Maximize Effectiveness by Having 10 Members or Less
There has been hundreds of years of research on what the ideal team size is to optimize performance. Even as early as the 1800s, a French agricultural engineer named Maximilian Ringleman discovered that when more people pulled on a rope, each individual contributed less effort. He coined the term “social loafing” and many researchers since then have confirmed this phenomenon. So what is the right size for a team?
Wageman et al. (2008) suggest that a leadership team should be small, ideally having six to eight members. This size will allow the team to be optimally effective for decision making and getting their strategic work done.
Once the team exceeds 10 members, the leader will often spend more time trying to create a team that gels instead of effectively discussing and solving problems, or making decisions together. Large teams particularly suffer from this social loafing phenomenon in which a small handful of people do most of the work. Social loafing is especially common if each team member’s accountabilities are not clear or enforced.
It is better to have one person working with you than three people working for you.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States
To determine if your team is the right size to be effective, ask:
- How easy is it for your team to make decisions, include everyone, and use all the talent you have on the team?
If you have a larger team, consider breaking the team into smaller teams or subgroups, with only one of those groups having key accountability for the decision making and oversight of the broader team.
If you are not able to change your team size or break into smaller teams, consider setting up subcommittees so everyone on the team has a task or focus that he or she feels inspired to contribute to and “own.”