Over the last decade we have watched Jeff Bezos climb to the top of the ladder to become the richest man on the planet. As founder and CEO of Amazon — it is clear that his leadership style made an impact on the success of the multi-billion dollar corporation that started from his garage in Bellevue, Washington in 1995.
There is one aspect of Bezos’ leadership, more specifically team building that I would like to focus on, as I believe it is one of the cornerstones of his success. It is known as the two-pizza rule. Simply put, if you cannot feed your team with two pizzas then it is too big. This number sits at a maximum of 10 highly effective team members.
So, the secret to being a successful team is a small team. Let’s break down the benefits of keeping your team small and pizza bill low:
1. Smaller teams have healthier communication.
In a group of 10 or less, with proper introductions, team members are going to know one another by name. Which ultimately leads tighter knit relationships. Instead of seeing your teammate as employee #2342, they are another human. With their own strengths, weaknesses, fears and aspirations. Having a personal connection with team members fosters a sort of mutual respect. And creates an environment where people are not afraid to share their ideas or make mistakes.
Having a smaller team also leaves more room for open and thoughtful discussion. Team meetings can be run more efficiently with a smaller group of people. Rather than one hundred people chiming in at once. A small team meeting allows team members enough time to formulate and present their ideas in-depth. All while leaving room for feedback.
2. Smaller teams hold themselves accountable.
There is a well known theory called the “ Ringelmann effect.” It was realized by French agricultural engineer Maximilien Ringelmann in 1913, it still holds true today. Ringelmann created a study where he had volunteers pull on a rope. He observed that the more people that pulled on the rope resulted in the individual putting forth less effort.
He concluded that in a larger group, there is more anonymity among the team. It is much harder to tell who is pulling the rope and who isn’t. But in a smaller group, it becomes quite clear who isn’t pulling their fair share.
This means, you don’t need a huge team of people to pull the rope per say. Instead you need a strong team that is going to pull their fair share of the rope, hold each other accountable and get you across that finish line.
3. Smaller teams are nimble.
The only thing in this world that is constant is of course, change. In this fast paced world it is crucial that teams are agile and can respond to changes both quickly and efficiently. In a large team, decision making is often a long, drawn out and bureaucratic process. A slow response to external changes can result in a variety of losses for an organization. And in some cases organizations will end up folding — unable to keep up.
On the other hand, a small, tight knit team can quickly come up with strategic responses to changes in their market and environment. With fewer decision makers, the decision making process is dramatically reduced and strategy can be implemented at a much faster rate.
4. Smaller teams cost less money.
This almost goes without saying. Of course, having ten team members is going to cost less than fifty team members. Less people equals less resources spent. Yes, this even applies when you have some real unicorns on your team that might cost a little (or a lot) more than your average employee.
On that note, it is worth investing more in a small team that is multifaceted and offers deep expertise in a variety of areas.
5. Smaller teams are more innovative.
When seats on the team are limited, you have to be picker with who makes the cut. Having a small, focused team, full of multifaceted experts (in a variety of fields) can make it much easier to come up with creative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges businesses face today. Take a look back in history, some of the most notable inventors did not just specialize in one narrow discipline, rather they had a wide range of skills.
Lets use Benjamin Franklin as an example. He wore many hats. He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a writer, a scientist (that most notable made many major contributions towards electricity research), a businessman, an author and printer, and made many civic contributions to his community, by founding a fire hall, academy, hospital, and an insurance company. This paragraph hardly does any justice for the guy. But my point is, finding a few people with deep skills and curiosity will drive innovation at a much faster rate than one hundred average joes would.
One example that comes to mind when considering team size is a 2015 interview between Ried Hoffman, host of Masters of Scale, and Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google. Schmidt recalls his introduction to the Google founders team and their strategy to oversee growth within the company.
In one year, Google had quadrupled their number of employees. Eric observes that exponential growth is not always a positive attribute. Rather, the team size should be scalable to the product or service being offered. Growth should be controlled and bringing on new team members should be strategic.
To control growth, Eric Schmidt did a full review on hiring and the hiring process. Each employee would have something to offer and was brought on to contribute to projects in a specific way. This would reduce the number of what he referred to as “glue people.” Employees that were loyal and assisted in activities but were not necessary to the teams success.
The benefits to having a small team are clear, but what does it actually take to make your small team run smoothly, efficiently and meet deadlines? Here are three tips on building a small team for success.
This is not to say that there is no place for large teams, but a business must carefully evaluate the scale and resources available when choosing the right size team for the project. Larger teams tend to work best when looking to maintain or advance and develop in their given industry. Whereas smaller teams are best in situations where innovators are trying to keep up with the latest trends or looking to disrupt the status quo — which is what most of us start-ups would like to do, isn’t it?
This article was originally published at https://integrityco.io on December 15, 2020 — stay tuned for more.
Sarah is a Demand Generation and Marketing Specialist at integrityCo. She resides in Vancouver, BC.