Monday, July 30, 2007

Complexity, People and work.

Complexity, People and Work.
Human beings and the way they interact are extraordinarily Complex.
Successive generations of statisticians have made many attempts to define that complexity in a numeric way.

There seems to be two approaches to this kind of analysis.

There is the modern Digital approach where every action and interaction is controlled at the microscopic level by single bytes of information.
We use this information to control and predict outcomes.
Below this level of data it is not possible to go because a single byte of information is not divisible.
But we know from chaos theory that below the level of that single byte of information there is a whole world of complexity that has huge and unpredictable outcomes.

The problems occur when we begin to realise the limitations of the start point digital data.

When the UK Weather Centre at Bracknell decided to tighten up its long range forecasting ability with the purchase of their first computers the reaction of the computers was completely unexpected.
The computers told the forecasters that they should stop issuing long range forecasts because the probability of a correct forecast was no better than chance.

Natural events are far more complex than a digital approach can ever define.

We can take a digital picture that looks great but when we blow it up we start to discover the limitations of the digital approach.
By trying to try to define complex systems in this way we are building in errors that become evident in the variation we encounter and are magnified massively whenever one complex system encounters another.

The second approach is the analogue approach.

In nature the interaction of complex systems occurs all of the time without any trouble at all because when a wave hits a beach what happens, just happens.

If we try to analyse what happens to the wave, or the beach, in a digital way we will probably end up concluding that either the beach or the wave is at fault because the digital model will not be able to reproduce the level of complexity of the real world.

The digital approach to managing process’s and operations will always have the same built in errors when it contains these complex natural components.
The component that causes most trouble is the human being whose actions and interactions may be the most complex on the planet.
When treated in a digital way the complexities of human behaviour cannot be resolved.
The human being has to be treated in natural way which instead of trying to define the complexity of the individual condition simply creates the environment that allows humans to interact and come to their own natural conclusion.
In this way we avoid the impossibility of trying to define a complex system and the further impossibility of trying to predict what will happen when that model interacts with another.

Instead we concentrate on the desired result when the two systems combine and allow the natural behaviour of the systems to achieve that outcome.

Try to define sex.

What is it, what starts the thought processes that lead to it, what are the physical changes that must precede it, how do we feel during and do we have to smoke afterwards, what about the partner, what appealing characteristics, body type, skin tone, hair colour etc.
There are an enormous number of questions to be asked before we can even begin to define the act itself in any sort of meaningful digital/analytical way and an even bigger number of answers to those questions.

The complexity of the analysis puts us off the act itself.

If we appreciate the possibility that sex may take place and we want it to happen then we just have to create the right environment, and it will happen.
Ignore the complexities because it is what people want to do, their natural behaviour will make it happen, all we have to do is create the right environment.
In this case, just turn off the light and walk away.

If you keep coming back to check on progress, there won’t be any.

In the same way at work, to allow people to perform to their full potential, give them the space that they need to do their job, and don’t keep coming back to check on progress.You will be amazed at what happens because people actually want to do a good job, they want to be proud of what they do.

To summarise, people are very complex, when several people interact the situation is even more complex.
When we try to control people we will always fail because we have no way of controling their complexity.

If however we find out what it is that they want then with very little effort we can create the environment that makes it easy for them to achieve their goal.

Most managers spend their time and effort trying to force the workforce to do what they want.
If they found out what the workforce wanted, to be proud of what they do, and spent their time instead creating the environment that allowed them to become proud, then the difference in their performance would be astonishing.

By continually interfering and trying to control the workforce, management are actually destroying their ability to do their jobs.

By doing less, management can achieve so much more.

Peter A Hunter – Author, “Breaking the Mould”


dreamkiller said...


I have read the article, but found it little difficult to conclude. Finally, What do you want to say?

It would be great if you could provide a small conclusion at the end so that we can capture your idea completely.

Vivek Nagpal

Peter A Hunter said...

Thank you, I have added, as you suggest, a short summary.
I hope it helps to clarify the position.
Peter A Hunter

dreamkiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dreamkiller said...

Thanks a lot, Peter.


Virinder Urf Funda-Mentor said...


This time the theory is a little more complex, though I prefer the simplicity of your ealier posts, I like the way the DIGITAL and ANALOGUE analogy is used.

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