System Collaboration – Our Organizational Principles

In this article we have put all the different pictures of the principles together one by one to form our completed set of principles in a total picture.

As stated before, our organizational principles are pure science, where many of them also are common sense. The organizational principles are context dependent, which means that how many of them that are “activated”, depends on the context, i.e., Clear, Complicated or Complex referring to the Cynefin™ Framework by Dave Snowden. The more complexity, the more organizational principles we need to fulfil, and in a complex context like product development, we need to fulfil all of them. This also leads to that the solution space for a possible solution for a complex context like product development decreases.

An apt definition of an organization is the following: “People that interact to solve activities with interdependencies for a common purpose”. Our organizational principles therefore consist of science about people and activities, and this science is well-known since at least 30 years. It can also be added that most of this science is common sense.

Here are the organizational principles for our people:

– Respect for people

This principle is absolutely the most important and natural principle to follow. But, when a way of working is mal-functioning, this principle will be harder and harder to follow, which is the reason why Toyota always want to solve their problems and become better. Toyota thinks that their employees always need to have the best-known way of working, which means to respect the people in the organization. This is also why objectivity is part of respect. Because, if we have found the organizational root causes to our organizational problems, that means that we have science that we are not fulfilling. To continue to try to solve the organizational problems, which since they are symptoms, are insolvable, is un-objective, which also means sub-optimization. To continue to claim subjectivity about a solution to an organizational problem, and that everybody can have an opinion, like in politics, only leads to master suppression techniques, and in the long run to polarization. The solution to the organizational root causes is where we have the subjectivity, when discussing the best total solution for our organization.

– Teams of maximum 15 persons to achieve trust and sympathy
This goes for any team constellation, in the line hierarchy, or the virtual delivery structure. But the more complexity we have when solving an activity, the fewer people we can have in the team. When we have high complexity, that means that we need to decrease the team size, down to a few persons, very much depending on Miller’s number. For example, a task force, when having a severe technical customer problem, is a good example on when the number of team members is low.
– Teams of teams of maximum 150 persons (Dunbar’s number) to achieve recognition of all people’s names and faces
This number is especially important for a virtual delivery structure consisting of many teams, that deliver something together, due to the need of interactions in any direction, between any two people or teams within the virtual delivery structure. This also means that as long as the line hierarchy has teams of maximum 15 persons, it can have any number of teams, due to not having the delivery responsibility.

– Miller’s number, which means that we can only keep 7 +-2 things in our short-term memory

Miller’s number also gives a variety of things we need to consider, like: short and few chains of interactions (few intermediates), which means that the solution is a flat virtual delivery structures for our people. A flat virtual delivery structure is especially valid when the complexity increase, since the interactions to solve complex/complicated activities cannot be predicted in advance. With a flat people structure, T-shaping will also happen, which also reduces some of the need for part-time resources that is often the effect with too much specialization. Related to the solutions in order to avoid breaking Miller’s number is also many common senses like; we people cannot have to many things going on at the same time, the more persons to take a decision the harder, the more intermediates the easier it is that the information is distorted, by our limitations or on purpose, etc.

– Conway’s law, to avoid that the architecture deteriorates

This happens due to teams sitting together, but not having the responsibility for components in the architecture next to each other, and will give new interfaces and communication channels, that were not part of the original architecture.

– There must be someone (person/team) responsible for an activity to deliver

The deliveries are the responsibility of the virtual delivery structure in a complex context, but an activity can also be to fix a broken tool, or fix a bug in the system test environment, which is the responsibility of the line hierarchy.

– There must be someone responsible for activities regarding; the way of working (top priority), guilds with people, tools, competence, career, salary, products, maintenance, etc. (everything except the deliveries, is the responsibility of the line hierarchy)

This is also very important, since only a very small tool with no responsible person, means that the tool can lack important updates, that can lead to that those very big initiatives cannot deliver. Also having the line hierarchy responsible for maintenance, leads to a better balance between new functionality and the teams flagging for the need of refactoring, where normally the former is dominating.

Here are the organizational principles for our activities:

– We need to reduce the uncertainty in our product we are developing

This is important so we are developing the right product. When possible, which is rather often, we need to differ between the uncertainty in what product to develop, and the uncertainty in the best visualization and functionality of the user interface. Since the top-down solution for new product development shows the need of a proper systems designed architecture, this is not difficult to achieve.

