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When More Engineers Means Decreased Productivity

Collaboration
Productivity
Team processes
Dev Processes

7 June, 2018

Sean Fannan talks about how his company’s productivity initially actually decreased when they went from two to six engineers.

Problem

When we first started Chartboost, before we raised money, the whole company consisted of just me and another engineer. We were knee-deep in coding and building things and were incredibly busy. Once we raised money, we were able to hire engineers, so we went from a team of two people to a team of six. It was much more challenging to have a team of six people be as productive as a team of two.

Actions taken

It took about six months to get to a point where our team of six people was as productive as we had previously been. This seems really counter-intuitive. Surely, adding more smart, talented people to the team would increase productivity. However, the process of running a team of six is so different from having just one other person working beside you.
When you are only working with one other person, you tend to already be aligned, just by the nature of your dynamic. With six people, it's more difficult to ensure that everyone in the team has a full picture of what is going on. It's important to add more structure when this happens and to ensure that people own tasks and projects. By the time we had grown to a six-person team, we had built quite a few things. Not everyone on the team could be a pro at every single thing we had built, so we had to spend time working out who was good at what, and who was okay at what (but could act as a backup).

Lessons learned

Adding more people to your team doesn't always translate to increased efficiency. There will always be growth milestones that completely change the way you have to work. When going from six to 15 people, we faced a new set of challenges, and the same happened when going from 15 to 40 people. As you grow, how you structure your team has to be constantly adjusted and reenvisioned.


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