The 100 person limit

Size and internal vs. external coordination costs matter a lot. North of 100 people in a company, employees don’t all know each other. Politics become important. Incentives change. Signaling that work is being done may become more important than actually doing work. These costs are almost always underestimated. Yet they are so prevalent that professional investors should and do seriously reconsider before investing in companies that have more than one office. Severe coordination problems may stem from something as seemingly trivial or innocuous as a company having a multi-floor office. Hiring consultants and trying to outsource key development projects are, for similar reasons, serious red flags. While there’s surely been some lessening of these coordination costs in the last 40 years—and that explains the shift to somewhat smaller companies—the tendency is still to underestimate them. Since they remain fairly high, they’re worth thinking hard about.

The 100 person limit

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1 Comment

  1. In his book “Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game,” Alistair Cockburn provides a masterful account of the implications of the limit for software development projects. In particular, Alistair explores how the software method needs to change as a function of project size (and the criticality of the application).

    — Israel

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