People versus channels in communication:
about why magical agency-founders number is set to 3.
When an agency is formed and founded that is – mostly – the result of differnet individuals (with different qualities) joining forces in order the enhance eachothers specialties and hereby expand the strenghts to accomplish what they are striving for.
Small autonomous teams are more efficient than large ones, that's why all bigger agencies try to divide the existing structure into managable chunks and small agnecies are rising like mushrooms...
There's a mathematical logic to that fact. First of all it has something do with the number of communication-channels in overall. When the number of channels increases it's harder to muddle through, which leads to the difficulty of making fast but solid decisions. thse decisions have to be made in order to accomplish the tasks at hand for reaching the set out goals pointed out in the overall vision of a project, or in this case, the company/agency. There's a lot more on mission statements and core business but this post will only concern this magical 'threefoldness'.
2 people » 1 channel, 3 people » 3 channels, 4 people » 6 channels, 5 people » 10 channels, 6 people » 15 channels, ...
(n2-n)/2 = the exponential figure, n being the number of people.
A two-head strong formed unit, encompasses only one communication-channel. A back and forth between the two, but hence a one-way-traffic channel because one can hardly account talking to the self as a channel. I'd like to refer to it as "stubborn" (when one of two parties doesn want to go along or isn't on the write , it is a poor situation of communication and suppert and will likely fail to reach bigger goals, cfr clients.
A three-head strong unit, encompasses exactly three communication-channels. One between each member, each member or contributor is occupied with managing one channel of communication so we can call this an ideal situation. A task each, and also there's the situation of a possible majority when making decisions. This is the ideal situation for setting up a rigorous flow of work.
In the situation of 4 people, there's still a managable amount of channels, and teh formation is so to say "within managable limits", a formation of 5 people gets at a "double occupation" » because the amount of channels doubles the figure of people. When going to 6 or more the channel figure gets out of reach and is thus as good as unmanagable unless there's a strict build-in hiearchy.
So adding people, mostly increases the complexity of communication. As each person is added to the team the complexity of communications goes up exponentially.
To ensure efficiency, partners should take responsability for different areas. Choose to allocate your responsabilities:
- Creative direction, clients, new business and press relations.
- Financial affairs, studio manager, job costing and staff relations.
- Design, project managment, iT an environmental policy.
This allocation of responsabilties allows companies to grow and function without the partners treadig on eachother's toes. It doesn't mean that you don't communicate or that you stop sharing decision-making. Nor does it mean there is no overlap. But life will be easier if each takes ultimate responsability for a particular area.
Frederik Brooks, No Silver Bullet (1975)
Adrian Shaughnessy, How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul (2005)