Growing Complexity: It’s Predictable as Your Organization Grows

I posted this picture to my Facebook page a little while back. It’s free hand, and I don’t draw well. But it was on my mind and is illustrative of a common, and predictable, point.

The question I posed was, “Do you wonder why your growing business feels increasingly complex?”.

The point: Because it is.

The number of people in an organization increases its complexity. But the number of people does not increase the complexity in a linear fashion. 6 is not twice as complex as 3, it’s actually 5 times as complex. 50 is not twice as complex as 25, it’s actually >4 times as complex. How is this?

The number of potential interactions and communication channels increases as a multiple, it’s not additive. For example, when you have 3 people in an organization, it’s relatively easy to see from the diagram how you have 6 channels of potential communication. Each arrow represents a channel. And each line has 2 arrows. So when you add a fourth person, you add an additional 6 channels of communication, doubling that number to 12. 1 more person, twice the complexity.

Even adding 1 person to a 25 person team increases the communication channels from 600, to 650, an almost 10% increase.

If this sounds like I’m putting you on, check out the picture.

The number of people is the number of, well, “people”, or my bad stick figures. The number of relationships and communication channels requiring management is the number in the circle.

Check out the increasing number of communication channels and relationships with the increasing number of people. It’s disproportionate.

So the challenge for you as you pursue your Vision of Meaning is, do you think your systems and processes that worked with 4 people will work with 8?
Or your systems and processes that worked with 8 people will stand up to 12 or 15?

Or how about when your marketing takes off and you go on a hiring spree and grow your company rapidly from 15 to 25? What will you have to change, update, and iterate in order to keep up?

The good news is that all of these are predictable steps and phases. While your company is unique and special in many ways, especially your Vision, your Core Purpose, Values & BHAGtm, it is also highly predictable.

Are you ready?


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1 thought on “Growing Complexity: It’s Predictable as Your Organization Grows”

  1. I was speaking with Bob Kowalick of CRS Billing and this topic came up around clients, too.

    The same theory applies when you have clients you’ll be working with on an ongoing basis. As you add these long term relationships, complexity increases in much the same way it does when adding more staff or team members.

    How does this apply to your business?

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