When it comes to creativity and efficiency in app or game development, small teams are often better than big ones. It doesn’t always follow that throwing more people at a project speeds it up, and it rarely improves the quality. Many large developers with excess manpower still form up small teams within the company to deal with specific projects or distinct sections of development. That’s because small teams offer a lot of potential advantages and we’re going to take a look at 7 of them today.
On a small team there’s no room for roles to become too specialized. Resources are limited and everyone needs to pitch in where they can. This helps build a common focus on creating something good, it enables people to learn new skills (and learning makes us happy), and it fosters an environment where everyone knows what everyone else is doing.
There may not be much incentive or opportunity to form close relationships in a big bureaucratic structure. People will tend to stick together in cliques and that throws boundaries up between departments. In small teams everyone has to work closely together. Forming close relationships will directly impact the quality of the finished product. That’s why teams that form good bonds and produce great work should never be arbitrarily split apart.
The first two points feed into and from this one. The positive impact of communicating directly in person, instead of through email, instant messaging, or even by phone, can’t be underestimated. The removal of layers of middle management buffering between departments forces people to be more conciliatory and considerate. The fact that people understand what other employees are doing tempers their attitude. It’s also just a lot faster. There’s no turnaround time with a direct conversation like there can be with email. It’s quicker to make decisions when you can gather the team in a single room and don’t have to schedule a meeting with lots of attendees in different departments.
No place to hide
Big teams can provide hiding places for lazy or incompetent employees. Some staff members can be carried by their colleagues, and the lack of effort or skill can go unnoticed. On a small team there is nowhere to hide. If you aren’t pulling your weight it’s immediately obvious. Small teams can’t afford to carry anyone.
Motivated by passion
Most of the people on a small team will have chosen to be there because they wanted to work on the project. Disputes and disagreements will be dealt with head-on. There’s no room to sow dissent in a quiet corner, or undermine the project leader, as there is on a big team. Even if some of the team members aren’t as passionate as others, they’ll be working in close proximity with passionate people and that will inevitably have an impact.
Freedom from external forces
Forget about the wider office politics, sudden changes of direction dictated by external forces, or major changes forced by other departments. A small team should have the freedom to make its own decisions. It can take more creative risks. Design by committee often leads to a bland, uninspired end result. Small teams can move quickly, react to feedback and testing, and agree on the right direction heading forward. Big teams always move much more slowly and tend to produce more conservative designs.
Everyone isn’t going to agree on every little thing, but being part of a small team means that you have to take responsibility. It should be an environment where suggestions can come from anyone, as long as they’re focused on improving the end product. The direct communication and potential agility of small teams helps encourage people to put more effort in. There’s a real sense of collaboration and collective responsibility.