If a team can’t be fed with two pizzas, it’s too big!
Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos, in describing his abhorrence towards Group Think (where the fear of conflict drives consensus which stifles individual initiative and creativeness) suggests his measure for determining the ideal size for a team that will get things done – just two pizzas!
One of the benefits of co-working communities (and one often overlooked) is that by their very nature, they are usually involve much smaller teams of people working together than found in larger organisations. Co-working teams show extremely high levels of individual engagement and mutual support particularly with creative and problem-solving tasks.
Large organisations would say bigger teams have the potential to achieve more awesome work because they bring larger pools of knowledge to the project. Alas, not true.
Brookes Law states that the more people you bring to a project, the slower it will run. As teams get bigger individual performance levels diminish and a percentage of members in large teams may disengage from the process (a phenomenon known as social loafing). While things do get done, it invariably happens much slower than expected given the potential within the large team.
Is there a magic number for an effective team? Somewhere between 4 and 9 members works best.
Smaller numbers mean fewer issues with communication, co-ordination, with less social loafing and less relational loss where individuals feel emotionally unsupported (common in large teams) because they don’t know the other team members well enough who might give it.
The late Harvard psychologist, J. Richard Hackman, bluntly stated, “Big teams usually wind up just wasting everybody’s time.”
His view was that increasing the numbers in a team increases the complexity of connections between members, which in turn increases both the cost of coordination and the management effort required to be productive. Hackman produced a formula:
#number of links = N(N-1)/2 where N in the number of people.
A team of 7 has 21 connection points to maintain whereas a group of 20 will have 190 links. If the team of 7 adds one additional member, then the links increase to 28. If the group of 20 add one member, the links to be managed rise to 210. Communicating with everyone in a large group requires more coordination, more management, more time and usually increases team stress. And as we know, anxiety kills productivity. Big teams are just less efficient.
But even small teams can improve their communications by using tools like Trello to manage the team’s expectations and bring people closer together. Reducing the team size ensures members get to know each other better and are more inclined to lend support. Transparency is regarded as one of the big enablers for team working, reducing stress levels by giving members all the relevant information they need to work properly. They’ll feel better. The team feels better. It is why co-working works so well.
So, if you want your teams to really get stuff done, buy two pizzas and see if it’s more than enough for them.
Gerry Westwood. Room40.uk.com