Wise Up, Size Down

Abhay Padgaonkar, and Tim Medora

Bigger isn’t better when it comes to project teams, which often grow complacent the larger they get while requiring more effort to coordinate activities. But keeping your team at the optimal size isn’t easy. Here are 7 reasons that teams grow too big and 4 ways to avoid the trap.

It's not complicated: bigger is better … if you are a cell phone company. But for a project team, the opposite is true. Why? Because the larger the development team, the more the number of interactions. In fact, the possible interactions don't just grow linearly — they explode exponentially. For a project team of 20 people, the number of possible interactions of groups of two or more can be more than 1 million!

Of course, these are theoretically possible interactions, but anyone who has worked on a project with a large number of participants knows too well how chaotic, unmanageable, and frustrating the process can be. Add to that team members copying their boss's boss to show how well they are defending the departmental turf, and the process can quickly get out of control. The project gets bogged down even more when you add different agendas and people across time, space, language and organizational boundaries to the equation.

As is true in the kitchen, too many cooks spoil the broth. The more team members, the harder it is to identify who is doing what. More …

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"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining."

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