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Achieving Scale in 2012 – Understanding Brooks’ Law

In response to last week’s blog post where I christened 2012 – The Year of Scale in BioPharma Marketing, I was asked to provide some additional evidence supporting my assertions. Specifically, the feeling that we have too many people, doing too many tactics while placing their own spin on the communicative elements along the way.

In response to this request, I’ll focus on the ‘people’ portion of the equation to illustrate how scale can quickly and rapidly evaporate. When there is a large amount of work to be accomplished, the natural reaction is to request additional people to help do the work. Getting those 3 extra team members should help, right? Well, in order to answer that question, let me introduce Brook’s Law.

Brooks’ Law states that adding people to a late project tends to make it run later still. Mathematically the equation is (n2-n)/2 where n is the number of people involved and the result is the number of connections that must be managed.

The launch Brand Team of the late 90’s averaged 3 marketers resulting in the need to actively manage 3 connections ((3*3-3)/2)). Today’s Brand Team of 6 marketers requires management of 15 connections ((6*6-6)/2)). This shift to larger teams seems like a positive change, but in reality, it not only inhibits scale but speed and focus.

Expanding the application of Brooks’ Law beyond just people to include tactics and strategic suppliers, you wind up with a very large number of connections that quantify the frustrations many Brand Directors feel but can’t quite illustrate.

How many connections are you managing? Here are a few simple questions that can help you solve for n:

  • How many FTEs are part of my Brand Team for 2012?
  • How many genres of positioning are contained within my brand’s positioning?
  • How many segments am I targeting within the professional and consumer markets?
  • How many tactics am I developing and/or maintaining in 2012?
  • How many suppliers am I managing in the development and maintenance of those tactics?

Now that you have your number, it’s time to determine how many are actually helping and how many are standing in the way of you achieving scale. It may sound like a daunting task, but it just might make all the difference for the success of your Brand in 2012.

N.B. Brooks’ Law illustration adapted from J. Spolsky, “How Hard Could it Be?”, INC. February 2011.

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