For almost all of the last 80 million years or so, bees play an extremely important role in the ecosystem, as they’re responsible for pollinating flowers and plants. Most people probably associate bees with honey, they also offer us important project management lessons.
Now you may be thinking, what in the world can I learn from an insect? From mission, to delegation, to training, a lot can be learned about running a business from the bees.
1. Understanding Your Mission Bees have an absolute obsession with what is good for the whole organization/team/department/group over what is good for any one bee. The whole hive’s vision, strategy and belief help define “due north” so every bee is committed to the greater purpose, direction and philosophy of surviving.
2. Team building and delegation Bees have a clear organizational structure, and every bee knows and understands their role. The queen is in charge and lays all the eggs (2000 a day) that will later hatch. The drone mates with the queen and dies in the process. Typically, no one is going to ask you to die in the office, but the point is sacrifice. Sometimes, individual wants have to be sacrificed for the success of the team. Finally, there is the worker bee. These bees make up the majority of the hive and are skilled at performing all of the labor requirements. It is clear that the bees have a hierarchy, and teams should also. This is not to say that one person is more important than the next, as each team member is essential, but that teams do need a structure and a leader. Delegation is essential for success. Giving specific titles and duties to your team members is an essential part of delegation.
3. Comunication Bees use vibrations and pheromones to help pass complex messages. We have so much technology to help us communicate; let’s not forget that using it with honesty is they key to excellent communication. You must also be clear in your communication to your team. Be clear and concise in your expectations and goals, and expect that how you communicate to your team that they will communicate the same way back to you.Team members must be confident and comfortable enough to raise the red flag if need, ask their colleagues for help or reach out to you for guidance. If bees were unable to effectively communicate with one another, their very survival would be at stake.
4. Replacement training and promotion The Honeybee has an automatic system of replacement training and promotion to help the hive stay ahead of the curve and safe in an emergency. The work of a hive is divided into two main areas: inside chores, and outside chores. A young bee starts by working inside as a nurse and when she matures she leaves to work outside as a forager. A forager bee gathers food and gives it to the rest of the hive; when so doing, she passes along a chemical in the food that stops the young nurses from maturing and becoming foragers. When a forager dies, she no longer passes the chemicals on to the nurses. Without this chemical, the insiders mature and become foragers. No one misses a beat. If a mass loss in foragers occurs, a mass number of nurses will leave, and the hive will slow in its baby production until things are back on track. In your organization you should aim for smooth replacement transitions as well. Never become over dependant on a single individual. Everyone should know how to do more than just their one specific job. By knowing how to operate in a couple of different areas at work, employees are happier and more flexible, which are great qualities to possess.
Honeybees stay in sync to have an even amount of each, and if a large portion of the outside workers die off, the inside workers will replace them to keep the system running smoothly.
5. The leader is truly the servant of all We tend to think of the ‘Queen Bee’ as the leader of the hive, sitting regally whilst her workers bring home the nectar. Rather, she is a servant to her hive, laying eggs and producing more quality bees to help ensure the hive continues. The queen knows her role within the colony and performs her duties while trusting the hive to do their duties.
As much as we are leaders in our company, guiding others to achieve our vision for the company -- we are also servants to our team. Ask what your team needs from you and actively listen. It’s the team behaving as one, in pursuit of a common goal which brings success, not a leader laying down the rules. The leader’s role is to build the colony culture; it’s done in every meeting, in the break room, in the hallway. The leader defines the “what” and the “why” and lets staff define the “how.”
6. Anticipating risks and adapting to change Bees have developed a sophisticated system to deal and mitigate risks. They can easily adapt to changes in the weather and other unforeseeable events. They also know how to work with constraints in place. They will work tirelessly during spring and summer to produce enough food for the winter months, during which they obviously won’t be able to collect anything. And in the event of losing their queen, they immediately assign some worker bees with the task to produce eggs, until they have a new queen.Teams need to be aware of risks and have processes in place that help them avoid these risks entirely, or if that’s not possible, mitigate their effects. Situations can change very quickly, so you always need to have contingency plans in place.