Tuesday 1 February 2022

Case Study: The pain of large-scale team communication



When the size of the team continues to grow, or even the composition of the team is more complex, the cost of communication between the teams will gradually increase, and it will become an important problem that our project managers have to face and improve.

When it comes to project management, managers will discuss and study more topics around the four main areas of scope, time, cost, and quality, and relatively few will see some articles to discuss the field of communication management in depth. 



Communication in the team size is small, the problem is always not too important, in other words, the cost of communication is still relatively controllable, but when the size of the team continues to grow, and even the composition of the team is more complex, the cost of communication between the team will gradually increase, and it will become an important problem that our project managers have to face and improve.

Imagine a scenario where team members often complain that they are too busy, and when asked why, most of them will have this answer, "insufficient staffing." the managers also did not argue, simply throwing the problem to the top, as the best excuse for the team to deliver as expected. the number of personnel was urgently replenished, and the deliveries gradually increased, but still did not meet expectations, because the number of personnel was replenished by 1/3, but the delivery may have increased by only 1/4. 


The number of personnel increased further, but the situation continued to decline, and as the number of personnel increased, the delivery did not increase the amount of matching, until one day, even if the number of personnel was increased, the delivery did not change significantly, or even decreased. the reason for this problem is systemic, but there is a very direct reason because the cost of communication increases faster than productivity.

after joining net ease, i have been serving as the project management of net ease cloud computing, cloud computing has more than ten different module groups, the total number of people is more than 130 people, and these module groups also come from a number of different departments, although it is a project group but has to cooperate between departments, on the number of people may not be the largest project of net ease, on the technical complexity and collaboration between modules, is definitely one of the few projects in net ease.

The complexity of the technology coupled with the particularity of the organizational structure naturally determines that the communication cost faced by the cloud computing project will not be low, and most of the hidden risks may stem from communication problems.

At the beginning of the cloud computing project, i often encountered a variety of communication problems, let everyone look at a few cases.

case 1

One day, a service leader on the PaaS floor rushed over (although they are all sitting in an area, but there are many people, often the farthest team may be 50 meters apart, and there are 2-3 conference rooms in the middle).

PaaS a service leader: 

"Yesterday our online service function failed, I heard that your bottom layer was upgraded last night, the original working interface is not working now, we checked all night, how to change the interface without notifying, you have to be responsible!" ”。

The bottom leader listened to the unhappiness, and immediately turned out an online notification email sent by the system, "look, the email is written clearly, the parameters are different from before, please adapt to the upper layer, this responsibility has to be carried by yourself!" ”。

"There are so many such emails every day, how can you look at them one by one," said Leader, a module of PaaS, unconvinced.

"the notice has already been issued, and if i know who of you uses it, will there be a problem?" the bottom leader does not show weakness either.

the quarrel lasts 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes ... 1 hour, there is no conclusion, but how can there be a conclusion?

Case 2

a relies on a module to complete the task, so he asks b for a request task, and they have no problem with the total, and b accepts it and agrees to complete it after 1 week. in order not to wait, a continues the work of the other tasks. after 1 week, a asked b about the progress of the task, and b replied, "in order to complete this task, c's work is needed, and the requirements task has also been proposed to c, and he is also under development."



another week passed, and a went to ask b about progress. b replied, "c seems to have encountered some technical difficulties and has not been completed, what is the specific reason for you to ask c?" i'm busy with other work here."

a reluctantly found c, who told him that ""i did encounter some technical problems and needed to revise the original design."""

as soon as the two discussed and finalized the plan, they agreed to do it and complete it a week later. a thought that this time it was always good, and i went back satisfied, but a week passed and there was still no movement, a went to ask c about the progress, c said, "the agreed plan was not called b at that time, and now there is a problem on the b side of the docking."


in the end, it is not known when the solution will be solved, a is exhausted and no longer wants to care about this file.

Case 3

This is a large piece of functional design, involving the work of multiple modules, the design is out of the core module, and other teams cooperate. 


At the design review meeting, all parties participated in the meeting, although there were many debates and discussions, but the design plan was finally determined, and everyone also said that there was no problem and would be completed according to the design. when it was time to complete on time, i suddenly found that the work could not be done. 

A check, it turned out that when the plan was made, the core team did not understand the current design and working mode of other teams, and the other teams did not fully understand the real needs of the entire design, and everyone only reached a superficial consensus on the basis of their own understanding. 

When the real joint investigation is carried out, it is found that the final demand goal cannot be achieved with the current realization, and if the final demand goal is to be achieved, the realization of other modules cannot be achieved at present.


The voices of mutual blame and complaining began to rise and fall again, and they kept on hearing them.


the above examples, the reader will also be deeply touched, may also be because of these problems of deep pain, feel sorry for each other and moved to tears, careful summary will find that the communication problems are like the following types:

  • information is not exchanged
  • the information was passed incorrectly
  • loss of information transmission
  • information delivery is interrupted
  • the information transfer link is too long
  • opposing positions

There are too many communication personnel, the communication cost is high, and the time is long
i summarize my experience in cloud computing and share my experience in three dimensions (communication mode, process system and value principle), and i hope to give some reference and reference to those managers who are also facing the communication problems of large teams and are troubled by them.

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