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Scaling Sparta: Military Lessons for Growing a Dev Team

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Scaling systems is hard, but we’re developers — that’s kind of our thing. Scaling people? Well, that’s significantly harder. Humans are complicated.

Broadly speaking, companies have three stages of development: infancy, those awkward teenage years and — if they survive the trials of adolescence — adulthood. An infant startup is so drastically different from its adult incarnation that they can be considered different companies. Each will have a unique mission and culture.

Scaling isn’t just about making what you have bigger. An ant can’t be scaled to the size of an elephant. Because the internal structure is fundamentally different. Instead, companies have to evolve.

But companies aren’t living, breathing organisms. They’re collections of people — families, tribes and civilizations.

So how do you scale a team of two to twenty? The answer starts over 2,000 years ago in Sparta.

This talk will focus on three distinct military organizations: Spartans, Mongols and Romans. Sparta’s standing army numbered 10,000 whereas Rome’s peaked at half a million. We’ll look at the structure of each military and apply the lessons learned to our development teams and organizations.

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Scaling Sparta: Military Lessons for Growing a Dev Team

  1. 1. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Scaling Sparta Military Lessons for Growing A Dev Team
  2. 2. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Emily Freeman Developer Advocate @ Kickbox
  3. 3. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Scaling people is hard.
  4. 4. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  5. 5. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Scaling isn’t just bigger.
  6. 6. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  7. 7. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  8. 8. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Communication
  9. 9. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  10. 10. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  11. 11. n ( n – 1) 2 Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  12. 12. Emily Freeman // @editingemily 10CONNECTIONS
  13. 13. Emily Freeman // @editingemily CONNECTIONS 45
  14. 14. Emily Freeman // @editingemily CONNECTIONS 105
  15. 15. Emily Freeman // @editingemily CONNECTIONS 435
  16. 16. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  17. 17. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  18. 18. Emily Freeman // @editingemily The Spartans
  19. 19. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Much nakedness.
  20. 20. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  21. 21. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  22. 22. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  23. 23. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  24. 24. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  25. 25. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  26. 26. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Find what you do best.
  27. 27. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Hire generalists.
  28. 28. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Allow natural communication.
  29. 29. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Take on the big boys.
  30. 30. Emily Freeman // @editingemily The Mongols
  31. 31. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  32. 32. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Mongols were tough.
  33. 33. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Genghis Khan
  34. 34. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Genghis Khan
  35. 35. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  36. 36. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Embraced religious tolerance.
  37. 37. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Promoted based on merit.
  38. 38. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Cultivated equal(ish) rights.
  39. 39. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Reinvigorated the Silk Road (No, not that one. The original.)
  40. 40. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Adapted quickly.
  41. 41. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  42. 42. Think strategically. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  43. 43. Think strategically. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  44. 44. Focus on what. Not how. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  45. 45. Enable autonomy. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  46. 46. Enable autonomy. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  47. 47. Stay small. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  48. 48. Keep structure simple. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  49. 49. Keep structure simple. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  50. 50. Focus on one thing. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  51. 51. The Romans Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  52. 52. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  53. 53. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  54. 54. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Caesar Augustus
  55. 55. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  56. 56. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  57. 57. Contractors Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  58. 58. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  59. 59. Emily Freeman // @editingemily
  60. 60. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Break into small teams.
  61. 61. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Set a clear vision.
  62. 62. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Set a clear vision.
  63. 63. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Master logistics.
  64. 64. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Choose one project management tool.
  65. 65. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Invest in your employees.
  66. 66. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Invest in your employees.
  67. 67. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Acknowledge mental health.
  68. 68. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Recognize hard work.
  69. 69. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Introduce specialists.
  70. 70. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Embrace APIs and services.
  71. 71. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Have honest conversations.
  72. 72. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Have honest conversations.
  73. 73. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Create your Sparta.
  74. 74. Emily Freeman // @editingemily Emily Freeman Developer Advocate @ Kickbox

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