A new article in Knowledge@Wharton discusses about the optimal sizes of a team. What I experienced for sure, when the team grows, communication complexity multiply, and behaviour such as social loafing may surface. I have been researched different papers on the similar topic on team size and found a magic number – six. However the article suggests it is not simple. It suggests that the team size depends on the type of the task.

… But having a good team depends on more than optimal size, Wittenberg adds. For instance, when Wharton assigns five to six MBA students to individual teams, “we don’t just assign those teams. We make sure they can be effective. We have a ‘learning team retreat’ where we take all 800 students out to a camp in the woods in upstate New York and spend two days doing team building and trust building exercises. I think this is what people forget to do when they create a team in a business — spend a lot of time upfront to structure how they will work together. We get to know each other and share individual core values so we can come up with team values. But most importantly, we have the students work on their team goals, their team norms and their operating principles. Essentially, what are we going to do and how are we going to do it?”

In the work world, says Wittenberg, it has been “reinforced that five or six is the right number (on a team). At least for us, it gives everyone a real work out. But frankly, I think it depends on the task.”

Recent research by Mueller would seem to support Wittenberg’s notion that preparation for team success is vital. In a recent paper, “Why Individuals in Larger Teams Perform Worse,” Mueller channeled Ringelmann’s theories on large group efforts and tried to explain why the title of her paper is true. For decades, researchers have noted that mere changes in team size can change work-group processes and resulting performance. By studying 238 workers within 26 teams, ranging from three to 20 members in size, Mueller’s research replicates the general assertion that individuals in larger teams do perform worse, but she also offers an explanation for this conclusion…

Is Your Team Too Big? Too Small? What’s the Right Number? – [Knowledge@Wharton]

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