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Moving to three-person engineering teams

By John Lafleur 1 minute read

TL;DR: Here is why the author’s team prefer to go back to smaller-sized teams when the engineering organization grew:

  • Small size = very fast development. Able to have total mental model of the code we’re working on. Nobody is able to be left out or lag behind in understanding.
  • Smaller teams make it easier to plan and sequence work. This has enabled us to move quickly on a number of projects.
  • There’s much more ownership, opportunities to lead, and flexibility.
  • It’s easier to feel proud of the work we are doing since there is more accountability and each person has a more direct impact on the successes of the team.

  • But there are some adaptation to do to make it work:

  • Need to learn to trust more easily
  • Need to train the leads
  • Need to change the role of management: each manager now had multiple three-person teams reporting to them and had a larger number of direct reports. Managers were no longer responsible for directly managing projects.

  • However, note that there can be some dangers to pay attention to:

  • Technical ownership was less stable
  • Engineers were less connected to each other’s work
  • more work for product managers and designers


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