Refactoring organisations: Extract team / department

When growing teams and departments, we have number-based heuristics like teams should be 5–9, “2 pizza teams”, Dunbar numbers, etc.

I’m noticing that this can lead to splitting teams and departments prematurely, leading to unnecessary angst and general messiness.

Instead, I now prefer to treat this like I would a code refactoring. Don’t extract until we start detecting the smells.

Let the seams appear naturally, that is, watch the communication flow and interaction patterns, especially the dynamics of meetings. Eventually, you’ll notice sub-groups appearing and certain rituals getting clunkier.

Start nudging things closer, that is, separate rhythms (aka cadences) and events.

And eventually formalise the split. By this time, it’s mostly just an acknowledgement and non-event.

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

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