Handshakes and Decision-making

  • April 6, 2016
  • Scott

Madhu Punjabi has a fun post on Medium about how products get shipped. In it, he proposes that ship time can be related to the number of handshakes required to get product shipped  in a startup.  At first, when there’s two people, one handshake gets an agreement on what to ship made, and progress ensues.  When there are 3 people you need more agreements – more handshakes – and the process slows a little.  Now imagine 10 people in the room.

Madhu proposes that it is the sum ohttp://sissydru4u.tumblr.com/f all sides and diagonals – effectively network growth.  (n*(n-1)/2) if I recall my math right.  

In practical terms, it is less than that, but more than a linear progression.  ie, the actual number of handshakes is somewhere inbetween 10 and 45 for a 10 person meeting.  Why? Because some will follow the lead of others. Because the person running the meeting might be a great leader that takes people with her on the ride.

I think what Madhu is describing is the Bus Brake effect.  The short version is: How many people can pull the brake and stop progress?  And the corollary to that is, how often do they have an opportunity, or a reason, to do so?  

How many people is 10.  How many opportunities? well, it depends on how many times two people have to agree on how something should be done at a more detailed level than what was agreed to in the meeting, and how much autonomy they have to pull the bus brake.

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