An example. 10 people on a team seem to be performing fine.
Enter Barnacle Theory. Through seeing the above situation happen over and over again - I realized the best action wasn't what was done above. See, the people weren't just all side by side like above, it is often more like the whole team is swimming.
Only, instead of everyone swimming well, there are a couple great swimmers, a few okay swimmers, and some people drowning. Those drowning are the people in the project that put the greatest stress on the leaders, and are hanging on to them to keep from drowning themselves. They are a weight on the leaders, keeping them from swimming well and constantly pulling them down.
My Barnacle theory says the best action to take in these situations is to lay off the lowest few people. The proposition I will make and have seen many times is that it is often better to lose the bottom few people and to free up the new leader than end up losing another leader when you don't have time to build up succession again. A team of 7 or 8 people now will perform as well if not better than the team would have with 9 and a drowning leader. Barnacle theory says:
If the following conditions happen:
- You lose a key leader
- That lost key leader cites that the quality of part of the team was a burden on them and a reason they left
- You don't have a succession plan that allows you to lose more than one leader without major issue.
- The upcoming leader has already has an issue with the weight of some of their team
I have seen the results of not doing Barnacle theory many times. The worst I have seen is 8 leaders consecutively leave one team of 20 like a chain reaction due to the quality of people on the team. The remaining 16 people (the original 12 + 4 backfills) now performs at a much lower quality than before the mass exodus occurred. If management had cleared out barnacles and reset expectations, I know leaders #2, #3, #4 would all have stayed.
If you don't aim to manage great people and aim to instead manage like everyone is on the same plane, you might be risking a mass exodus of talent once it starts. That is why Barnacle theory may make sense for you.