Comparison between fluid and strict team structures when contributing to an ecosystem
Catalyst and Cardano contributors provides a model that allows people from the community to be paid full time to contribute towards complex ecosystems. These ecosystems have a number of areas that they could focus their efforts on to support or improve the systems and processes involved.
In Catalyst some focus area examples could be around proposals, proposal assessments, community initiatives, events, progress auditing, completion reports, funding categorisation or the prevention of malicious actors.
All of the different potential focus areas that exist within either ecosystem could use strict or fluid team structures as an approach to bring together efforts and improve collaboration.
Strict team structures
Strict team structures would mean having contributors either choose or be allocated into a certain team or teams that they will contribute to for an extended period of time.
Focussed and reliable - Contributors that stay in one or few teams can result in a higher focus on only the specific problems concerned by that focus area. The ecosystem could benefit from efforts on these problems being more consistent and predictable from a certain group of contributors to make sure progress is being made in every focus area.
Guaranteed contributions - Strict team structures would create a guarantee that contributions are being made to all of the relevant focus areas.
Less flexible and dynamic - Strict team structures would struggle in environments where the requirements change quickly and more help is needed elsewhere in the ecosystem.
Prediction complexity - Allocating contributors to teams means that predictions must be made ahead of time on where the contributors cohort must focus their time. This can be difficult to predict.
Governance complexity - A process would be needed to determine who gets allocated where. This could be achieved via governance or be randomised. In either situation this adds some complexity.
Lower chance for environment context - Contributors who must stay in strict team allocations have a reduced chance to get full exposure to the relevant systems and processes involved in the ecosystem they are supporting. This could lead to making less informed decisions on product direction or governance decisions that could have worse outcomes.
Fluid team structures
Fluid team structures mean that contributors would be able to move between teams as required based on the priorities of the ecosystem and their interpretation of where they can add the most value to support those priorities.
Flexible and dynamic - If the requirements of the ecosystem change or the contributor see’s an area they can produce more impact they would easily be able to move their efforts into another focus area team.
Better for preferences of contributor - Contributors would be able to more easily focus their efforts on areas that they would prefer to contribute towards. This can help increase overall satisfaction for the contributor as they get to work on what they are most interested in or passionate about.
Easier to attain more environment context - Having contributors move between teams more freely means that there is an increased chance that the team members in any given team will have more context on the wider ecosystem systems and processes. This better collective knowledge should help them make well informed decisions around problem solving, product direction or any other key governance decision. This can also be useful for knowing when to reach out and bring in certain contributors to conversations or decisions that could have more expertise in the areas they are working on.
Increased misallocation risk - Not having rules in place for team structures increases the risk that some focus areas have an over allocation of contributors helping in that area at the expense of another focus area. Neglecting any important focus areas could have moderate to large risks on the proper function and support of the ecosystem.
Potential allocation conflict - Without any rules on who should work in which team there could be personal conflict on who gets to work in which focus area in the ecosystem. This could however be avoided with simple systems such as taking on roles in turns and then rotating after a sufficient period of time.
Catalyst & Cardano analysis
Roles with certain skill sets are functional across teams
Similar to how most businesses function, both Catalyst and Cardano contributors have a list of roles that have been defined that community members would apply to when submitting their contributor proposal. These roles based on skill set areas such as for development, design, product, analysis or coordination are all cross functional and could be used across many different focus area teams. This makes contributors suitable for fluid teams structures as they could effectively contribute to a mixture of efforts using their skill set.
Contributor feedback factors
One concern with using a fluid team structure is that there may be instances where a contributor suddenly decides to move to another team or refuses to allow others to contribute in that team instead of themselves for certain periods of time. Although this could happen there is an incentive for the contributors to collaborate effectively within any cohort. If they chose not to collaborate effectively they are more likely to get negative feedback from their contributor peers and would also be less likely to be selected again by the community. This incentive helps reduce the risk of misallocation risk as the contributors who are most flexible to working in any environment they are needed most are more likely to produce a high impact for the ecosystem. Contributors with a high impact are more likely to be selected again in future cohorts.
Usage of minimum thresholds
Fluid team structures have the risk of misallocation of contributions in one focus area for the ecosystem. Although this could be a problem in the short term it would also soon become obvious where more effort is needed. Once this is established the introduction of minimum thresholds could be applied to ensure that enough contributors are available in certain areas. This safeguard would work well with a fluid team structure as it can be applied only when necessary to provide assurances but then still give the maximum possible flexibility to contributors.
Community input on contributor priorities
A risk for using strict team structures in the Catalyst and Cardano ecosystem would be that these cohorts of contributors would need to be responsive to community set priorities. These priorities could change at anytime or there could be new ones that get introduced. If the community identifies a new or increasing problem then contributors will need to be able to change their focus onto these areas that are now seen as higher priority.
Fluid team structures are very suited to a changing environment where in the short term it is less clear on exactly how much effort will be needed in each area. Fluid team structures are more flexible to changing priorities or dynamics in the ecosystem. Contributors would be able to respond immediately and move around to different focus areas depending on where support is most needed.
Fluid teams offers a simple starting structure for contributors however the introduction of minimum thresholds or other safe guarding measures could be introduced in the future to provide the extra assurances needed to ensure enough contribution effort is available for certain areas.