Three To Seven Helpers Per Role

Chef and helpers in the camp kitchen. Allegan project, Michigan, 1937.

...the organization has a basically functional social network. The organization shows overly strong centrality; individual roles are overloaded while others are starved for communication.

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An effective organization has a well-balanced distribution of communication.

You don't want to overload specific roles with interrupts, chatting with people, and meeting, which is a waste of resources. That causes the organization to be limited by overutilized resources. Manager roles often suffer from this problem, but so do roles staffed by domain experts. On the other hand, you must not starve other roles of human interaction, which drives them to work ineffectively and which results in a lowered process efficiency. Underutilization relates to information starvation and poor coupling to other roles. Overutilization can be caused by having too many suitors, particularly in the case where productivity falls because of thrashing, context switching, or indecision.


Organize the enterprise so each role has three to seven long-term stable relationships.
You can do this using MoveResponsibilities and other OrganizationConstructionPatterns. Most of this load balancing can build on intuitive and innovative shifting of work.

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This leads to a more balanced organization, with better load-sharing and fewer isolated roles. It helps DistributeWorkEvenly.
It is possible, with a lot of focus and energy, to increase coupling and decrease latency, particularly for short periods of time; see CouplingDecreasesLatency.

For roles such as domain experts that become magnets for people, use a pattern like SacrificeOnePerson or DayCare to balance load.
Our empirical results from the organizations studied in the Pasteur project show that, in most projects, any given role can sustain at most 7 long-term relationships. In particularly productive organizations, the number can be as high as 9. Particular needs might suggest that the process designer go outside these bounds, if doing so is supported with a suitable rationale.
The following histogram presents a distribution of collaborations per role for the roles in our early organizational analyses:


The highest number of organizations (ten of them) is able to support four collaborators per role. As the number of collators per role increases we find fewer and fewer organizations are able to sustain those levels. But about 75% of the organizations can sustain three to seven helpers per role.

Communication between roles is complete in an organization if every role communicates with every other role. As stated in DistributeWorkEvenly, the communication intensity ratio of an organization is the ratio of the number of communication paths of the busiest role to the average number of communication paths per role. For a given project size, Harrison has found this ratio to be lower in highly productive organizations than in average organizations [BibRef-HarrisonCoplien1996].