Monday, September 12, 2005

Small teams and keeping it simple

I caught some parts of Apple guru Andy Hertzfeld's interview on Robert Cringley's NerdTV. Fun stuff.

Andrej Gregov watched it too and noted a great quote by Andy that I missed:
[A team] should be as small as possible, but no smaller.
Good advice. With larger teams comes additional complexity and overhead. Smaller teams tend to be quicker and more efficient.

As Andrej points out, Andy's quote seems like a variation on Albert Einstein's advice:
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Which nowadays often is referred to as the KISS principle -- keep it simple, stupid.

Going back a little further, this all may be a variation on Occam's Razor, which is often quoted as
The simplest explanation is the best.
but originally may have been something more like
Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.
Little Web 2.0 startups like Findory live and breathe by these principles. They have small teams, running lean, quick, and efficient. They have simple business structures, often self-funded or minimally funded. They have simple architectures, designed for replication, scaling, and performance. They have clean and easily understood products, tightly targeted at an unexplored niche in the market.

Building something entirely new is complicated enough without throwing additional chaos into the mix. Keep it small, keep it simple.

Update: Mena Trott, co-founder and President of Six Apart, argues the opposite in her post, "In Defense of Big". Her argument seems to boil down to saying that it's less difficult and more pleasant to be working in a big well-funded company. I think that's right, though I'd say the challenge, agility, and opportunity you have when you are small make up for the discomfort.

3 comments:

Gerald said...

I thought Findory was a 2 man shop??

How many teams can this be?

Matthew R. Miller said...

I guess it could be 3:

01
11
10

Greg Linden said...

Perhaps I should have said, "they keep their team small" instead of "they have small teams".

Right, Findory is a 2 man shop, teeny tiny small.