Concepts I use every day: minimum, core working group

Larger organisations can lead to a fear of not being seen

Small organisation: “Hi Jason, I saw you were at Byrant Park last weekend. How’s Project A going?”; Large organisation: “I’m sorry… do you work here?”

When organisations are small, you know everyone and what everyone is doing. It’s less likely that anyone is worried about not being seen or recognised.

When organisations get larger, you don’t know everyone nor what everyone is doing. This can lead to a fear that you will be forgotten and/or your contributions won’t be recognised.

This fear leads to some people joining initiatives and meeting to be seen, to feel involved, not necessarily because they have anything unique to contribute.

1. “Please join if you have a strong perspective to share about X.”; 2. 20 minutes later…; 3. “Okay, let’s talk about X.”; 4. “I don’t have any perspective on X.”

People joining initiatives and meetings only to be seen, makes those initiatives and meetings slower

Common thought: “I should say something to justify why I’m here.”

When too many people are involved in an initiative or a meeting, it takes longer to get to depth, which means that progress is slower. This is worse when “non-participants”, that is people who are attending only to be seen, feel like they need to participate to justify their presence.

Even without participation, non-participant attendees create more pressure for actual participants. The actual participants are more likely to feel pressure to “perform” for the larger group and will be less likely to say certain things. That is, even without participating, additional people still make it more difficult to get to necessary depth.

“Just ignore the massive, non-participating crowd. This is a focused working session.”

Initiatives and meetings should instead rely on a minimum, core working group

Core working group = relevant background and/or skills; willingness to actively particpate; distinct perspective

The core working group should be the smallest number of people that provide sufficient breadth of perspectives and have the appropriate background and skills to actively engage with the topic.

Core working group members are there to participate, not there to be seen. Core working group members have the skill and willingness to go to depth in order to progress the topic.

Sharing later with a wider group helps stakeholders feel seen and involved without impeding progress

Draft → Share → Decide

No matter how careful you are in designing the core working group, it’s still important to share with the broader audience both to catch missed perspectives as well as generally build buy-in.

I’ve previously described this approach as Draft Share Decide.




Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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Jason Yip

Jason Yip

Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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