Geometric Progressions vs Constraints

You have a glass of water sitting on the table. You smash the glass. The once organized water now approaches maximum entropy. You throw down a paper towel that absorbs some of that water. That paper towel has organized some of that water. Entropy is lower after that paper towel does its job. That glass acts as a constraint on the behavior of the water the glass contains. That paper towel acts as a constraint on the behavior of the water, as well.

In electronics, this sort of thing is called a ground. If no ground is applied to a light bulb it won’t light up.  Electrons flow. They flow from source to ground, or from ground to source depending on who you are. Yes, there are different perspectives on this. Asking won’t reveal this. But, more to the point, the flow of electrons are organized by constraints.

Graph theory mathematicians talk about completely connected graphs. Add an edge to a large completely connected graph gets you a large number of connections. Notice that this graph is not organized by constraints. In effect, it is ground. The mathematics under the hood is a geometric progression.

This morning I woke up being challenged about some tweet about team size and communications. I didn’t really think about it long enough. A tweet or two touched on the core issues. But, I’ll go into my view here.

Organizations are organized. Organizations are constrained. So when your team size, as a product manager increases by a new staffer, your communications/leadership network does not explode. Every team member doesn’t talk to every other team member. It might be easier if they did, but it doesn’t happen. Yes, you’ll need to talk to that staffer, but you already talk to his boss, and others in the same role.

In one company, all the developers, testers, documentation people had a weekly meeting. The only thing that was really communicated was the ship date. This meeting wasn’t Scrum. While we all attended, and we all reported our status, it was a culture and team thing. The dev team had their own meeting with their lead. The real communications was lead to lead. It wasn’t team to team. If I needed something from dev, I asked the PM to be in the middle. The communications between teams was not nice. But, there was no communications/leadership network explosion. We were organized. We were constrained. We had our subnets.

Companies are organized. This subnet. That subnet. The communications arcs are stable. Being a flatter organization gets rid of some of these constraints, so we explode a bit.

Companies are temporal. Communications isn’t constant. I know I used to work all night, because there were too many interruptions during the day. Talk to me during the day at anytime. But, don’t talk to me at all at night. Those arcs are not persistent. We are not always talking to every edge, every node. We are not always conversing. Sometimes we broadcast. Like when we say what the ship date is.

Companies are cognitive. There is plenty of discussion about the 7+/-2 rule. But, consider that the mean. In different contexts the communicated content will be more or less. PowerPoint insists that we present only three things before we shift it all to long-term memory. DITA and modularized text has similar problems. It takes a lot of planning to divide up the content into nicely related chunks. UIs, task, user stories, face the cognitive limits of the audiences similarly. So when the company communicates to its staff and to its markets, it has to organize the content to the cognitive limits of its recipients.

Channels exist within and without. Those channels structure communications.

Consider that geometric progression to be ground, or maximum entropy. Organizing constraints abound. With the geometric progression we can pretend like we do with Frequentist probabilities that everything is random, but we should realize that the geometric progression doesn’t speak in the face of organization, likewise Frequentist probabilities. Seek the model that accounts for the organization, rather than ground.

Anyway, that’s my response after a few hours. That should be clearer than my immediate response to a tweet. Enjoy. Now back to my world, where the staff is self managed. I could drop dead and the product would still ship on time.


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