Synapsys Snippets: The Power of Nimble in Today's Digital World

by Todd J. Fisher, Wednesday, September 14, 2022

I have been thinking about the "power of nimble” – the ability to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing digital environment is left to those most able to adapt to change. As a result, the best digital technology service firms successfully execute missions and deliver solutions with small teams of highly skilled, cross-trained, experienced professionals informed by clear objectives and guided by values that favor action and creativity over risk mitigation and management.  And, remember: our attention is a scarce resource; what we focus on, we feed. These oversized and cumbersome teams are often unable to rapidly determine where to spend their focused attention, rendering them inefficient and ineffective.

Failed development projects often have a common set of attributes, chief among them is an over-sized team of highly specialized personnel that carries a disproportionate amount of management overhead, masquerading as a disciplined approach to deliver complex projects on time and within budget.

Unfortunately, such an approach is derived from 20th century quality assurance programs advanced by quality experts like W. Edwards Deming and made famous by GE and Japanese car manufacturers. While genius at the time, under even a remotely objective review, such an approach to product delivery in the digital era fails. The division of labor is bounded by arbitrary lines that cannot be crossed and assumes mass production not tailored solutions at scale. The approach lacks flexibility and stifles information flow.

Over the course of hundreds of projects building mission critical systems for large, sophisticated organizations to solve difficult challenges, I have learned a great deal. Most importantly, without exception I’ve come to know that a highly skilled group of six, or fewer, cross-trained team members with one leader can cost-effectively and efficiently accomplish a great deal and serve as a force multiplier for any organization.  When embarking on new technology solution development, bigger is not better. The greatest gains are produced by a relatively small number of well-rounded, highly skilled, creative thinkers with their attention in the right place.  “Real. Powerful. Thinking.” trumps team size every time.

Why are smaller teams better? Smaller teams are better, because they are more able to move nimbly, rapidly, and operate laterally – that is across “adjacent stuff” - placing limited attention where it is truly needed, and nowhere else.  Simply put, such teams can better adapt to change.

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