Don’t forget n*(n-1)/2 when scaling agile!

linesofcommunicationStudying for the PMP exam forces a candidate to relearn project management using a standardized nomenclature, to view the world of project management in black and white rather than the many shades of grey it is, and to memorize and to be able to apply a number of mathematical formulas.

One of the simple formulas we learn during our PMP study is n*(n-1)/2 which represents the total number of communication channels which can exist between a fixed number (n) of people who are working together towards a common goal. It informs us that this total number grows non-linearly as we increase the number of people involved.

But does this equation provide us with any value beyond mere academic interest?

Large project teams are common on traditional or waterfall-type projects. On such projects it is rare that team members need to interact regularly with everyone else on the team. But on agile projects we expect that core team members will collaborate closely on a daily basis.

Imagine a daily standup meeting with forty team members. Even if every team member remains disciplined about sticking to the standard “what I did yesterday, what I’m planning to work on today, what’s blocking me” script that would still result in a meeting which lasts closer to an hour than the expected quarter hour.

Iteration planning and retrospectives will start looking like dreaded meetings more than agile ceremonies, and you can forget about sizing a large number of user stories quickly!

With large project teams it is critical to decompose the project scope or solution design such that individual features or components can be delivered by right-sized teams of five to ten individuals. Of course, there is the need for some ongoing coordination between teams in a “team of teams” construct but with a thoughtful allocation of work items most communications will be isolated within each team.

Organizations using agile approaches to deliver their projects would do well to remember n*(n-1)/2!

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Don’t forget n*(n-1)/2 when scaling agile!

  1. Pingback: Don’t forget n*(n-1)/2 when scaling agile! – Better Time Management

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