Organizational Style Pattern Language


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The Pattern Language
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Our organizational analyses have uncovered various styles of organization. Our studies of these organizations captured these patterns of roles and communication links between them. Some style work better than others in their respective contexts. There is no single right style, but different kinds of organizations suggest elements of style suitable to their success.

A Story About Organizational Style

One of the most fun projects I ever worked on was code-named Trident. We started out with about ten people (see SizeTheOrganization), but we had FewRoles. Nearly all the roles were ProducerRoles. As a result, the producer roles were at the center of communication — they got the information they needed (ProducersInTheMiddle). The roles remained stable throughout the life of the project (StableRoles).

We were making significant modifications to an existing product, so naturally our organization mirrored the architecture of the product (ConwaysLaw). We had a single market, but it was different from the market for the existing product, which was why we were formed as a separate organization in the first place. (OrganizationFollowsMarket).

The organization, small as it was, was split across two locations. We began with FaceToFaceBeforeWorkingRemotely, and then split the work along geographical lines (OrganizationFollowsLocation.) One person agreed to a temporary move to the other location, which was a form of ShapingCirculationRealms, and helped HallwayChatter.

There was no overloaded central role (DistributeWorkEvenly); this was helped by keeping ThreeToSevenHelpersPerRole. The smallness of the team allowed high coupling, which contributed to efficiency (CouplingDecreasesLatency).

Ultimately, shifts in the marketplace caused the project's demise. Fortunately, the decision was made quickly, and until that point, the project was on or ahead of schedule.