For centuries, societies and military organizations have grappled with the challenge of determining the ideal size for a group. Interestingly though, across all cultures, societies tended to from similar sizes. For instance, pre-modern villages around the world tended to grow to approximately 300 people and where roughly 20 miles apart, which was close enough to walk to and back in a day in order to visit a doctor or achieve something that could not be done in your own village. In military, the smallest Roman cohort started with 10 men consisting of 1 leader, 7 soldiers and 2 slaves. These days a Marine squad consists of 13 soldiers divided into 3 teams of 4 with a squad leader.
Historical examples suggest that there is a limit to how many individuals can effectively communicate and coordinate with one another. But the question of how many is too many is not just an issue of social organization or military strategy. It also has important implications for innovation and problem-solving in modern workplaces, where interdisciplinary teams are increasingly being relied upon to generate new ideas and tackle complex challenges. And yet, as with any group, the ideal team size sometimes remains elusive, and is influenced by a range of factors including the team’s primary aim and the relationships between its members. In this chapter, we’ll explore some of the key considerations when determining the ideal team size, and offer some practical strategies for assembling effective teams in a variety of contexts.
Too Much or Too Little
Determining the ideal team size involves considering various factors. The primary aim of the team is one such factor, as certain projects may require smaller or larger teams with the necessary skills to accomplish the mission. However, the relationships among team members are also crucial to team dynamics and potential.
When examining team size, it is important to consider both the total number of people on the team and the number of relationships among them. The latter is significant because team member relationships can greatly impact team performance. For instance, while members A and B and members B and C may work well together, this does not guarantee that member A and C will work well together on a certain project. In a team of nine people (including the team leader), there are 36 connections to consider, which can be overwhelming and impact team performance.
Ultimately, too few team members can lead to lack of diversity, lack of bandwidth in brain storming, and difficulty in succession. Conversely, too many team members can lead to divisive behavior, longer meeting times, less ownership of decisions, free-riding, and poor communication.
To prevent an excessive number of connections, the ideal team size is typically 6 or 7 members. Teams larger than 9 may divide into sub-teams because not every member will always work with the same people. When assembling a team, it is crucial to consider whether the necessary abilities and viewpoints can be achieved with the current team size before bringing on a new member, as each new member alters the team dynamic. For larger teams completing activities that require collaboration, it may be helpful to divide them into smaller sub-teams.
Real collaboration occurs with teams of six or seven people. In larger companies, teams can be formed for specific tasks and then reorganized for subsequent assignments. Ultimately, the ideal team size depends on the task at hand and the necessary skills and viewpoints required to complete it effectively.
- Determining the ideal team size is crucial for effective teamwork and project completion.
- Historical examples suggest that there is a limit to how many individuals can effectively communicate and coordinate with one another.
- The ideal team size is typically 6 or 7 members to prevent an excessive number of connections and ensure effective collaboration.
- The relationships among team members are also crucial to team dynamics and potential.
- For larger teams completing activities that require collaboration, it may be helpful to divide them into smaller sub-teams.
- Ultimately, the ideal team size depends on the task at hand and the necessary skills and viewpoints required to complete it effectively.
What is your current team size?
How many connections are there within the team?
Do you think your team is the optimal size, and would you expand it or reduce the number of members and for what reasons?