Seven Plus or Minus Three


Michael Lopp (Rands):

A common question I am asked, “How big should the team be?” My immediate response: Seven plus or minus three. There is a not a lot of hard theory behind this guideline, just common sense.

To understand my reasoning, let’s do a little math. Let’s first assume you have seven folks on your team and that you spend time every week investing in each individual. At least 30 minutes for each person who reports to you via a 1:1 meeting. That’s three and a half hours – almost a half a day per week that is now properly invested in the team.

We’re going to need add a buffer for the inevitable random shit that emerges from a team on a weekly basis. I’m not talking about scheduled investment, I’m talking about the unexpected dispute that erupts between two teams, I’m talking about when Frank just quits, I’m talking about the unexpected work where you have to drop everything and immediately react. It doesn’t happen on every team every week, but when it does develop, it requires your full and immediate attention. How about 15 minutes per team member? That takes us to a guaranteed five hours and fifteen minutes now devoted to the team. This doesn’t include your staff meeting, design reviews, or other essential meetings, this is direct weekly investment in your direct reports.