All or some?

When we’re wrestling with outsourcing project work, a key question is:

Do we give someone the entire project, or do we break it into pieces?

Should you have the architect also handle the budgets, the materials, the labor, the permits–all of it? Or should you project manage the thing and hire people for each discrete action?

Should you have your favorite freelance programmer build every element of the website, or should you have her only focus on her core skills and then you farm out the rest?

The axes are:

Coordination vs


Coordination costs you. You need to manage it. Make sure the details match up. Get the information flow right. Coordination benefits you, because you can work in parallel, with experts.

Span of work benefits you, because one person or a tiny team sees it all. On the other hand, span of control costs you, because it means that much of the time, the work is being done by a non-expert.

If you give one person the entire project, then coordination costs go way down. It’s all in her head, and shortcuts present themselves.

On the other hand, if you break a project into tiny parts, you can find exactly the right person or process for that part, and often, they can be done simultaneously.

This is obvious, of course, but we forget to ask the question. That’s the hard part.