Saturday, August 07, 2004's two-pizza teams

The "Book of Bezos" on page 4 of the Fast Company article I mentioned earlier has some good advice. But the idea of "two-pizza teams" (under "Communication is terrible") seems well-intentioned but misguided. The goal is to create autonomous and independent teams where communication costs are low, innovation is high, and execution unrestricted. In practice, what I suspect you'll get is teams that are too small to execute on their tasks, a nest of confusing, disruptive dependencies between two-pizza teams, and a competitive, insular atmosphere that reduces morale and productivity.

At the risk of criticizing someone who has built a $15B company from scratch, Jeff, I think you're wrong. It isn't all communication that is terrible, but just hierarchical communication that is terrible. What you don't want is for someone to have to ask a question to their manager, have it go up the hierarchy, down another hierarchy, and then finally get answered. You want informal networks where people freely contact the people they need to contact directly. Two-pizza teams don't give you informal networks; in fact, they probably hinder their development. Practices that promote informal networks include sharing team members across projects, encouraging (but not forcing) people to switch groups occasionally, socializing between groups, easy access to project documentation, and incentive structures that don't penalize helping other groups (by only rewarding individual or small team performance).

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