The Three Musketeers

Have you ever noticed how most organizations relentlessly form committees to work on anything and everything and at the same time try to ensure that everybody under the sun, even  the dog, are on it. They call it inclusiveness. Mistake, big, bad, ugly mistake! Start with only three people. That’s the magic number that will give you enough manpower yet allow you to stay streamlined and agile. Start with a subject expert, an organizer, and a linker (someone who can roam between both worlds).

Now sure, it’s a challenge with only a few people. But if you’ve got the right ones, it’s worth it. Talented people don’t need endless resources. They thrive on the challenge of working within restraints and using their creativity to solve problems. Your lack of manpower means you’ll be forced to deal with tradeoffs earlier in the process — and that’s alright. It will make you figure out your priorities earlier rather than later. And you’ll be able to communicate without constantly having to worry about leaving people out of the loop.

Keep the team as small as possible. When you start a campfire you light the corner of the paper first.  You don’t try and light an entire stack all at once. If you can’t start moving from strategic to tactical with three people, then you either need different people or need to slim down your initial version. Remember, it’s ok to start small and tight. You’ll quickly get to see if your idea has wings and, if it does, you’ll have a clean, simple base to build on. That’s when you start to involve others, one step at a time.

Communication flows more easily in small teams than large teams. As the number of people on a project increases, however, so does the number of communication paths, and not simply additively.  Robert Metcalfe (Metcalfe’s Law) developed a formula for telecommunication device interactions, n(n-1)/2, which easily applies to the team communications scenario. If there are 3 team members the number of communication paths would 3(3-1)/2 or 3; if 5 team members the communication paths would be 5(5-1)/2 or 10; if the team has 6 members, the communication paths would be 6(6-1)/2 or 15!  You can see the complications magnify.

The take away from all of this is simply start small, and once the idea has germinated and started to sprout, bring in others a bit at a time.

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