People cooperating complicatedly?
December 2, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

I want to design a human system (like a small business) and then bootstrap/instantiate it. At the moment, I'm not focusing on psychology but more on franchise-esque/"operations manual" type considerations.

I'm not interested in accounting or legal issues, yet. A "business" is the closest analogy I could find, but I'm interested most in bringing people together with similar values and doing something worthwhile and complex without failing or going crazy.

Ideally, I'm looking for in-the-trenches material that guides one through the mitigation of startup chaos into mild stability and how to evolve and institutionalize practices and procedures during that time. (I'm afraid or spending a month writing a manual or designing a flowchart and, on day one, instantly finding it completely useless and out of touch with reality.)

I know that you start chaotic and tiny with a small group of people and a gripping idea, but then you have to make a leap to complexity beyond what one control freak can handle, and that's what I'd like to learn more about.

What should I read? Who should I talk to?

The E-Myth books are too fluffy. Here's some potentially good stuff I've found so far:

Effective Operations and Controls for the Small Privately Held Business [amazon]

Construction Operations Manual of Policies and Procedures [amazon] (This one is way overkill, but it's sort of right, in spirit. How does a complicated system like a business or a school *function*?)
posted by zeek321 to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why? Here is something to mull over.
posted by parallax7d at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2008

Why what?
posted by zeek321 at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2008

"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system."

I fall into the "not a joke" school of thought on this bit of wisdom, known as Gall's Law.
posted by jeb at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2008

"A complex system that works [...]"

Yeah, Systemantics and all that. But what about an art and a science to the whole thing, a methodology? I want some sort of "been there, done that."
posted by zeek321 at 8:44 PM on December 2, 2008

Sounds like an interesting approach. Most companies are not been started that way, but that doesn't mean it can't work (although I'm skeptical). The problem with designing upfront is that the requirements change continuosly, and you're guaranteed to find yourself in all sort of situations not covered by the manual.

The kind of activity you describe is usually done much later, which is why you will not find too many good books about how to do it from scratch. They'll usually more about process improvement and change management. For inspiration and thinking about processes, I found the Theory of Constraints approach quite interesting.
posted by dhoe at 11:58 PM on December 2, 2008

dhoe: The last time I looked at TOC it looked too informal, but everything I've found since then has been too rigorous and impossible to apply to everyday situations. Thanks for reminding me about it.

I might dig in to something like this:

posted by zeek321 at 2:31 AM on December 3, 2008

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