Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alliances fail - but why?

To fail..
Late in 2010, NOFAD was part of Saints amongst Sinners, a 500+ pilot alliance living in Querious in a -1.0 truesec dead end system (in other words - a real sanctum heaven), safely under the umbrella of the IT Alliance. A few months later, under intense pressure from enemies, IT Alliance is all but dead, Saints amongst Sinners lost sov in some of the key systems and is in full retreat to NPC nullsec and lowsec. At that moment, SaS is bleeding members and morale is at a low point. NOFAD initially redeploys to Solitude as ordered (while most alliance members just move to highsec), but the alliance seems to fail and in March 2011 we - reluctantly - leave SaS. Now, not even a year later, SAS has 5 members left; the last real corps left on November 10. Sic transit gloria Mundi and all that.

Or not to fail..
At this moment, NOFAD is part of LEGIO alliance, as part of the Against All Authorities (-A-) ecosystem. We've endured a full on assault from DRF, lost sov, lost a few corps. Several NOFAD members, with the memories of SaS's failure still fresh, didn't think LEGIO would survive. It was all too familiar! Deja vu, been there done that.. However, NOFAD decided to stay with LEGIO,as we don't want to be one of those corps that leaves at the first sign of trouble; NOFAD is committed to the alliance it joins. So we redeployed to LGK-VP as ordered, and tried to make the best of it. In the weeks that followed, the red wave crashed over Catch and then - slowly - retreated, and while we might not be out of the woodwork yet, it seems we'll survive. -A- did not fail cascade, and neither did LEGIO.

..that is my question
I'm still digesting what has happened, trying to come up with an explanation as to why SaS failed and LEGIO didn't, under roughly comparable circumstances. First, I'm looking at some external factors, and then we'll take a look at what happens within the alliances.

IT Alliance died; Against All Authorities didn't. That's one big factor, right there. As soon as IT Alliance was no longer able to defend Querious and Delve, the whole ecosystem (intel channels, ship replacement factories, jb network, supporting supercap fleet etc) collapsed. SaS was on it's own, and under those circumstances unable to defend it's space. Against all Authorities didn't die, they just retreated to Stain as they'd done before, and survived even though they lost some (important) corps. The -A- ecosystem survived and continued to support the alliances, corps and pilots belonging to it. An important difference I think.

Internal - leadership
For it's day to day operations, SaS heavily relied on it's CEO, Felix Sidius. Pretty much nothing got done without him, and his alts did much of the hauling too. Felix is a friendly, nice guy; I don't think he likes to say 'no' and for such a fast growing alliance, there were just too many tasks in his hands. Perhaps he should have delegated more than he did? And then, at the critical 'make or break' time when SaS suffered, he became a father for the first time, too! Obviously that did put some strain on his ability to be online and lead the alliance :) So even though Felix did his utter best under the circumstances, (in my opinion) the leadership structure of SaS was not mature enough to withstand the pressure we were under at that time.
LEGIO, on the other hand, has a much more diverse leadership. The CEO, Urkrathos Ulnor, without doubt calls the shots, but much of the practical management work (forum permissions, ts permissions, web site mgmt etc) is done by Scozzy. Still others run the mining/industry division and other separately defined parts of the organisation. All in all, there's much more shared responsibility, strenght and flexibility (and hence coherence, too) in LEGIO as an organisation, than there ever was in SaS.

Ironically, pretty much the same goes for IT Alliance versus -A-. IT Alliance, while not completely run by SirMolle, was definitely his, while -A- doesn't rely on one such figurehead. Perhaps a warning to all those alliances out there that do rely on one strong leader!

Internal - the pilots
Of course you can't blame a failure on just the leadership. It's also up to the pilots to step up and do what's necessary, as best as you can under the circumstances. Within SaS it seems, there were a lot of pilots who were there just to graze, so to speak. Harvesting belt rats and Sanctums for hours on end they made off with billions of ISK, but when they had to reship to combat fitted vessels and defend their place, many left, soon, without even properly saying goodbye. In short, they were not really committed to SaS. It was both surprising and sobering, to notice how many familiar voices on TS just vanished after a few weeks of hardship..
In LEGIO there was one corp opposed to following the -A- strategy to retreat to Stain and fight from there, and they left LEGIO. Ironically, that corp died pretty soon afterwards as their members couldn't agree on what to do next. Still, as was the case with SaS, not all those who remained with LEGIO followed the redeploy orders; some rarely if ever showed up in Stain. But overall, there was more pilot commitment to remain loyal to LEGIO and fight for our survival.

