcKon on 2012.09.23 - 10:39

    The valve ‘fluid’ structure is structure, just one where participants can choose how and where to invest their time. I think it’s actually a pretty healthy organic way to structure. Build the cultural norm that the developers can invest trust (ie, go work with/for) or divest trust from a group or team, and you create a very natural feedback look of which people are successful at what they do.

    In short it’s the best of both worlds. Structure, with immediate feedback, and high flexibility.