on team formation

In a meeting today a friend (quietly) observed that opening a process to a wider audience very fast may compromise the very process that interests the intended audience. I replied back with the thesis that:

“Whenever data increases, quality drops (for any quality metric)”

I first heard that thesis 15+ years back in a meeting about data warehouse quality. Usually when few people get together for a certain task it goes like this:

Small team, with people working towards similar goals

Increase the number of participants and you get something like this:

More people join the party, and things get interesting

Add a political twist and some power-play (personal or between organizations) and you get this:

Politics and power-plays set the project's final course (do nothing)

This is to be expected. David Alan Grier in “The Dictator and the Web Design” (IEEE/Computer, May 2009) notes:

“Traditional management theories identify such fights as the second part of a four-stage development process for small groups, the forming-storming-norming-performing steps that psychologist Bruce Tuckman identified in the 1960s. “Group members become hostile toward one another as a means of expressing their individuality and resisting the formation of group structure,” Tuckman claimed.

In Tuckman”s model, committee members must go through a period in which they express their objections to the collaboration in emotional terms (the storming stage) before they can learn to work together (norming) and actually accomplish their goals (performing).”

So there, as long as performance does not go “our way”, quality drops. By the way, this also explains why Panathinaikos B.C. prevails over Olympiacos B.C. in Greek A1. They both have excellent players, but Panathinaikos make sure that all are focused to the same direction. They are a team performing, while the others are still forming.

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