Monday, August 29, 2011

Communication: Keep your team small

A common mistake when projects are running late is to add more people.

This is often a disastrous mistake.

Often called "Brook's Law", Fred Brooks stated in The Mythical Man Month that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

I've written about this twice before when explaining how building software is not like building a house.

A key reason for this actually comes from the PMBOK, and has to do with communication.

One of the formulas you must learn when studying for the PMP certification is the following:
For N people, the number of communication channels is (N^2 - N) / 2
This means that the number of communication channels increases exponentially with a linear increase of team members.

I'll explain with a simple visual example. Consider a team of 4 people:

#Channels = (4^2 - 4) / 2 = 6

Now let's add two new members:

#Channels = (6^2 - 6) / 2 = 15

Adding just 2 people has added a whopping 9 new communication channels!

Technology and design consulting projects often require a lot of detailed communication, so you can see how large teams can get out of control quickly.

So keep your team as small as possible, and if you're running late, think twice about adding more people.

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