Leif Abraham (Creative Director, Pay-with-a-Tweet founder, and author of Madison Valley) has some interesting thoughts here on team structures, echoing a number of things I've talked about before. He talks about how the better teams know each other, the smoother the project is likely to run, and why the tendency to throw more people at a problem doesn’t make the outcome better. An ideal, says Abraham, is to have a core team no bigger than 3 people, each with a different skillset, and who can each execute in their area of expertise (so they are not reliant on others elsewhere doing the work). Managers can unlock a great deal of potential by not only structuring teams in this way, but giving them the autonomy they need to empower their own decisions.
Abraham uses as an example a triumverate of strategy, operations and execution:
But I've also seen a similar idea represented in product discovery teams (a core team working on product development), which might be comprised of product management (responsible for functionality, strategy), interaction design (usability) and engineering (focused on feasability).
I'm not wedded to the idea that every team needs to be 3 people, but I've written and talked a lot before about the benefits of small, nimble, multi-disciplinary teams and I see that approach being adopted more and more by companies that want to be more agile. There is also something interesting in the agility of decision-making of an approach that brings together a trimverate of key disciplines which, when combined with good levels of autonomy ("Mediocre talent needs directors, great talent needs enablers"), can be effectively focused on execution, and reduce the drag of overburdensome hierarchy slowing things down (Abraham says that one of the team should be a 'decision back-up' person who has the final say on all decisions on the project). And I've always been a fan of people working on stuff that they believe will get the job done rather than spending lots of time managing upwards.