Teams have the right people to get the work done, no more, no less. We strive for small teams (5-9 people) to enable alignment and effective communication.

There’s a limit to the amount of information we can store in our memory. The limitations of our working memory make it difficult to manage the complexities of large groups. The larger networks grow, the higher the risk of miscommunication and information loss. Working in large groups slows us down, subjects us to greater decision fatigue and often impedes our ability to experiment.

We have a tendency to be inclusive in our work by making sure each person loosely related to a project gets a seat at the table. How many of us have been on an update call that had 30+ people on the invite? How many of us have tried making an important decision in a room with 20 colleagues? How many of us are frustrated by accommodating for unnecessary people in the room?

While it’s possible to gain alignment and make decisions within large groups, it’s slower and more difficult. The time and effort expended comes at a great cost to our organization’s agility.

We insist on creating lean teams that will get work done with tolerable risk. Limit the number of people to the amount necessary to get the job done. While 5-9 is a nice rule of thumb, think of it more as an upper limit: there are certainly circumstances where a team of 3-4 would be best.

To find out more about the science of small teams, click here.