Hive Minds in Program Management

“Hive Minds Create the Perfect Program Management Model”

by Bill Thomas
March 16, 2019

 Hive Mind; (Google Definitions)

  1. a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence.

The Hive activity expressed in the intricate, coordinated performance of a colony of honey bees, is regarded as analogous to a single mind controlling the behaviour of an individual organism. The collective consciousness or Hive mentality, analogous to the behaviour of social insects, in which a group of people become aware of their commonality and think and act as a community, sharing their knowledge, thoughts, and resources – the global hive mind that has emerged with sites like Twitter and Facebook where such a group, attitudinally categorized by uncritical conformity and loss of a sense of individuality and personal accountability


“The tiny bees in a hive are more or less unaware of their colony, but their collective hive mind transcends their small bee minds.”

— Sven Birkerts and Kevin Kelly

It’s en vogue at companies today to be single-minded toward speed. Fanatical to fail fast. Dedicated to deploying daily. Impassioned to iterate immediately. This regularly translates well for software development and IT teams but can backfire when building a consulting division Your question is likely, why or how can it backfire? There’s suddenly a very urgent and important question. Like democracy, a hive mind free-for-all where the non-management always outnumber the management;  Hive or Democracy enables the many to outvote the few. A profoundly threatening prospect to the few or to the management. If the few possess power and leadership, they may respond to this prospect by resisting the Hive before it arrives—or sabotaging it afterward. Notwithstanding the lure of agility and victory, don’t take the shortest footpath hunting for riches or ease. Use a business-based process for building an authentic and engaged communal community where everyone understands at the end of the day, business is business and this isn’t a democracy, but it is an environment where one can flourish and excel.

Understanding the pains and gains is another aspect of the Hive coalescence.  Ask enough “whys” and you’ll get to these facts. Pains are usually the most uncomplicated to list – most people stop there. Put a group together, incent them to be the best and they’ll eventually ask “What gets in the way of a person’s job?” Gains are NOT simply the “contrary” of pain. Instead, gains are the hidden motivations people have, their purposes, actions that bring them satisfaction. It takes an attitude and a determination to uncover these. Keep asking better open-ended questions, dig a bit deeper. What does your stakeholder really aspire to do that they cannot do now? If gains sound rather existential to you, that’s undoubtedly because great gains often are.

Program Management now focuses on much more than being billable. Google turned 20 years old in September of 2018, that significant birthday realizes a business more powerful than ever before. The Big G gives the impression that it is likely to grow even further. Their secret sauce? For me, a Principal Program Manager, it’s the “Google hive-mind” where robot arms learn to negotiate a cluttered world. Markedly different than others that follow an inflexible top-down master plan, the Big G’s approach and follow-on success is formed by pronouncements often made autonomously of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But Collectively, Consciously, and Competently these conclusions DO articulate a master plan, a hive mind plan that prescribes what the company will do. Getting robots to pick up objects with the same dexterity and success-rate as a five-year-old child is no minor task in the advancement of flexible automation systems. Getting clients to be successful in spite of their own politics sometimes take out-of-the-box thinking. Google research scientist Sergey Levine, said at a high level, current robots “observes the world around it, formulates an internal model, constructs a plan of action, and then execute this plan. This approach is modular and often effective but tends to break down in the kinds of cluttered environments that are typical of the real world.” Here, insight is imprecise, all representations are wrong in some way, and no strategy endures its first contact with reality. Hive minds can break the paradigms, they can break the codes.

The hive mind has been enormously effective in increasing Google’s business through a symbiotic relationship between its robots and management. If you look at other successful Hive-oriented entities like GitHub, Xamarin, Braintree, Twilio, Heroku, Stack Overflow, and MongoDB. They all have a common equation; Collective Consciousness – the trend is clear.

In some organizations, its Program Managers believe that their teams live or die on the effectiveness of their members. Team Members advance mission critical business rain or shine, hot or cold, good or bad and even tough or impossible. Many have found that clients call when the risk is FAILURE and they need to stack the deck in their favor.

What many are beginning to do:

  1. Support a “Collegial Methodology” which:
    1. Is built around an uber-unique culture based on the “hive mind coalescence”
    2. Uses its brain-trust to craft ever improving process, methodology and increases “time to solution” KPIs and captures it for reuse
    3. Recognizes that “synergy” is at the heart of their success and people are their asset
    4. Have a collective approach: “when one of us is challenged, we call upon the scrum, the entire team – all of our mates”

Clients rely on the primary beliefs around the Collective Conscious Competency, the Hive Mind and uniquely patented methodologies that have been proven over time. Imagine now that when a client engages one of ‘us’, they get all of ‘us’. As part of the Hive, every Program Manager has immediate access to the Global Collective Conscious Competency model when they have a client situation. These models can include:

  • 911 emergency email distribution list
  • Incentives based on “First Responder” and “Best Responder” participation
  • Exclusive access to the Collective Conscience Competency Knowledge Base Library that uses Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation [SBAR] case scenarios that are industry specific for situational problem solving
  • And the “tour de force”, a hot-line for their members, “le temps d’agir” or “time to act” Emergency Alert Notification Response System – a 24/7/365 hosted WebEx where their team members help every onsite Program Manager run solution scenarios just like a heart surgeon running the aorta for a potential aneurysm

This is the basis for the mantra: “Wherever I go, there we are

Collective Conscious (Wikipedia) French: conscience collective; a set of shared beliefs, ideas, and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. The term was introduced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his “The Division of Labour in Society” in 1893. “The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness.” — Émile Durkheim

Like many instances, the Hive Mind was born out of a need to repudiate the status quo of program management. With opportunity facing teams, the opportunity to make program management more important, Program Managers gathered like the eusocial, flying insect within the genus Apis of the bee clade. Known for construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax, for the large size of their colonies, and for their surplus production and storage of honey. PPM members together, asked the question “What if we could build an expert system made up of the best consultants you’ve ever worked with, people that you wouldn’t hesitate to put in front of your best customer?“ What if we created a better honey-comb….

It’s all about team trust – all of us recollect the best consultants we’ve worked with for their capacity, hunger, capability and like-ability. At emerging Program Management Offices, they bring these people together for their experience in creating communities of problem solvers who are at the top of their game, giving colleagues a delivery system, enabling them to support clients from concept initiation through operationalization. They take this wide-ranging and bottomless web of requirements and wrap it together through extensible process architectures, systematically documented experiences and Big Data driven pursuits; then via a decentralized management infrastructure, they provide world-class services.

If Honey Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey and one bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey; “then how many Program Managers does it take to solve your companies Digital Transformation problem?”

The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute. What kind of noise does a group of Program Managers make?

Wherever I go, there we are

Bill Thomas is a Principal Program Manager and Enterprise Architect for Dell Technologies Global Transformation Professional Services division since 2011. Bill is based out of the small, quiet suburb of Anthem, Arizona, just 15 miles north of Phoenix. Bill works in the Health Care and Financial Services sectors and supports some of Dell Technologies very largest clients.