Doing Tribe Right: Part II

Part II: Organizing into specific task-oriented Divisions

Horizontal-organization   My second foray into the rather messy and imprecise world of herding cats, errrr, patriots is a discussion of the role of middle management, or those with supervisory power. For those of you living under a rock of still stuck on military terms, in this context it would be the equivalent of a Captain or Lieutenant. If one remembers the purpose of an organization it is the efficient division of labor. Having covered the ‘who’s in charge?’ portion, we now will begin to discuss the actual division of labor. I will emphasize the fact that form should follow function here, the division of labor should be done to further the vision of the leadership. Your leadership has articulated a vision and made a concrete, achievable plans to accomplish that vision haven’t they? If not, see Part I. What am I saying, if they haven’t done that then remove them or remove yourself. They are not leaders. I’ll say it again LEADERSHIP WITHOUT VISION OR PLANNING IS NOT LEADERSHIP!! 


1. Creating specialized divisions, or…’Hey! He’s got the more funner and more importanter job!’

There are several important facets I believe necessary to a functioning tribe. Logistics, Operations, Administration, Communication and Intelligence are the five divisions I believe are sufficiently broad to organize all but the largest and most sophisticated tribes. Remember, the goal here is rough division of labor, not having a specific division for every conceivable thing. It is inefficient to have a ‘Food Division’ a ‘Water Division’ and ‘Medicine Division.’ Instantly I question your intelligence, as do the competent people you hope to recruit. You do want competent, thoughtful people on your side don’t you? Rather, you have a Logistics Division. Is it stuff? Yes. Then it belongs to the logistics guys. They can figure out how to stash it, store it, or do whatever they need to do to provide, wait for it…logistics for your operations, admin, comms and intel people.

When selecting someone to manage a division, being knowledgeable and competent in that particular field should take primacy, with leadership ability a strong secondary consideration. Do not select someone who has no idea how to operate a radio as director of communications, unless no one knows how to use one and he has show interest and self-motivation at attaining competency. Directors who are not proficient and skilled at their tasks are not taken seriously, not respected and there most certainly is no esprit de corps. While no doubt everyone and their mother will want to be Delta/CAG/SEAL Ops guys, your time would be better spent on other things at this point. This is a volunteer organization, so I would recommend if you cannot accommodate the amount of interest in a particular field then create a rubric and hold interviews or tryouts. Your leadership should be doing quality control here. If guys want to be all high speed then they better hope they can run a 13 minute 2 mile and score in the 9 ring at 600m right after. I’ve found people get much less enthused when they find out they have to actually run, train and put forth effort to be ‘high speed’ and the few you do get are worth ten times the number of losers who can’t be bothered to try. I would also encourage the leadership to heavily emphasize a holistic view of the tribe. The logistics guys keep you fed. It’s not lame, it’s vitally important. The intel guys keep you from freaking dying because you didn’t know 500 derka-derkas were headed for you screaming ‘Allah snackbar.’ Everybody has a job, and it’s part of the leadership’s job to make sure that the organization functions as a whole or watch it die as a collection of squabbling individuals. The ‘I’m more importanter’ attitude by one person or a specific cadre within the organization cannot be tolerated. I will go into the specifics of each division at a later time, but I would encourage you to begin thinking about it now. They are the spokes surrounding your hub of leadership that are necessary for your success.


2. Divisional Organization…letting fiefdoms, fief.

Within these individual divisions, the Director (head honcho, call it whatever) is responsible for the organization. The leadership should demand efficiency here, but under no circumstances micromanage. If you have to micromanage, then find a replacement for the individual. It is not the leadership’s job to be running a specific department at the neglect of their primary responsibilities. Be prepared to accept a wide variety of organizational methods here. Some people are OCD and things are labeled, alphabetized and then color coded. Some people have extremely informal and ethereal methods of organization. IF IT WORKS LEAVE IT ALONE!!!! For example, Operations lends itself to round table discussions, loose hierarchal structure and less quantifiable organization. The rain makers have more pull than the scrubs, the Director may know certain people work better together on projects or someone has certain talents, the possibilities are endless. The point being, it may look like chaos to the outsider, but if consistent, acceptable results are being achieved then leave the damn thing alone. Logistics or Administration are much more quantifiable and can be scrutinized closer for efficiency and organization, but I would say specifically when it comes to Operations, in small companies it more closely resembles managing a team than adhering to strict organizational protocols. Let the leadership of each actually exercise leadership, and judge the results. Ultimately the overall leadership is responsible for any failure in leadership from the Directors, but function, not stylistic differences should be the primary concern when making that judgment call.

While in the beginning, most tribes would require the leadership committee to wear multiple hats, an aggressive culture of mentoring needs to be created. Have the leadership, particularly at this state, invest the time and energy required to achieve competency and as much expertise as practically possible about whatever division they are moonlighting for. Do not let it become a permanent fixture for a couple individuals to be doing all the work and the rest freeloading. This is the exact culture that got us here, please don’t recreate it. The leadership needs to find willing members as they become available to fill these gaps. Those individuals in turn should be mentoring others as they lead, and so on and so forth. Cross-training should occur once your rank and file members have achieved a standard, yes have standards, of proficiency in their position and it should be done regularly. Ideally at any given time 3/4 of your organization or more can step into a different role should they need. This creates flexibility and helps ameliorate problems when an influx of new members occurs. Some positions require more talent, trust or perhaps have a steeper learning curve. I would dare say people tasked with Intel analysis and collating should not be your newest and least vetted members. Use common sense here.


I have given you examples of what I know works, but it is far from a treatise on the subject. Use common sense and measure things by results rather than methods, in most cases. Those in a supervisory capacity are those with whom you will either foster the most trust and admiration, or the most distrust and disrespect. Your leadership skills will make their jobs easier and an asset to your tribe, or will create debilitating amounts of chaos. It is also among their ranks that coups and dissension occur. If a particular segment seems to be coalescing into a different and toxic entity, it is either being permitted or encouraged by the individual tasked with leading them. That is not to say dissent should not be sanctioned, but that it should be voiced and addressed the proper way and through proper channels. I told you this wasn’t easy.


– Jesse James


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