Why Small Teams Overcome and Big Ones Lose

Sep 10, 2018 Stefan Rogovskiy Stefan Rogovskiy

How many people needed to develop an excellent product?

Jeff Bezos has one rule in Amazon or, better to say, a way of thinking: if the team can not be fed with two pizzas at one set - then this team is too big. - Forbes

We live in a world of abundance, which, after all, adversely affects our way of thinking. And in the business world we become cluttered in the need for more. More people, more resources, bigger offices, more products, more opportunities - it's "more and more" of our era. And we slowly start forgetting that less is good. Limitations are advantages in productivity.

I had a conversation with a guest in the podcast, and we noticed that some companies hire a lot of designers just because everyone else does it. They hunt for talent, and they want the best. Thus, they create teams of hundreds, adding layers, layers and layers of human resources, believing that "more is better".

And you might think that, for example, being a company like Facebook, which serves more than 1 billion users, you need to have a lot of support staff and developers. And you only need special commands that will work with a simple and understandable button that opens the public access. Because otherwise how can you serve 1 billion people?

When you see that large companies are pumping money like crazy into their teams, you begin to feel that you need tens or hundreds of designers to make it happen in a new "design era." But this is not true. Usually, if not always, it's a waste of money.

Nobody canceled the basic design rule, which says: quality is always better than quantity.

The Ringelman effect

The Ringelman effect is an explanation to the fact that individual members of the group are becoming less and less productive as the size of the group increases.

Ringelman's experiment consisted in allowing two students alone and groups to pull a five-meter rope, the other end of which was tied to a dynamometer. When two people pulled together, each of them performed on average only 93% of his achievement alone. For three people it was already 85%, in the four 77%, while in a group of eight people each showed an average of only 50% of its maximum productivity.

This is how psychologists explain the Ringelman effect. In the case of joint efforts, the impact of individual commitments is less intense, and therefore the motivation is not enough. Personal contribution also becomes invisible, which leads to "shirking".

Nevertheless, there are skeptics who believe that the experiment, which includes force testing of the team, has nothing to do with creativity. So I want to show you how fewer people working on the problem can bring you one of the best creative results.

Playing in LEGO

There is a research conducted by three professors from UCLA, which includes the creation of structures from LEGO. In the experiment conducted by these professors, they used LEGO bricks and two teams of 2 and 4 people. The goal was to see which side could merge the specific LEGO structure together faster and better. The team, consisting of 2 people, completed the task in 36 minutes, while a group of 4 people completed the task in 56 minutes. And the reason for this is obvious - the more people you have in the team, the more time you need to align all opinions on one page of your thinking.

Keep the size of the team as small as possible. The Metcalfe's Law, which states that "the influence of the network is proportional to the square of the number of connected system users" has an effect when it comes to project teams. The team's efficiency is approximately equal to the inverse square of the number of team members. I'm beginning to think that three people are optimal for the release of the product 1.0. Start by reducing the number of people you plan to add to the team, and then reduce a few more before you have typed the team - Mark Hedlund

We also often say that SeaRates products, especially Logistics Explorer, Tracking and Stuffing Calculator, are very similar to LEGO in the hands of professional forwarders and carriers, and give a very powerful effect when used correctly, as many colleagues have already proved. Digital technology allows you to capture more data, more requests and customers, but at the same time the computer is not mistaken, which also makes it possible to get rid of the shortcomings of the human factor.

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When nothing works

The natural tendency is to throw all the resources to solve the problem. And, as a rule, it means more people and time. By doing this, you end up fanning your main product, problem or idea. But the right way is to cut it.

If you've ever watched the "Kitchen Nightmares", Gordon Ramsay has a plan to help restaurants. To help them get back on track, it shortens its menu to a few dishes. What for? Because the owners believe that creating each dish can increase their success, but instead they will get shitty products and problems with inventory. That's why Ramsey's first step is almost always to crop the menu. (source: Rework)

And the same principles apply not only to restaurants, but also to products and teams, especially in logistics. When you try to build "another idea in a million", you need creative limitations. But if you start to reject the deadlines and increase the budget and the team, you will never stop. Because it's like a drug.

But why are we still recruiting teams like crazy, although this does not give the expected effect?

Many factors influence this decision and the way of thinking. It can be envy, pressure from investors or competitors, poor management or people who have a bad influence on the team. But in most cases this happens when the company has too many resources to solve problems.

When you have a very, very large budget, you are really looking for expensive things to spend it - Rory Sutherland

At some point the company achieves a certain level of financial and market success. And after a while everything works as well as in the first days. Therefore, they have a natural tendency to throw more resources into the problem. More people, more time, more resources - in the hope that this will help them to reach a new level. But this is not true.

Throwing more people into the problem is the "factory mentality" that inspires that if more people work on something, then you need to get more results.

This, of course, is difficult ...

... to create new products or functions in a team of two or three people, but in this beauty constraints. There is a common myth that you need a bigger canvas to get the best picture. But all the creators know that this is not true. Too much freedom can lead to mediocrity. Because without borders there is no incentive to break through them.

A real creative person, in a tiny team with a small amount of resources, will not have any difficulty in reviewing a concise or controversial agreement. Provide too much freedom, too many people and resources to solve the problem - and you will get the final product that is too overstated, reworked, unnecessary and overrated. The best thing you can do is put less resources. So, for example, if you can not build the first version of your product in a team of three people, this means that either people are not right, or the product you are trying to create is too complicated, and you have to reduce the initial requirements.

Something else

I accept the advice and ideas you would like to see in the finalization of SeaRates.com products, and I would be grateful if you follow the updates of our channel and write about it to stefan@searates.com. In addition, thumbs up let me know that you liked reading this post, and also allows others to see it, if you share your opinion in our Telegram group. And I always appreciate your comments.

SeaRates Ukraine branch manager and developer.

Performing project management and responsible for SeaRates updates as well as agent network coordination.

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