Forming a team discussion metaphor

Shu(1): I need your help.

Ri: About what?

Shu: Help me with a metaphor. I see teams formed just by simple association of people, at least this is my feeling.  I want to tell my boss, or anyone who does this, that is not quite like this. Sometimes is hard for me to explain a certain subject without being to verbose. But now I need something simple, but powerful to explain what I feel.

Ri: Hmm….[smiling]

Shu: Is hard to start a new battle and a lot of problems will appear because of this …. help me please.

[A moment of silence appears. Shu is looking at Ri puzzled. Suddenly the Ri’s face became serious and his right palm suddenly and firmly is put on the table.]

Ri: Look at the fingers. All have their place.

[Shu looked for several seconds, and put his right hand near Ri’s hand]

Shu: And my fingers are not on your hand and your fingers are not on my hand. Each have its place.

[Ri smiled]

Ri: You see, with this hand you can do a lot of things. It depends on you. The cohesion of the fingers helps in doing different things. They work for a purpose/goal. The same is with people, they are different and they have to work for a common goal/purpose/direction.

[Shu interrupts Ri, like continuing what Ri says]

Shu: And you cannot do that if you are not careful on how you choose those people. If you have a broken/abnormal finger it affects the things you can do with the hand.

[Ri smiled]


From a discussion had with clinical psychologist Dr. Ion Zamfir regarding management.


(1) Alistair Cockburn, “Shu Ha Ri”: http://alistair.cockburn.us/Shu+Ha+Ri

The problem of connecting the dots

Recently I read an article (1) . The article is about Fred Brooks, his book (“‎The Mythical Man-Month‎”’) and the fact that the overhead of communication is direct proportionality with the number of people and  the number of different communication channels, also increases rapidly with the number of employees.

I liked a lot the drawings from the article. It was a very nice representation of this connection between increasing the number of people and increasing the number of communication channels. After I read the article, I realised those images don’t fully represent the whole story.

The following things activated in my head, maybe I am wrong, but still:

1) Max Boisot made similar drawings(2) and observed an interesting thing – yes, at that moment, he was speaking in the context of international terrorism. So, depending on the number of dots he have:

-for N=4 we have 6 possible links and 64 possible patterns;

-for N=10 we have 45 possible links and 3.5 trillion possible patterns;

-for N=12 we have 66 possible links and 4.700 quadrillion possible patterns;

For him dots were the data, links the information and patterns the knowledge. And an important point is to process the patterns.

2) Then I remembered what Dave Snowden said regarding identity in humans, inspired by anthropology :”Identity is fluid in humans, we move between roles depending on context and have developed rituals by which we can temporarily align our identity with a role for collective purpose.”(3)

So, maybe one dot, from the drawing, actually  can be more than one dot because people can shift identities.

3) For sure Fred Brooks was right in the sense that we should not add people late in the project. And yes “‎The Mythical Man-Month” is a wonderful book.

Conclusion: In a sense those drawings, from the article mentioned, made me visualize how nasty things can be. Those drawings are beautiful, but somehow incomplete, is just the tip of the iceberg. They made me understand better how tangled complexity can be.

Regarding the conclusion “les managers doivent s’assurer d’optimiser le nombre de salariés travaillant sur une tâche, ni trop, ni trop peu…” –> I think that, if the manager (first line manager) is not involved in the work(does not interact with the system, is not with the ‘skin in the game’)  the chance to make bad decisions is increased a lot. I think is possible for a project with just 3 people to give a lot of headache. The manager should be aware that:

– there will always be hidden surprises;

– there will be volatility;

– when there is prediction to be sure unpredicted things will pop-up.

Note: The title of this blog post is inspired by (2)


(1) Cadreo, “La loi de Brooks ou pourquoi la multiplication des collaborateurs fait perdre du temps”, https://www.cadreo.com/actualites/dt-loi-brooks-ou-pourquoi-multiplier-les-collaborateurs-sur-un-projet-fait-perdre-du-temps

(2) Christopher  Bellavita, “Nidal Hasan and the problem of connecting the dots”, http://www.hlswatch.com/2009/11/12/nidal-hasan-and-the-problem-of-connecting-the-dots/

(3) Dave Snowden, “Three or five?”, http://cognitive-edge.com/blog/three-or-five/