From Wikipedia - https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesetz_von_Conway

“Organizations which design systems […] are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.”


„Organisationen, die Systeme entwerfen, […] sind auf Entwürfe festgelegt, welche die Kommunikationsstrukturen dieser Organisationen abbilden.“

I want to stress "constrained" which "festgelegt" does not seem to meet. Would "eingeschränkt" be a better word? Or "gezwungen"?

„Organisationen, die Systeme entwerfen, […] sind auf Entwürfe eingeschränkt, welche die Kommunikationsstrukturen dieser Organisationen abbilden.“

My German Level is B1/B2. I'm to give a talk, in English, on this topic to a bunch of Germans and I want them to be be sure to understand because it's a bit nuanced. This German Translation seems quite different from the original English but obviously I'm not qualified to make that assertion.

Ta, Andrew

3 Answers 3


As a native German, to put the stress, I would use "zwingen". And by the way, you forgot to translate "produce".

„Organisationen, die Systeme entwerfen, […] sind gezwungen, Entwürfe zu erstellen, die die Kommunikationsstrukturen dieser Organisationen abbilden.“

  • That already feels better for me. Oct 13, 2018 at 11:45
  • 4
    +1, but … sind dazu gezwungen … would sound even better.
    – Janka
    Oct 13, 2018 at 12:49
  • 1
    @Janka: Nö, tut's nicht. Oct 14, 2018 at 1:36

The actual meaning of constraint in this context is Beschränkung. The sentence would then be:

„Organisationen, die Systeme entwerfen, […] sind auf Entwürfe beschränkt, welche die Kommunikationsstrukturen dieser Organisationen abbilden.“

This is the correct use instead of eingeschränkt, which doesn't come with the auf. It describes a limitation or boundaries.

For Festlegen the best translation I can come up with in this context is to be set on something. It is probably a bit weak and it doesn't quite fit the context.

Gezwungen implies a force. So the organisations would be forced to create only those designs.

I would probably use beschränkt for the translation and add another sentence to show how strong organiations get limited by their own communication structures.

  • 1
    I share your reservations about gezwungen. It sounds good in the sentence, but on closer inspection doesn't seem like that good a fit semantically. I have some concerns about the sind auf Entwürfe beschränkt part, though. As Adrian - correctly, I think - observed, it's not obvious, in German as well as in English, in what way an organisation would be constrained to drafts, hence the verb, produce, should probably not be omitted in the translation. Maybe something like sind darauf beschränkt, Entwürfe hervorzubringen, ... would be an option.
    – johnl
    Oct 13, 2018 at 17:41
  • "gezwungen" ist semantically fine if the "force" is the constraint emerging from the communication structure. it is also one of the most common translations of "to be constrained"
    – adjan
    Oct 13, 2018 at 18:39
  • @Adrian Well, of course you can construe a metaphorical force but I would proffer that the word is not commonly used under those circumstances. Beispiel: ein Quadrat mit Kantenlänge x. Sind Kreise, die innerhalb dieses Quadrats liegen, gezwungen, höchstens den Durchmesser x zu haben? Ich würde das nicht sagen. So ähnlich scheint mir der Fall im Beispiel zu liegen, wo ebenfalls auf eine (behauptete) logische Notwendigkeit abgestellt wird.
    – johnl
    Oct 14, 2018 at 8:10
  • I'd agree that "beschränken" would be the best literal translation. But in this specific case a simple "können" might describe the constraint better: "Organisationen, die Systeme entwerfen, können nur Entwürfe hervorbringen, die die Kommunikationsstrukturen innerhalb der Organisation reproduzieren." Oct 14, 2018 at 10:33
  • The idea of constraints in this sense is rather about some kind of limitation, rather than a force. With beschränkt the sentence becomes an emotional rather neutral statement. The suggestion können nur Entwürfe hervorbringen puts a good focus on the lack of ability to produce something else and expresses the issue rather well.
    – Javatasse
    Oct 15, 2018 at 17:24

I don't like the aspect of being forced. We use Conway's Law in this translation.

"Die Struktur der Organisation beeinflußt die Struktur der Systementwürfe."

or simplier

Architektur folgt Struktur.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.