Over time, as the size of engineering grew, collaboration became more and more difficult. Adding more engineers to a single team lead to increased silos. Individuals were trying to keep themselves from excess cognitive load and context switching.
We developed the concept of Crews to maintain efficiency with more engineers. Crews are designed to maintain the benefits of unified engineering while scaling.
Crews developed organically from our experimentation with Shape Up's Pitch Teams. Crews allowed us to get back to efficient engineering group sizes. Group sizes where collaboration is simple and context switching is rare.
Crews are still part of a single engineering team. Crew membership is fluid and shifts depending on the needs of the business.
Figure 7 Engineering Crews within Unified Engineering
To showcase our fluidity, one of our crews started a feature that involved a lot of investigation and proof of concepts. A small crew is more efficient for this type of investigative iteration.
So, two people focused on this first. In the meantime, the rest of this crew joined another crew that was finishing up a feature. They helped get through the remaining bugs and got the release out faster.
To ensure that crews don't result in siloed knowledge we have practices to keep the rest of the team in the loop. This includes regular catch-ups and presentations. You'll learn more about those and our other habits in Part 3.