Victus Spiritus


Far Out Design: Binary Tree Organization

22 Jun 2009


Imagine Your Group's Structure as a Binary Tree

The focus of this design concept is agility for larger organizations. It's merely a thought experiment.

Here's a simple example. You start a volunteer organization by yourself. You find two folks that share your vision for how best to proceed in working on a problem. You can spend plenty of time working with just two other people to ensure the group vision is clearly agreed upon between all members. Each of them in turn find two other people that share the groups mission with and so on. Each member of the community will be very familiar with the responsibilities and duties of anyone at their level, anyone a level above them and anyone a level below them in the structure.

The leader of each group of three is not assumed to be all knowing or a dictator. They simply do their best to provide information down throughout the tree. Their responsibility includes working with their two supporting staff members to make the best implementation decisions which can be fed up, down and sideways through the relationship structure.

Your community grows quickly and specific responsibilities usually involve only a leader type and two folks that work for/with you. For larger efforts sections of an entire tree level can work together. The idea is to minimize the amount of meetings necessary to precipitate intelligent action. Broadcast communication is another advisable channel (see microblogging) for ensuring broad understanding of general organziation directions. But highly complex issues, related to specific departments, can be focused on by targeted groups.

Since responsibility is fairly well distributed through the organization how would pay structure be best implemented? Some linear bonus for those higher up in the structure but nothing extraordinary. Or perhaps a much better solution is to completely decouple pay with tree rank/position. Pay based on results, and feedback from those above, below and at a complimentary level in the structure. A formal crowd sourced pay scale with upper and lower boundaries. Commission or results based incentives could be unlimited.


An odd number of equally important areas would require shoe horning one into another groups sub-tree or simply having a leader with one supporting staff. This is an opportunity to group three lower demand subtrees under one leader/manager.

Binary splits on organizational sub-structures might require some regrouping of existing business areas. This could be an unnatural partition of responsibilities. You may have several responsibility areas that are of equal value to your business (all vital). Even though you'll have to make broad groupings of these areas, what you gain in focused attention will make up for any loss of simplicity.

Slow at math on this recording, please forgive the neural failure. [podcast][/podcast]