Simplicity and holding companies

Today two threads started to emerge. First someone mentioned to me John Maeda's book The Laws of Simplicity. (

1 REDUCE The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

2 ORGANIZE Organization makes the system of many appear fewer.

3 TIME Savings in time feel like simplicity.

4 LEARN Knowledge makes everything simpler.

5 DIFFERENCES Simplicity and complexity need each other.

6 CONTEXT What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

7 EMOTION More emotions are better than less.

8 TRUST In simplicity we trust.

9 FAILURE Some things can never be made simple.

10 THE ONE Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

At first sight these seem to have relevance for organization design work so I'll get the book and explore further. I wonder how these fit with the Rotary Tests that I discovered yesterday?

Second I was teaching a class on organization structure and someone asked a question about the structure of holding companies vis a vis their operating companies. I was asked this question last week too. Maybe a topic people are getting interested in?

Rotary Four Way Test

Today I read an article about a New River Valley entrepreneur, Bill Ellenbogen ( He was asked what guides his business decisions and said it was the Rotary Four Way Test. "Of the things we think, say or do:

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?


Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"


I'd not come across this test before but it seems an admirable one to bear in mind when doing organization design work – particularly with regard to communicating any projected changes in jobs (numbers and types).

Flexible shift patterns and temporary workers

I'm a week behind on my reading of the Economist so I've just caught up with the piece in the July 14th – 20th issue on the way BMW builds flexibility into its shift patterns 'for example extending shifts by 30 minutes, adding extra ones …' and making 'liberal use' of temporary workers. (See: Back above the bar again.

Both points suggest organization design questions. For example: What impact does adding in extra shifts have on HR systems (like payroll and productivity). How do managers make the decision to put in an extra shift and what are the processes for doing so?

Managing temporary (and contract) workers is another thorny design issue. The answers to such questions on whether they should be included in training events, subsidised meals or other things that payroll staff get all affect motivation, productivity, and performance (of both the temporary workers and the permanent workers).

Tiny urls

My brother pointed out an improvement possibility in my email signature block. He noticed that the url pointing to my new book was very long (in fact broken over two lines) and that made it difficult to activate the link.

He suggested using a tiny url (see: instead and then acted for me. So in tiny url my book, Guide to Organisation Design, is available

at Amazon UK:

at Amazon USA:

What I enjoyed about the suggestion was a) that my brother saw a process improvement idea and acted on it and b) that the orginator of the idea did similarly.

It's often difficult in organizations to successfully act on an idea.