Shrink Your Team to Increase Effectiveness

At this point in the state of software development we’ve all likely either heard of or experienced Brooks’ Law:

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

How you respond to this counter-intuitive nugget of wisdom can single handedly make or break your current software project.

However, there is a second side to this coin that few are aware of which deals with the inverse correlation between the size of a team and its overall effectiveness regardless of the delivery date.

This is summed up quite nicely in one of HBR’s Daily Management Tips Keep Your Team Small

There is well-known research that shows people’s efforts quickly diminish as team size increases. This is because team members reduce their input when they feel less responsible for the output.

This issue can be resolved by splitting up your existing team into multiple mini-teams which are each responsible for delivering a separate piece of your overall project. Not only will this practice end up increasing the overall effectiveness of your entire team but you also now have the added benefit of moving people between sub-teams in order to keep them engaged.

Couple this tactic with placing the current development iteration’s tasks on a wall with post-it notes to ensure maximum transparency when it comes to the productivity of your team.

At the end of the day, the fewer places you give your team members to hide the more productive your team will be.

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What do you think?