Let's learn about the people aspect of large teams and how it shapes decision-making in large projects.

Trust is the sister of responsibility.
– Asian proverb


There are varied reasons for implementing a system with a large team. The most common one is that the project’s scope is too large for a small team to handle. Of course, some large projects would be better if a small team was implemented. So, even if its scope is large, developing a project with a small team might still be faster (or even better), mainly because communication is not as likely to prove a problem as it is in a large team.

Reason for a large team

These are reasons for creating large teams:

  • The use of a large team might be politically motivated. The team size sometimes reflects the project’s importance and, often, that of the project’s management. That alone could be enough to implement a system with a large team. Tom DeMarco discussed this problem during OOPSLA 2001OOPSLA is an ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications. He indicated that:

“Surprisingly often, the manager of a failed, but large, project will be valued higher than the manager of a successful but small project!”

  • The project is shaped (and sized) to suit the team. It could be the case that the team is already established. For instance, we sometimes witness a situation in an organization where many people just sit around, waiting for a project to start. Nobody questions if the project requires that number of people. Instead, everyone tries to shape the project to keep all those people busy. Granted, for some companies (in some countries), it might be easier to shape the project according to the team size than to get rid of the employees—mainly because of legal issues—but this is not usually the case.

Of course, it is always worth questioning the reasons for working with a large team, but that is not our main focus. Instead, our assumption is that a large team will run the project, and we (still) want to use an agile process to succeed. When changing to agile development with a large team, we must deal with several issues involving people, teams, interactions, and communication structures.

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