Organisations the world over are applying tribal wisdom to their structure and culture. A good example is Flight Centre, one of Australia’s most successful travel agency groups, where the workforce is divided into groups that are called ‘families’, ‘villages’ and ‘tribes’. This encourages employees to think and behave collectively to create consistent high-quality customer experiences. Under this system, Flight Centre’s retail shops and other business units rarely have more than eight people, which encourages family-like respect and personal knowledge. Staff members work with staff of other Flight Centre shops to form a village, and these villages work together in tribes of about 120 people. Rather than go against the grain, Flight Centre taps into this hardwired human behaviour.
In the 2007 Flight Centre Limited Annual Report, a section entitled ‘Company vision, purpose and philosophies’ expands this concept. “Our structure is simple, lean, flat and transparent with accessible leaders. There is a maximum of 4 and sometimes 5 layers. The village is an unfunded, self-help support group that forms an integral part of our structure. 1. Teams (the family – minimum 3, maximum 7 individuals). Villages (minimum 3, maximum 7 teams). 2. Areas (tribe – minimum 10, maximum 20 teams). 3. Nations (minimum 8, maximum 15 areas). 4. Regions/States/Countries (minimum 4, maximum 8 nations). 5. Global Executive Team/Board”. The annual report was accessed on November 10, 2010 and can be found here:http://www3.flightcentre.com.au/corporate/annual-reports/index.jsp