Agile Team size

Photo Credit: ~GIOVANNI~ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~GIOVANNI~ via Compfight cc

In my Scrum Master training we discussed team size being 7 plus or minus 2.  The idea is to keep things fairly small so that meetings are short and collaboration can happen.  Also it can be difficult to build consensus on groups larger than this.  When we plan a Sprint you want to find consensus around what items you pull into your Sprint backlog.  Jeff Sutherland has some interesting research that states any Scrum team over 7 people should be broken up to multiple teams.

There is a lot of discussion around what is the optimal size of a Scrum Team.  In this post from noted Agile blogger and Speaker Jurgen Appelo he states the optimal size for an team is 5.  Although he points out that we should not enforce or encourage a “preferred team” size but let people self organize.  Each team must determine what would be there optimal team size.  He even has function which tells us, “the optimal size of a team (being a communication issue) is a function of the set of people’s personalities and their environment.”

I found another interesting viewpoint from Len Lagestee from Illustrated Agile.  He details the Ringelmann Effect, which he explains like this:

The Ringelmann effect occurs when individual performance begins to diminish as the size of the team increases. This phenomena can also be known as “social loafing.”

I have witnessed this in some large groups that I have been a part of.  We internally think that with the larger group we can do less work and many times task go undone.  Len gives us recommendations to combat this problem.  Establish an optimum team size, monitor the team size, keep them motivated and learn what an effective team “sounds” like.  

I am glad I looked at this a little more.  I didn’t realize how much discussion and research has gone into this one dynamic of Agile and Scrum.  Although I can understand with this being such an important part of getting it right!

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