Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Scaling: Don't forget the Team

What do you have if you have good scaling but all the Teams are terrible?  Nothing.

What do you have if you have lame scaling, but all the Teams are good?  Something that is still pretty darn powerful.


What often happens when 'everyone' is talking about scaling?  They forget about the Teams.  And the Teams often feel "we're not important anymore -- we don't do anything important".

As Tolstoy described well in War & Peace, the HQ people in the military always think that 'they' really fight the war.  It is the natural and inevitable tendency of these people to think they are important.

When in fact the battle is won or lost in the trenches.  By the small units on the field.  Or so Tolstoy thought (or at least Prince Andrei thought).

Another problem: When we scale we put really smart, overly-clever people in charge of 'figure out the scaling'. Well, it does feel like a complex problem.

But guess what?  The biggest thing we need in scaling is... Simplicity!  A simple clear way of communicating between the Teams.  Something where everyone knows 'how the machinery basically works'.

And guess what the clever guys do: They make it so complex, that only they understand it. And everyone in the Teams feels lost.

So, my advice is simple. No matter what I say, many of you will still do scaling and too much 'scaling'.

So: Remember to put (keep) most of the focus on the individual Teams.


This is not to say I am against all scaling. If Napoleon is invading, I will get as big an army as I can get to fight him.  (And there is a rough analogy to our work.)  But God, watch out for the law of unintended consequences.  Focus on the small units. And build your Seal Team 6... and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9....  Loose, self-organizing units that can self-organize (a lot) how to interact with each other.

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