Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Mar 2023

Compliments and Additions

One of the more powerful realizations any relationship comes across is this concept of either being a “compliment” or an “addition”. A compliment is something that, metaphorically, doesn’t need to be made room for. It “just fits,” and accents strengths which already may be present. An addition, on the other hand, offers more capacity. It requires planning. It adds on top of an existing capacity.

In the concept of an intimate relationship, when we were younger we are looking for an addition. We’re looking for someone who adds to our capacity to handle the burdens of life. On the other hand, you find older couples, and even older singles who are looking for couples, to look for people who are more complementary. These are persons who may have everything that they can handle any of them self, and are looking for someone, or some activity, which adds to existing comforts and makes their life “more livable.“

The same type of analogy can be applied towards companies and teams. When a company is small, or staying in a specific niche, they may often be looking for additions in order to better handle the capacity of work. They are looking to add capacity for either more capability, or to deal with the new loads that this focused group is working towards. On the other hand, an established company (or sometimes we can refer to them as being mature in that particular state of growth), look for things that complement their existing strengths, or strengthens a posture or characteristic they wish to maintain, despite any foreseen or unforeseen disruption. To be clear in their focus, a company, looking for complementary talent and services seeks to affirm some guiding principle, rather than have it be better to find by whatever comes on board.

It’s to this analogy of complement or addition that’s worth posing to many companies in this day where several organizations, mature, and immature, large and small, are reducing headcount. Some companies and organizations are adding headcount because they are in a position where there is marketplace for things previously not there. But when adding or removing persons from your organization, you have to be asking yourself, “is this an action that I am doing to add capacity and capability, or am I merely looking to complement what we already do well?“

Much like those persons who are seeking for a relationship, answering this question as an organization dictates how you’re better able to respond when market conditions change. Many organizations may not make the best decision in the long term, because they see something complementary or additional as more important in the short term.

Choose wisely attachments to your character and vision.