Any enterprise which has come out of the start-up phase will be looking at ways to better manage workflow and maximize their employees’ time for greater productivity. As the human resources expand, so will the number of teams and there reigns the age old question. What is the ideal team size when it comes to creating a team with great team dynamics?

A team is a group of two or more people working together to reach a specific goal. Teams are there for the long term or they can even come together for a specific project. The dynamics of a team can be explained as the different psychological factors which influence the team’s output. These dynamics are unconscious but their impact is so strong that it can have long-lasting effects on your employees. A good leader will be aware of these influences and will work with their team to strengthen these dynamics.  

Large vs small team dynamics: the magic number

Team dynamics are important because the success of a project or outcome depends on them so the first step would be to take into consideration what is the easiest thing you can control: size. 

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos famously attributed his team size logic to how many people you can feed with two pizzas, or as it is more commonly known: The Two Pizza Rule. This rule puts the team number to between 5 and 8 people. However, Bezos is not the only one to think that smaller teams are in fact better than larger ones. 

Mark de Rond, associate professor of Strategy and organization at the University of Cambridge believes that when it comes to teams, less is more and that teams shouldn’t go above 5 members. When it comes to J. Richard Hackman, Professor for Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University says the rule of thumb is not to go over “double digits.” 

Do smaller teams have better team dynamics than larger ones?

Richard J. Hackman once bluntly said “Big teams usually wind up just wasting everybody’s time” but whichever number you end up choosing, there seems to be a consensus that smaller teams are in fact better. 

When working in smaller teams there seems to be less productivity killers such as groupthink and social loafing

Social loafing occurs when the output effort of group members is reduced because of the perceived decrease in responsibility. This deterioration in effort is explained by Social Psychologist Bibb Latane who claimed: “If the individual inputs are not identifiable the person may work less hard. Thus if the person is dividing up the work to be performed or the amount of reward he expects to receive, he will work less hard in groups”

According to Psychology Today as Groupthink “occurs when a group of well-intentioned people make irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the discouragement of dissent.” This consensus may either be fueled by a particular agenda, or it can also be the case that certain group members treasure harmony above rational thinking.

Building a great team dynamic

A great team dynamic comes about when team members trust each other. Conflicts will happen from time to time, even in the healthiest of teams. But a good leader will know how to encourage an open discussion and guide team members to a resolution. 

Focus on communication

As always, open communication is the key to creating solid relationships. Tackle problems quickly and with good feedback together. Keep team members included with project changes and news is also an integral part of great team dynamics. 

Define roles and responsibilities

Each team member needs to know what their KPIs are and what is expected of them. Create a reward and accountability system for group members and the entire team. This will not only help the team dynamics but will also help foster psychological safety.

Pay attention

Address problems quickly and keep an eye out for disruptive behaviors such as bullying, free riding and groupthink. 

The ideal team size might not exist but there is enough body of work to suggest that smaller teams work better. Ultimately it is all about the relationship between the team members. One thing is for certain, without positive team dynamics a business cannot properly utilize the employees’ skills to fully leverage their potential. 

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