LEGIO doesn't have the rich, perfect -1.0 space SaS had; perhaps therefore LEGIO didn't attract the uncommitted, profiteering, 'grazing' kind of pilot. And we're better off for it: more commitment, less dead weight.

Your thoughts?
I'm interested to hear your opinions and experiences, too! Have you ever been in a corporation or alliance that failed? Any ideas why?


Anonymous said...

part 2/2

Just a few days after happily proclaiming the "achievement" of becoming allies of IT and declaring their ultimate loyalty & love to the clown-faced overlords, SAS leadership considered to side with Atlas as it became clear that IT wouldn't do anything to stop the advance in the south.

Luckily, nothing came of these considerations and a gloating EN24 article lead to a fierce commitment by SAS pilots to make a last stand against Atlas before retreating back to empire.
A crazy day of evacuation ops and this last stand finally showed some potential for teamwork and commitment inside SAS and allowed the alliance to survive the loss of its original purpose (enabling a lengthy zombie-life).

At roughly the same time PL decided to shake things up and moved into NPC Delve. SAS leadership considered taking advantage of this turn of developments and hire PL for protection.
Then PL destroyed the only supercap of SAS - a Hel bought with money from the pilot's last tax refund - and SAS leadership made some ridiculously angry posts (with "lol, come at me" replies by PL) and stopped talks.

SAS moved to Minmatar space while trying to rent space from the Russians (size of rents was not compatible with its newly found pride) and then continued to Solitude/Syndicate with no clear plan for the future.

Solitude is a great region and could have been a good place for reform.
But any such reform would have meant to pick up the 5-10% of pilots willing to give pvp a try, put them into one corp and forget about the rest. Instead pilots "with potential" were diluted between corps, the alliance was effectively leader-less and many members didn't log in at all or played in other parts of empire.
"Some day IT will come back and rescue us from or self-inflicted misery" was the wrong kind of thinking.

Anonymous said...

part 1/2

I have been in a alliance that failed, it was called SAS ;)

SAS was a renter alliance - basically a renting syndicate of self-interested corporations that divided the bill (iirc 5b/month and system?) between them.

IT as the landlord was not interested in grooming the military prowess or cohesion of its renters - only access to select stations, no access to IT JBs (afaik), no access to IT comms, no access to IT fleets, ...

Maybe IT was trying to secure themselves from getting flooded by spies in renter alliances, maybe they wanted to keep relations with renters at a "strictly business"-level- whatever the reasons during peace-time SAS was never integrated with IT and often the only way to get rough information about IT's ups & abouts was to ask Danibunkins.

This all changed when things went wrong in Fountain. Suddenly SAS was supposed to act as a cohesive unit and care about IT.
Rents were dropped, communication channels were opened up, a first set of orders (relocate to secure & hold some system in Delve or Querious) were issued and then ... silence.

The carrot was that if SAS would manage to evolve from loose companionship based on profit and convenience (both of which were hindered by delvegoons and the advance of Atlas) into a proper community of fate and pull through with IT it would get rewarded amply after the end of the war.

There are several obvious issues with this approach - SAS had not recruited pvp pilots, had no competent FCs, had nothing resembling an alliance culture, had had very little contact with IT before (other than having to pay them stupid amounts of ISK) and no matter how well SAS did - its effect on the fate of IT would be negligible.

Yet instead of calling off the party and dissolving the alliance after evacuation to high-sec, the SAS leadership decided to take the gamble. IT still had a well-ringing name and the forums were obviously dominated by unbelievable enemy propaganda. Just *imagine* if a corporation or two from SAS might be allowed into IT proper for its valuable services in the war...

For IT the only way to harness the resources of SAS would have been to embed them into fleets of experienced IT pilots and FCs. Asking them to relocate into some obscure system in the middle of nowhere to hold off an enemy that didn't exist was bad.
Too much time for SAS to contemplate their own misery & incompetence while also feeling generally useless in their new status as "allies".

IT apparently didn't follow up with more orders, so SAS went back to B-7 with those few motivated pilots that had taken part in the move not too happy about having wasted their time.

Sered Woollahra said...

That's a nice and detailed story of what happened to SaS alliance, thanks for recording this for posterity! Too bad you're posting as 'anonymous', I must know you :)