What’s a perfect team size?

While micro teams are considered to be more productive, technology has enabled organisations to manage and leverage larger teams now.

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The two-pizza rule, made famous by Jeff Bezos, founder, Amazon, suggests that if two pizzas cannot feed a team, then the team is too large. A common belief, proven through research, is that a small team means more efficiency. The reason being, small or micro teams are more involved with their work and have a greater sense of autonomy and freedom. Bold choices are possible when the setup is small. As per a Gallup report, ‘The State of the American Workplace’, from March 2020, organisations with fewer than 10 employees achieved engagement levels of 42 per cent compared to 30 per cent in organisations with larger groups. The Math is quite simple. More people means more supervision, more communication and more chaos.


Pawan N Setty

“In a smaller team, you expect a person to do more than one task, and hence, there are blind spots. In a larger team, you can even split processes to bring in efficiency.”


It’s true that productivity does get better with smaller teams, however the size depends completely on the scale and deliverables of an organisation.

Amit Das, director-HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co., believes it all depends on the functions and deliverables. “The team size depends on the type of role and functional deliverables that one has to achieve through collaborative teamwork. The span of control is directly proportional to the team size and can vary depending on the type, scope and deliverables of the role in any organisation.

However, Das also mentions how, courtesy technology, organisations can now effectively manage larger teams, despite being far away from each other.

“In today’s knowledge-driven networked organisation, we can leverage new-age technology to manage large, dispersed teams distributed across geographies and multiple workplaces. The enterprise-collaborative technological platforms are leveraged by managers to drive their deliverables, and enhance the effectiveness of the outcomes through a networked and unified team across multiple locations. This has enabled managers to have much larger teams than what they could optimally manage in the past,” Das opines

“New-age workplace technology has redefined the spans and layers for today’s agile organisation structure, enhanced productivity of teams by leveraging distributed capabilities across locations, and also equipped managers to handle larger team size, with enhanced effectiveness of supervision, control and guidance to create more value for the organisation,” informs Das.


Jayant Kumar

“When you have smaller teams, interpersonal relationships are far more informal and deeper. Less people, so more time to spend with each other.In larger teams, the relationships are more formal and task oriented. You tend to get close to only those people who will help you achieve your task.”


Productivity is the biggest factor cited in these researches, which say that small teams are better than large ones. In the business fraternity, it is believed that restricting the team size to five to eight employees, scales up their potential, which, in turn, improves productivity.

Anil Mohanty, head of people & culture, Medikabazaar, explains, “For productivity, one has  to ensure the denominator is lower, so that productivity is higher. Why do people always look at productivity norms based on head counts? When they see productivity is almost stagnant, most organisations release the manpower. This automatically increases productivity. Employees, who are fully engaged for eight hours, are the truly highly-engaged employees. That should be the real engagement. If they take two to three-hour breaks, I don’t think they are engaged. More team members means more leisure time and more people indulging in unnecessary gossip.”

Like Das, Mohanty also agrees that size depends on the business. For specific projects, micro teams are allotted while for large-sized businesses, more hands are employed. However, he also admits smaller teams are more successful. “They possess the right skills, and can be focused on and monitored properly. In larger teams, monitoring can be a challenge. It all depends upon the business or product size.”


Anil Mohanty

“For productivity, one has to ensure the denominator is lower, so that productivity is higher. Why do people always look at productivity norms based on head counts? When they see productivity is almost stagnant, most organisations release the manpower. This automatically increases productivity. “


Till now, it has been established that HR leaders believe that the size of a team depends on ask of an organisation, while accepting that smaller teams do bring an edge to the entire setup.

Jayant Kumar, Jt president – HR, Adani Group, adds here the human element. “When you have smaller teams, interpersonal relationships are far more informal and deeper. Less people, so more time to spend with each other. In larger teams, the relationships are more formal and task oriented. You tend to get close to only those people who will help you achieve your task. That’s a very transactional view of relationships at workplaces. In smaller teams, the relationships aren’t for the task, but people develop strong bonds, which are sustained for a long period of time.”


Amit Das

“In today’s knowledge-driven networked organisation, we can leverage new-age technology to manage large, dispersed teams distributed across geographies and multiple workplaces.”


However, it would be wrong to think that a larger setup does not have its pros. Although Pawan N Setty, Head HR, APAC – Technology, Visa, strongly believes large and small teams cannot be compared, he opines that a bigger team brings in efficiency.

“If it’s a larger team, you will have the benefit of scale. You can bite size the work and make it extremely measurable. In a smaller team, you expect a person to do more than one task, and hence, there are blind spots. In a larger team, you can even split processes to bring in efficiency.”

Human resource experts unanimously believe that both small and large teams have their benefits, even when some agree the lesser the people, more the engagement and hence, better efficiency.