Thursday, 28 April 2011

A place for everything; and everything in its place

I’ve always wanted to be the sort of person who could honestly say things like “a place for everything – and everything in its place!” It is so organised, so logical and so likely that you could actually find things again. Even though our desire for order and organisation is strong, the tendency to be disorganised is ever present – at least with me.

One of my favourite quotes is from Gustave Flaubert – the French author of Madame Bovary. “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

As the complexity of our work increases, so the need for order increases. As the complexity of the problems we wish to solve, so the need for organisation increases. As the number of people we involve in our endeavours, so the need for regular orderliness increases. When this order is missing, so unproductive thrashing increases.

I was talking to someone yesterday about an interesting (and far from straightforward) business problem. As we talked and I tried to understand their approach, it became clear that one issue was having information in different places. Whilst the system we were discussing was in constant use, other information was in other places and getting no attention. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the information was lost – but another few months, or years and it may well be lost. Or at least forgotten about so it will be of no use.

So it seems that both my grandfather and Flaubert were right. Whilst Flaubert is known for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style, he is also known as being one of our greatest ever novelists. He was certainly violent and original in his work - which is not bad for such a short life.

1 comment:

  1. Like your point that as complexity increases the need for order increases as well.

    Half the battle is stopping that increase in complexity in the first place. Organisations routinely put in place new phone lines, new policies, new PO boxes, set up new product models and new data bases, but rarely rationalise the old stuff.

    If we focused on cleaning up behind ourselves we wouldn't need to worry about order so much.