Double Trouble

If you have two people in a group, then the maximum number of potential combinations is one.

This is relevant because a lot of people think that if they’re taking their team of four people and increasing it to eight people then they’ll be roughly doubling the complexity of the team (and thus its management).


How many ways can you arrange the letters A, B, C and D? Keep in mind, you don’t always have to use all four letters, so you’re also adding to that the different ways you can arrange A, B and C; B, C and D; A, B and D; et cetera.

It’s already a lot! If you have just four people on your team then their skill sets and personalities are a vibrant tapestry of possible combinations. That’s great for creativity, but challenging for productively tapping into that creativity and channeling it in a positive direction.

When you double your team size and now have letters A through H… now you see how much more complex it can be.

Some people try to solve this by creating artificial silos. They just keep A through D in one group, and then E through H in another group. If you do that, you manage to keep the complexity growth linear – but you also keep the benefit growth linear, too.

Tangent: have you ever seen how the Panama canal works?

It’s neat!

You eventually mix everything, but you don’t just throw it all together at once. Break your team down into 2-3 smaller teams, sure. But then don’t keep those teams in isolation forever. On a set rotation, have one person at a time move one team over. Keep the silo walls from being impenetrable, while also keeping the chaos aimed in a productive direction. Let people upskill and mix their expertise while still working towards the goal.

Make the benefit growth outpace the complexity creep. Doubly effective!

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