The size of the team matters!
Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Have you ever thought about an ideal number of people you can still manage?
What is it? 2, 5, 9, 15, 20, 25+? I managed both micro teams and big teams, and my number lies between 5 to 12.
There are many different types of research justifying some number of coordinates. Yet, only when you try it, you understand your leadership capacity.
A micro team is under five members. A 5–12 team is bigger. Yet, still a well-sized team. Over 12 sub-coordinates, we have large teams that will make your head spin if you ever need to manage them.
So, why is it important to have good-sized teams?
1. Reasonable structure
Many companies have a rather rigid structure with a pyramid scheme. In such a setting, you want to make sure that the structure is not top-heavy. Means you don’t have too many managers.
As if you do, your team is divided into micro-units that are isolated from each other. In virtual space, this is even more dangerous.
Imagine you have a manager who manages only two people. You have other managers with only one person. What happens is that a lot of information is lost in communication cascades as every manager says it differently.
We create silos and inefficiencies. To illustrate, we see below a pyramid:
I hope you see how ridiculous this structure is. It is clear that the senior manager could work with all sub-coordinates. It would give him a better overview of what is happening. It could also bring consistency and transparency into this small department.
On the flip side, if we have too large teams, we risk that the manager cannot manage them. You lose track of what is happening and why. So, you consider both extremes before creating micro vs. large teams.
2. Quality and different relationships
Management cannot function without relationships. Yet, not everyone is happy about working with some people.
If you have a micro team of a manager and one, two, three people and one does not fit, it is likely it won’t work. In a bigger team, we tackled this by smart job allocation and rotation of tasks. It gives managers some space to operate.
Many of my colleagues appreciate working with different people and building their networks. That is not possible if you work in a silo of a few people. Small teams risk that the authority of a manager is not present.
Small teams can make a person too dependent on other few people. When a new structure comes in place, it is a big hit on productivity and trust.
So, if you can, always avoid having a micro team structure. Start with at least five as the smallest. Otherwise, your guys won’t have much fun.
3. Tackling boredom
Working in a small team can be comfortable, but also boring. The intimate trustworthy atmosphere is great. Yet, talking with the same people all the time is a bit tiring. Conversations might be similar from one week to the other.
In general, as a manager of a micro team, you might be bored dealing with the same people and problems all the time.
You might be providing similar feedback over and over again.
You work along with your team in a routine and somehow days are not different from each other. Boredom affects productivity and motivation.
If you have only one reporting person, what kind of manager are you? The relationship is not about management. The reporting person might be your right hand, your secretary, or your helper for anything. That’s not good. She/he will be happy to learn from you, but at some point gets inevitably bored too.
4. Development and comparison
If we talk about boredom, we have to consider the developmental aspect of a small team. You can argue with me, but based on my experience, bigger teams have more room for development. There are more personalities and skill-sets. Some competition can positively drive employee engagement.
At the same time, managers can work with benchmarks and comparisons.
With more people in the team, they can estimate better how quickly to train a new person. How much time do tasks take, and how long does it take to promote someone.
Simply put, managers can understand better team performance and capacity.
Last but not least, with a good-sized team you boost creativity and innovation. P
People can learn from each other. They can ask around for opinions. Experiment with processes. Share knowledge more effectively than it is in micro teams. As one team does not speak to the other. The knowledge becomes less dependent on a person and more of a shared entity within the team.
5. Team spirit
Is team spirit stronger in a smaller or bigger team? It can be strong in both. But in a bigger team, you may become proud to be a member.
More people appreciate you. In a micro team, it can be just one or two colleagues. Handshake is great. But if a group accepts you, it is a whole new level.
More people, more fun. It is not always true. In business, bigger teams can achieve more than a manager and his secretary.
As their network is larger. Thus, their influence is bigger. They can inspire other teams and spread their knowledge and attitude. All needed is just to focus on a group and not on an individual.
Team spirit is important for a sense of company belonging. The smaller team is, the bigger the risk that company values are not represented well.
You need the feel to be a part of some bigger happening. If not, why would you care? As a manager, give people this specific feeling that they are not alone. That the team is not alone. That’s key to success.
How big a team would you wish to have?
You should now feel curious about bigger teams. I hope you would take a few more people on board in case you manage a tiny team.
Experiment with the size and see what is working in your structure. Keep in mind, though, that the micro team is never bringing anything good. Quite the opposite. 5 member teams make much more sense.
It is also cheaper to have bigger teams in a less top-heavy structure.
A win-win situation.
Be bold and build a team. People feel they develop themselves, they are proud to work and have fun. Teamwork is not about building a workforce, but about making work more efficient and enjoyable. Managers think big! No wait, think bigger! :-)
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