Thursday, October 16, 2008

Small teams

I was just looking at The Discipline of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith. These are the same gentlemen who wrote The Wisdom of Teams.

First, my strong bias (which I find is reinforced in many places, including this book) is that all "real work" these days takes place in teams. (Yes, Virginia, I need to add some caveats, but it's still basically true. IMHO.)

Chapter Five of their book is titled: Applying the Team Discipline: Number & Skill. Subhead: "A small number -- ideally less than 10..."

They then give 6 long reasons why large groups are not teams (or, at least, don't have the discipline of a winning team, as they [and I] see it). I will summarize:
  1. Large groups cannot easily or frequently meet together.
  2. Large groups are biased toward efficient meetings. [Why is this a bad thing?!?! Well, efficiency is not creative, for one.]
  3. Large groups are biased toward hierarchical leadership.
  4. Large groups are biased toward stable roles.
  5. Large groups usually fail to build common understanding and commitment.
  6. Large groups often subdivide ...[and] create smaller teams [sub-teams].
If your culture does not immediately know that a team is 9 or less, you need to study in this area. [IMHO] Get all the help you can to knock down this impediment.


Jeff SKI Kinsey said...

Interesting reflections... I can enthusiastically endorse "no more than nine (9) members" per team. --ski

Joe Little said...

Small teams seem obvious to me. One can have a work group, but not a real team after about 9 people. One can visualize this just be drawing lines between the dots representing people. Once you get to 9 people you get a LOT of lines. So, you can see why communication would start to fail. And why sub-teams start to form.