Conways Law, Tacit Knowledge

What is missing can be found if we revisit the original 1968 article. The first sentence in Conway’s conclusion reads, “…organizations which [sic] design system…are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” (emphasis added). Conway’s insight ran a lot deeper than org charts; how the organization actually communicates is essential.

This is not to say that restructuring is bad. However, restructuring can be very risky if you don’t have a clear idea of the communication paths within your organization, and is even more risky if you don’t have a clear idea of the communication paths within the systems your organization has built. Unless you know the organization’s communication paths, you may even spend all your time reorganizing people who have little to do with what actually gets done.


“Conway’s Law Revisited: Successfully Aligning Enterprise Architecture”

While the article doesn’t really address bottom up information flow directly, it seems to work in the same area as that kind of thinking: flattening the flow of information is more effective than bureaucracy’ing it.

Along those lines, it seems to fit well with something from Cockburn
I flipped to this morning in Chip’s office this morning:

The knowledge base of a product is immense, and much of that knowledge consists of knowing the team’s rituals of negotiation, who contributed heavily in the last release, what pieces of discussion went into certain design decisions, and so on.