Frank's blog

Lessons from ants

Have you ever just sat and watched a colony of ants? I have… For being such small creatures, they seriously could move mountains if there were enough of them. If they can organise themselves so efficiently, how come we have such a hard time doing the same?

It all centres on the system and how the organisation is set up. This blog looks at a step change in an organisation and the lessons we can learn from ants. A step change allows for an increase in complexity and growth, for example, going from 50 employees to 100 employees. The step change then means that one needs to review ones organisational structure. In the worst-case scenario you can go from an agile small organisation to a rigid structure with increased bureaucratic hoops.

There are two ways one can go when attempting a step change: option one is central command; option two is via self-organisation, like an ant colony. Several things should be considered when deciding the best option for your organisation, including whether or not the employees have the confidence and trust to self-organise.

If you think agile self-organising is the way to go, look to the ants for your follow through. Set simple rules within an interactive feedback loop system. When it works, emergence will occur. It’s when larger patterns arise through interactions of smaller parts that on their own do not exhibit such properties i.e. individual grains of sand collectively creating ripples.

At Ozgene, we have started to recognise the emergence of such a self-organising structure. The set of simple rules is what we call SBS (step-by-step). This allows the team to access and complete tasks. Our CNS (corporate notification system) is the interactive system that helps the team members organise their work. The team has the power to improve the SBS and CNS to optimise work in their area. Team members gain confidence and trust in the system and before you know it, magic happens!

For a more visual example of how you can learn from ants, please check out the short video below.


- Frank, CEO -

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Frank's Lean talks

  • Shingo Institute, Logan, UT, USA
  • MBA Program, University of Utah, USA
  • OC Tanner, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • Ophir-Spiricon, Logan, UT, USA
  • ELITechGroup, Logan, UT, USA
  • Sebel Furniture, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, WA, Australia
  • AME Business Excellence, Perth, WA, Australia

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The team at Ozgene has over two decades of experience creating customised knockout and knock-in mice for pivotal medical research globally. Over 300 scientific publications are based on research using Ozgene mice.

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Ozgene is applying Lean Management principles to deliver the highest quality services and shortest lead times to our customers. The implementation of Lean Culture has already seen an improvement in our processes and timelines.

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