Current approaches compared
Two of the leading approaches for how to go about self organisation are principle-based and productivity-based. The difference is which area of life they use as a starting point. Principle-based methods focus on defining personal high level goals,vision and principles (or habits). A popular example of this approach is Stephen Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". By maintaining a small number of specific habits, Covey maintains, people can achieve a balanced life and enjoy success. He does not cover in any great detail how to organise daily activities, projects or to-do lists.
Character ethic: Habits that breed effectiveness
Covey applies a w:top-down approach, beginning with the creation of a personal mission statement and instilling 7 key habits in one's life. The reasoning is that in order to achieve success it is important to develop a good character, which is developed through the cultivation of certain habits. These habits may be sub-divided into three areas:
- Private victory, or the the movement from dependence to independence. Having achieved mastery of the self, which is focused on being proactive, having clear goals and managing one's time effectively, one can then move on to...
- Public victory, moving from independence to interdependence. The second area focuses on how to communicate and work with others for maximum mutual benefit.
- Sharpen the saw, being able to sustain productivity depends on looking after one's health, learning new skills, taking time out to replenish one's energy stores. The activities discussed here cover the spiritual/mental/social and physical aspects of being.
Covey comes from a leadership (big picture) paradigm and does address important issues like lifetime goals and deeper underlying principles for guidance, however his approach is lacking in practical hands-on information on how to deal with one's inbox, organise files and just "get stuff done".
Self-management for control and perspective
Productivity-focused self organisation, in contrast, is about helping people organise the "stuff" in their lives: the projects they are involved with in private and professional life, tasks, appointments, in-boxes, filing systems, etc. Only after these things have been organised into a coherent, trusted system is the work on high level goals and values introduced. One of the leading thinkers in this area is David Allen, who pioneered the "Getting Things Done" system for self organisation.
David Allen's "Getting Things Done" (shortened in popular usage to "GTD") is a systematic approach for gaining control and attaining perspective in personal matters through self-management. The claimed benefits for people implementing the approach are increased and stress-free productivity and a state of flow, creativity and positive engagement while maintaining "mind like water". While his original book of the same title introduced the "Getting Things Done" approach, his more recent title Making It All Work and the terminology therein has been used as a basis for this review.
Allen describes three models that make up his system: Mastering Workflow, Natural Planning and Horizons of Focus. The three models are interconnected horizontally through sequence and vertically through hierarchy via eleven core underlying concepts: There are five stages of workflow for gaining control (Capturing, Clarifying, Organising, Reflecting and Engaging / Actions) and six horizons of focus for gaining perspective (Engaging / Actions, Projects, Areas of Focus, Goals, Vision and Purpose / Principles).
There is a clear alignment between the GTD approach and the OrganicDesign values and methods. Conceptually, we can relate to notions of workflows and organisational hierarchies and can imagine how they might be implemented in a collaborative web-based system. These concepts map very well to ontologies representing organisations, in this case the organisation that represents a person. More importantly, it is an holistic and unified approach to self organisation: There is no distinction between "work" and "life" in the system - why not use one tool to effectively manage everything in life we care about? Allen also shows how the same system can be applied to any organisation because the concepts map across quite naturally from individuals to groups. Unification is an important objective for OrganicDesign so we prefer to use tools and methods that inherently support it by being designed from a unified perspective.[more]
Integrating self organisation and team organisation
These concepts map quite well to organisations, such as the idea of needing to define various "altitudes" within the organisation, such as goals mission and vision, through to departments, projects and roles, right down to lists of tasks. The main difference is that at the level of organisations, items like projects or tasks are somewhat more complex and that depending on a given members' role within the organisation, they may not have access to all aspects of its operation.