In an article called The Smaller the Better, Jeffrey Phillips talks about a good topic on employer/employee relationship on big vs small team. He argues that smaller team has the lean and mean effects on projects:
1. Focus – a manager can spend more time with each person on a smaller team as necessary.
2. Clarity – in a smaller team, everyone has a line of sight to everyone else. Everyone is aware of the circumstances, the successes, the failures and the expectations.
3. Cohesion – smaller teams have a greater chance to be more cohesive. (The corollary here is they also have a better chance of tearing each other apart)
4. Administration – I need to recruit, train and bring fewer people up the learning curve, so we spend more time on real work and less on the administration of the team
5. Interaction – I can interact more easily with each individual and gain a sense of their commitment level
6. Visibility – Since it is harder to “hide” on a small team, I can quickly weed out those who aren’t up to snuff or just aren’t bought in to the program.
Another important aspect I want to add is communication. Jeffrey mentioned by adding more people to a problem will diminish marginal returns on output. In my opinion, it also increases the number of communication channels between team members, which will complicate the discussion and decrease the problem solving as a team.
When the team get larger, the communication time is also getting longer. For example, meetings are longer because there are more members to report and discuss issues.
At my work, I am trying to improve the communication aspect by having engineer to lead smaller projects and modules. The communication between engineers will be more effective because they are binding to a ‘functional group’ on discussing on certain project. They do not need to talk to everyone and get each of the single member’s consensus on an idea.
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