Conway’s Law is one of those simple but powerful adages that once you learn about it, you see it everywhere.
In its original form: “organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations”. But even when expanded, it still holds true: The work product of an organization is constrained (and often mirrors) the communication structure of that organization. And an organization’s communication structure is shaped mostly by its organizational structure.
Rich Mironov provides a great example of how Conway’s Law plays out in a Product Management organization in this post:
Rich nails the challenge that Conway’s Law poses: “… organizations must have some division of labor … [and] every division of labor creates the potential for narrower thinking, boundary skirmishes, and inefficient resource allocation”. It is the leader’s responsibility to proactively address this “natural” organizational behavior: build big-picture context and cross-functional empathy (through cross-training), provide positive reinforcement for acts that put the greater good first, and settle sticky cross-border issues when an impasse is reached.