June 25, 2020

The best of both worlds

“The activities of a machine are determined by its structure, but the relationship is reversed in organisms – organic structure is determined by it’s processes”*

A business is usually conceived of as a machine for making money.   It’s structure is usually a hierarchy of some kind.   That means that many (some might say most) of its activities are around sending information down and up the hierarchy, rather than serving clients or customers – which is after all, where the money comes from.

On the other hand, a business without some sort of structure would probably be too sloppy, too unfocused, too ‘organic’.  That would make it harder to grow or replicate and harder for it to persist when key people leave.

There is a way, I think, to get the best of both worlds.

Structure a business around it’s core process.

The making and keeping of promises.

Document that process to a level that is sufficient to allow the business to persist and evolve sustainably, then stop.

Let the system take care of itself.

*Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982). Excerpted in Science Digest (April 1982), p. 30.