sizes of organizations vary, from small local clubs to large multi-national corporations. the size varies in different dimensions such as income, people employed, customers served, markets covered, capital invested.
size is an important parameter for the design of an organisation. two interlinked questions come up in that regard:
how big or how small does an organisation need to be? and what is the scale we use to measure that size?
one of the difficulties of answering these straightforward questions is the issue of relevance to people that are effected by the answer.
although size may have an absolute measure, the meaning of size differs for different people. size is not absolute. size in euro's has a different meaning for investors or suppliers.
another difficulty is how we emotionally and rationally relate to figures behind a certain size. 60.000 employees, 1,5 billion users, 1 million euro's profit, present in 130 countries. what is our mental picture of these numbers?
yet size matters for designers. dimensions have to be determined at a certain stage. we have to figure out the relevant size and scale to define what is being designed. three practices might help designers and the people affected to come to grip with the size.
explore various scales. when translating one scale to another the meaning of size can change and it might lead to new insights. compare the size of company to the familiar town. translate euro's into the number of products. translate the number of employees into the number of people benefiting from the income earned.
stretch the size. deliberately and radically changing the size makes it more understandable. imagine the object of design ten times as big, or 1000 times as big. what happens? and what happens if we change the object of design to a much smaller entity?
draw a picture. picturing the size and the scale in a drawing, helps to relate to the real size of an object. numbers are easily and abstractly manipulated in a spreadsheet and this adds to abstraction. not so much the computer generated graph, but the physical drawing which pictures the size in an appropriate scale helps.
for organizations to make connections with its environment, its dimensions should relate to the people involved. being too big, layers of abstraction increase, resulting in disconnection and even hostility. being too small the appeal may get lost and the organisation becomes insignificant.
playing with size and scale is essential in finding the right dimensions.