Form Follows Function

This is not new news

  • Fire engines look the way they do so they can put out fires
  • The London Underground looks the way it does so it can transport people
  • Crocodiles look the way they do… (maybe now I am labouring the point)

If you know your function then your form will follow.

So far so good.

Now here are a handful of questions for you…

  • Who are you?
  • What business are you in?
  • What business are you not in?
  • How do you help your customers?
  • Who can’t (won’t) you help?
  • Where are you going? (think long-term)
  • What are your priorities? (think short-term)
  • How do you want to show up in the world?

An easier way of asking those questions is…

What is your function?

And just as importantly what isn’t it?

Can you can answer the questions?  If the answer is yes then you can set about designing your form (organisation, processes, systems, policies, infrastructure…) to meet that function.

But if the answer is no

Well “Management Flexibility” and Indecision have long been good bed fellows. Unfortunately they don’t make for good design (or leadership).

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Image by Catandrea



  1. Hi James,
    Always fascinated me that when asked the question(s): What is your function? And just as importantly what isn’t it?

    …that many people find the second part easier to answer than the first. I wonder why that is.

    Maybe there’s a new discipline in there….strategy and business planning by working out what we are not going to do.


    • Now that is an interesting thought. Though I find that most people are really bad at saying no to anything.

      To quote steve Jobs:

      People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

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