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I am a software dev in a medium size company. We work with a few people remotely (in a different EU country). We used to have the following people:

  • 1 CTO
  • 2 agile coaches (1 of them being a PO as well which I think it's excessive for an agile company of this size)
  • 1 architect (non hands-on)
  • 1 Scrum master
  • 1 PO (additional to the PO - coached?)
  • 6 devs
  • 3 testers
  • 2 devops

Now, after some changes we have:

  • 1 CTO
  • 1 PO of POs (accross 2 teams)
  • 1 PO (for the team I am working on)
  • 1 scrum master
  • 1 scrum master (remote)
  • 1 developers manager (line)

and the same amount of hands on people

  • 6 devs
  • 3 testers
  • 2 devops

The questions are:

  • Isn't management a bit too much?
  • How much management would such a formation need? Here there are factors such as, there are more than 1 teams in the company (with their respective managers) but CTO, lead PO and Line manager are across all teams.

By the way, we haven't ship anything for almost 1 year now, though it seems like something is about to happen.

EDIT: So, as an amusing update to this, the CTO of the company has left...

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    The question you've asked is very localized; any answer would have relevance only to you. Furthermore the question is subjective; any opinion is a valid response. Could you rewrite the question, perhaps something along the lines of "How does one measure the effectiveness of management?" "Where is the ROI on management? Questions that would be useful to others, but would provide you the information you need to make a change in your environment. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 21 '13 at 10:46
  • Good point, I'll try editing it. – dqm Jun 21 '13 at 10:55
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    dqm - what you see is bureacracy taking roots. The scary stuff is that it has the potential to erode and divert all or nearly all of your profits, and suck morale out of the employees. – Deer Hunter Jun 22 '13 at 18:22
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This reads like a span of control question. There are a lot of theories and schools of thought behind this problem, and they all have merits and issues. This problem remains an issue when designing your organization and, likely, there really is not true single answer or rule of thumb. In fact, it might detrimental to try to find a one-size-fits-all solution.

You are balancing the effectiveness of a supervisor's ability to supervise with the cost of the layers of management.

I think your best approach is to ask and answer these types of questions: where are the employees located, dispersed or local; what are the capabilities of the employees and supervisor; what is the complexity of the task; how much admin burden exists; are employees matrixed to other tasks; is your organization mature in its operational or project capabilities? There are a ton more questions to ask and answer.

And no matter what choice you end up choosing, you will still have costs, risks, and penalties with which to cope. And the benefits of your choice could change over time where a re-org could be indicated. So remain flexible and agile because rigidity can destroy the organization.

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It seems to me that you have managers for a 40 people department but only 10 techincal elements.

Strictly speaking you need:

  • Someone needs to line manage (CTO?)
  • Someone needs to be in charge of the product (a single PO)

All the rest should be developers. QA can be done by devs, Ops can be done by devs, Scrum Mastering can be done by devs.

Keep in mind that six devs is a mini-team that almost doesn't need any management!

Of course, strictly speaking this is a personal opinion, but I've been there (with similar issues) and I am not surprised you are not delivering...

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Look at the roles you have concern with.

CTO - your big boss and I assume that he / she will have other people reporting into him/her other than these people. e.g. infrastructure, support, whatever.

PO - Your customer so this individual does not fit into the team 1 PO (proxy) - Sounds like your customer needs a little help on the functional side of things as there is to much work for him/her.

Scrum Masters - They are not managers and by the sounds of it they may not be doing a great job if you (as a dev) have to come into a public forum to discuss this and not be able to discuss this openly in a retrospective.

1 developers manager (line) - Sounds like the CTO may have his/her hands full and feels the need to employ a dev manager to deal with the day-to-day management of a development team.

Next, I have to be a bit brutal here as you are only a software dev. Unless you have shares in the business, this is not your risk to take, but instead it is that of the shareholders and the executive management and the people they choose to help manage the business. Your CTO gets paid to make that kind of decision and if you feel that the decision may be wrong, then by all means speak to them to get the facts.

The only thing wrong that I see here is that perhaps the new structure, roles has been poorly communicated to the team.

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I would rather ask you and other developers in your company how this amount of management help you in day to day work. If all of them are helpful - for example by removing impediments and protecting teams before being interrupted it's OK. But if all of this managers distracting teams when they are trying to do their job... well it means that it's not working as good as it can.

Answer depends on your context so none here will tell you what is better.

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