I like small teams

WORKING TOGETHER

I’ve always liked small teams, being apart of them and managing them. Small teams make sense, they connect quicker and work better. In a fast flowing business, no matter what it is, communication is key. A breakdown in communication between the end user to any numbers of departments can be the bane of any one’s life. A breakdown in a working team can cause a whole lot more pain. I am not saying you need to get on with everyone in your team but you should respect and listen to their views before automatically trying to shut them down, work with them and not against them.

I recently ordered Getting Real by 37 Signals. The book was unpacked as soon as it hit my hands, sat down and read the opening pages of which they talk about ‘The Three Musketeers’ and using a small team to start a web app. They say that if you can’t start a web app with three people you’ve got the wrong three people and should start looking around for a new team.

This view to me is very good, I have a theory on an elastic team which is quite similar, a team which can be brought together at any time to produce something spectacular but you have to have the right team. This elastic team would be held together through good communication, something which small teams are usually fantastic with.

GOOD WORK FLOW

To like each other and respect each other is one thing. Work flow is another.

Double handling any part of a job is a personal pain and annoys the hell out of me. I find if work flow isn’t worked out prior to setting off on a project, the amount of double handling can get astronomical. If you can sort your work flow out prior to starting a project you’ll notice a significant improvement in the speed of the work you’re producing as a team, as well as feeling proud that you’re handing something over which is all ready to rock on the other side.

MANAGEMENT OR SUPERVISION?

When starting a project there should always be a point of contact in charge, or at least someone who can be at the front line of question and answer sessions. Working in a small team can change a manager into a supervisor as usually the smaller the team the more people are hands on. This eliminates the typical manager type figure that looks over your shoulder to make sure you’re working hard enough. A supervisor (in my mind) would be there to help and assist rather than man manage, members of a small team should already know their capabilities and what they have to do.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE WITH SMALL TEAMS

We have a small team and so do a lot of people, Carsonified’s Carsonites, Woothemes bunch and the Reading Room to name but a few. The three examples are rather diverse. Carsonified work on web apps and conferences, Adii at Woothemes claims success from the realisation of working together with Magnus Jepson and Mark Forrester as a tight-nit team and although Adii is bringing in other professionals to work on themes I would not expect the core team to change anytime soon (Adii – you can correct me if I’m wrong). The Reading Room, recently featured in the .net magazine (issue 182) have small teams throughout the company acting like their own companies working on certain projects which they’re best at and they have just been given the Digital Marketing Agency of the Year award.

That is proof that small teams work and I for one swear by them. I work within a small team every day and love working. Not just because of the job, heck – I love my job but because of the team. We stand by each other when the going gets tough and enjoy ourselves every step of the way. The one thing I have noticed over time is the ability of someone within the team to lead is exceptional, they do it effectively and when they’re done it’s passed on to the next person. We’re all supervisors when we need to be.

If you think small teams are not going to cut it, sit back and think about it for a second. It will make sense in the end.

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Gavin

Lead Interaction Designer at DigitalDWP. Organiser of Industry, The Practical Web Conference..

3 thoughts on “I like small teams”

  1. I must admit that we actually kinda stumbled onto only being three members at WooThemes… I only just finished reading Getting Real as well; so the 3 musketeers vibe wasn’t planned at all.

    That said though, we have no plans of increasing the size of the core team. The collaborations are only to add value; not to increase the size or capacity of the team. So small teams ftw! 🙂

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