Chaotic Complicated Complexity

Chaotic Complicated Complexity

September 7, 2015 | Steven L Smith

The image of a well-oiled machine is a common allegory for simplicity. Everything “just works”, and you can rely on the machine to be reliable, stable, and do the work it was designed to do. But such a metaphor belies what is actually going on. For the machine to work, it had to be designed, and all of the moving parts needed to be precisely fabricated and fitted. And, someone smart has to actually put the oil in the right place.

To a casual observer, a well-oiled machine is the very embodiment of simplicity. As manufacturers, we know better. A well-oiled machine is complicated. There’s a lot that goes into it, but it’s all knowable. It might take years for someone to learn everything there is to learn about a machine, but it’s possible, and people do it all the time. In fact, they’re probably your best-paid employee (unless they’re you!)

Most manufacturing operations, however, are complex. Complexity is a state of being where everything is not fully knowable, but rather is reasonably predictable. Even if you’re an expert, you can’t possibly know how everything interacts with everything else… especially since some of the actors are people, and people have free will.

The risk, of course, is that your nice, predictable, complex system devolves into chaos. Chaos happens when you don’t know everything and you can’t really predict it, either. Chaos is the enemy of sustainable business.

Computer software, when implemented properly, can help prevent complexity from turning into chaos. Manufacturing is complex. The problem is complex. The solution doesn’t have to be.




Steven L Smith
Steven L Smith
Co-Founder and CEO

Steven L Smith is the CEO of Perdix Software, which he co-founded in 2014.

He spends what little spare time he has enjoying travel, fast cars, and cooking.