The Collective pursue a noble purpose that gives meaning and relevance to stakeholders through awareness building, service provision, skill building, education and systemic change. Collectives prosper in connected, complex ecosystems with little disruption.
They have a structure with servant leaders at the top under strong governance – the pressure comes from the front, below and above. These organizations are driven by strong values and ethical code and typically organized in teams of relatively independent self-directed professionals with little supervision. Collectives occur in professional firms, social enterprises, foundations or NGOs.
A thriving example of the Collective model at work is Buurtzorg Nederland, a neighborhood home-care organization founded in 2006. During the 1990s, the Dutch government merged autonomous home-care organizations into large institutions, to allow for more specialization and efficiency. This led to dissatisfaction among nurses who became less autonomous in their allocation of patients, scheduling and work routines. A centralized call center dispatched the closest nurse and service times were standardized to 15 minutes for bathing, 10 for an injection and 2.5 for altering a compression stocking.
The situation became stressful for the nurses and patients, and many elderly patients found it difficult to get used to a new face for each visit, reducing emotional connections. When nurses verbalized their dissatisfaction, Buurtzorg ideated a gap in the market: full autonomy for nurses within small teams to serve local groups of patients, with team responsibility for scheduling and work routines. Nurses work in a specific neighborhood in a team of around 10 to 12, assisting approximately 50 patients. They organize leadership based on tasks that are distributed evenly within teams of nurses, including local community assimilation and coordination with local hospitals, pharmacies and doctors.
Buurtzorg grew from 4 to 9000 nurses in the first eight years, almost all experienced nurses who left the existing home care organizations drawn to the organizational model of Buurtzorg. Note that the Buurtzorg model of the Collective will be vulnerable if the company ever experiences an existential threat, or needs to embark on a completely new course, for instance in case of embracing digital health care. In this case the Tribe or Business Unit will prove to be effective.