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Whiteboard Wednesday: Keeping Teams Small

Filed Under Whiteboard Wednesdays

Keeping your teams small may seem obvious, but it really is necessary to keep a group of people motivated towards solving a common goal.

Mike over at Leading Answers has more in-depth break down of the communication overload that can occur, but the 2 Pizza concept that 37 Signals and FastCompany talk about is a great way to ensure team sizes are small and in check.

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2 Responses to “Whiteboard Wednesday: Keeping Teams Small”

  1. Max on April 30th, 2008 10:43 am

    The comment system hates angle brackets, let’s try again!

    Great message, but one pedantic note: n(n-1)/2 is O(n^2) and hence a polynomial function of degree 2, not an exponential one. Of course, this is still pretty fast, but nothing like exponential growth!

    As I understand it, exponential functions are those where the dependent variable appears in a *power* in the formula. For example O(2^n).

    A better model for team size might perhaps be a hyperbolic tangent, where the marginal cost of adding team members is low when teams are very large or very small, but approximates O(n^2) as teams grow from small to mid-sized.

    This reflects that as teams get large you adopt mechanisms for communication and coordinating that are more appropriate for these larger team sizes, even though they are considerably less effective. Examples are the use of wikis that everyone can access rather than information stored on whiteboards and email communication rather than personal ad-hoc meetings.

    This is all pretty theoretical and doesn’t change your message, but I felt I should throw it out there anyway as it’s kind of an interesting line of thought.

  2. Fervent Coder on May 9th, 2008 12:24 am

    Holy crap! I talk about the lines of communication all the time… 😀
    Too awesome someone else is talking about it.
    As a programmer, I was making the formula for this too difficult! 😀

    The formula I have been using is a combination.

    That is n!/(k!(n – k)!) where n is the number of elements and k is the number of items in the set.
    There are two people in a line of communication, so k is always 2 for this example.
    2! = 2 * 1 = 2
    2!(2-2)! = 2 * 1 * (1) = 2
    2/2 = 1 line of communication

    Note: Factorial of 0 = 1

    6 people?
    6! = 6*5*4*3*2*1 = 720
    2! (6-2)! = 2 * 1 * (4)! = 2 * (4*3*2*1) = 2 * (24) = 48
    720/48 = 15 lines of communication

    4 people?
    4! = 24
    2! (4-2)! = 2 * (2) = 4
    24/4 = 6 lines of communication

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