In 1967 Mel Conway wrote a paper on the subject of “How Do Committees Invent?”. In the paper Conway states:
Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.
This statement was later picked up by Fred Brooks for his seminal book “The Mythical Man-Month” and became known as Conway’s Law.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about Conway’s Law — throughout my career it’s been a constant: Every organization I worked for and every organization I built became, in their structure, a mirror of that organization’s communication structure. Which leads to an interesting, inverse conclusion: If you want to change (or design from the ground up) an organizational structure you need to start with the way communication works and flows.
I’ve been applying this insight to all my recent endeavors and see great success — I finally can build organizational structures from the inside out which resemble what my vision for them is.
Obey Conway’s Law: Start with the way your organization communicates internally — this will naturally define to your organizations’ structure.