Effective Programming

where agility meets computer science

Apr 26, 2020 - LB

Team vs Individual

Most likely, the wrong comparison

Came across an interesting tweet recently:

No individual can produce the quality of a good team that collaborates well. The myth of the brilliant sociopath assumes a world where “teams” were isolated individuals working near each other. Those days have passed –Allen Holub

Truth be told I’m a big fan of Allen - I follow him because his tweets often resonate with my intuition. But this one wrinkled my forehead. After a bit of consideration, I think the first line throws me so let’s try and unpack it a bit.

No individual can produce the quality of a good team that collaborates well.

Seems like a safe statement - I don’t think anyone can argue with it directly. It seems truthy. In fact, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this statement is irrefutably true. Then where is my concern? My concern in the reality for me that this is never the question. Not quite the same but for dramatic effect, I might also posit:

$100 buys less then $500

Furthermore, I’ve never seen anyone intentionally set out to hire a “brilliant sociopath.” Now, just because I’ve not seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist so it is quite possible this tweet hits a home run with those folks. But for what it is worth, the (related?) day-to-day concern I am a bit more familiar with might be:

Given I can pay 5 people, what is the ideal staffing arrangement that minimizes opportunity costs and maximizes revenue?

Or possibly:

What can we achieve with 1 person? 2 people? 3 people? and what opportunity costs and revenue can I realize with said person/people?

Yes, no individual can produce the quality of a good team but what is the financial sweet spot around number of people, number of teams, number of projects and distribution of work? And mind you, I don’t have an answer to this question - I just thought it worth clarifying the general case the original tweet likely doesn’t apply to.

What do you think? Give me some feedback if you have a chance!