Project organization

Self-organizing stigmergic systems can provide a simple and low cost solution to the problem of organizing and keeping track of projects - and with virtually no overheads.

Using a Web site or an Intranet system, the general idea is that everyone associated with a project creates an agent for themselves.

When they create their agent, they give it a memory by providing answers to a questionnaire. These answers then become the answers given by the agent to anyone who interacts with it.

The questionnaire used to build the memories can be arranged to cover all the information needs associated with the project - where people are located, contact details, areas of responsibility or expertise, functions, skills, duties, stage of progress, etc - in fact any kind of information that someone might want to know if they need help or information.

In this way, everyone can define their own role and responsibilities and everyone will be able to know what everyone else's duties and responsibilities are by interacting with the agents.

These questions need not all decided from the start, they can be introduced gradually, in an ad hoc manner, as the team members, collectively or independently, discover the kind of information they need to know.

In this way, the agents evolve into a collective, growing memory, which becomes more tuned to the needs of the team as the project proceeds. There can be no disputes because everyone defines their own role and areas of responsibility when they answer the questions to create their agent memories. There is no costly database to maintain as everyone is responsible for keeping their own agents up-to-date. The system can be given any kind of complexity simply by choosing the right kinds of questions to put into the questionnaire.

The unique feature of stigmergic systems is that they can bring about order and organization within a project without having to impose any procedures. People can work within an organizational 'influence' rather than regulation: without any restraints, or limitations to freedom or initiative.

For production teams this is a great advantage because stigmergic systems are highly flexible and easy to work with. They don't tell any person what to do, but everyone will be able to know what everyone else is doing and where their responsibilities lie. There is no need to centralize any control or monitoring because everybody is responsible for their own input. Isn't this the way ants work when they build their complicated nests?

It is simple to use, it self-adjusts to the needs of the team and it adds practically nothing to the overheads.

Note: If any company would like to help explore this idea with us, please join in the research project. It'll cost very little and it's ready to go - as the software is already developed.

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