– We need to reduce the disciplinary complexity in the parts of our product we are developing

This means to develop the product right, with new innovative solutions for the parts. It is about experimentation, leading to new innovations and technology that can be used in our coming initiatives. This is valid for hardware or for hardware and software in combination.

– We need to do a top-down reduction of the transdisciplinary complexity in our product we are developing

This is also about developing completely new products, to make the total product right, which means an integrative approach where also experimentation is needed, since we cannot reduce complexity by detailing the specification. Instead, we need new knowledge about how to put our parts together to a coherent and cohesive whole. This new knowledge is completely new, which means that our experts cannot help us to achieve only a few planned prototypes to achieve the knowledge. It is unplannable.

– We need to do a top-down reduction of the transdisciplinary complicatedness in our product we are developing

Here is where we make only some adjustments to the architecture with some new parts, which maybe is the result of new innovations, where the disciplinary complexity has been conquered. Reducing transdisciplinary complicatedness is when our experts can help us, and we know that we can successfully can plan a few prototypes, and expect a good result.

– There must be a top-down priority order between the initiatives, and for the activities within an initiative

This is of course important, otherwise the risk is very high that initiatives and/or activities are done in the wrong order.

– The activities need to be done in the stated right priority order within an initiative

This means that we already have a top-down priority order, that we need to follow. Managers can therefore not interfere with the deliveries from the virtual delivery structure, since that means micro-management/sub-optimization, and that we do our activities in the wrong order.

– We need to have control on the dependencies and interdependencies between the activities within the initiatives, or between the initiatives

This means top-down order again. The portfolio needs to have long-term control on the dependencies between the initiatives, and every initiative need to have control over the dependencies and interdependencies within the initiative itself, and with other initiatives. If not, it will lead to unnecessary delays between the activities, since the team will wait on each other, with clogging as a negative result. A continually updated initiative, activity and integration (an integration is an activity as well) progress report, preferably visualized, is always needed to achieve proactiveness.

– We are not proactive enough towards variability

There will always be variability even when we have all knowledge, we need in order to make our plan, which we need to keep in our minds so we are avoiding unplanned delays. This variability depends on normal problems, things like; mistakes, miss-communication, misunderstanding, inexactness, Murphy’s law, etc., i.e., variability is always there, even in the best of way of workings. A common and necessary combined solution is that centralized resources (always needed to some degree) are underutilized, and that the initiatives have some slack in their time plan. Only one of them is not enough, see this blog post for a deep dive.
Note! We can never ever treat built-in root causes in a mal-functioning way of working as variability, that is only to fool ourselves.

– We do not have a common language in the organization

We always need a common vocabulary for our total way of working, and its parts, made in a top-down manner. In this way parts can understand each other, and every part can themselves have specific detailed vocabulary within the part.

– We need to have timely (just-in-time) feedback

This is totally context dependent, which means it depends of the context of the activity, how fast feedback we need. Complicated activities require some more knowledge, while complex activities need completely new knowledge, that we do not know if it even exists. Uncertainty also requires new knowledge so we can make the right product for our customers. The more knowledge we need the more and the faster feedback loops we need, so that we as fast as possible can make iterations on proper hypothesis and achieve the knowledge we need.

Since science always needs to be followed, not fulfilling all the organizational principles will definitely lead to a mal-functioning way of working. This mal-functioning will be of varying degree, depending on which organizational principles that are not fulfilled and how many of them. If our way of working does not fulfil the organizational principles, our way of working will have a built-in organizational root cause for every non-fulfilled organizational principle.

It must be noted that the activated organizational principles for the activities always are independent of how many people that are solving the activities. But the more people we add, the more of the organizational principles for us humans will be activated. This leads to an increased transdisciplinary complexity, which in turn makes it harder to find a solution for our way of working that fulfils all our organizational principles at the same time. But, due to our experience since ancient times around way of workings, it gives us a good direction on how the solution shall look like, and where the method SPPA also is of invaluable help. And for product development, with all our organizational principles activated and the System Collaboration Deductions, it is actually easier to find a solution to our way of working.

It can also be added, that the more complex context we are operating in, the longer it will take until we understand that we have built-in deficiencies, and the more severe our organizational problems will be. But, once again, SPPA is the method that takes care about this, and a method that we should use regularly, in order to find the root causes to our problems as early as possible.

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