When the team I manage (mixture of web development & digital marketing) started to grow beyond 5 or 6 I started to split it into separate groups to a maximum of 4 or 5 with a lead within each group.

Now the team & our team responsibilities are growing again I would like to ask whether trying to keep groups to a maximum of 4 or 5 is a good thing? What are the pros & cons of smaller or larger group sizes?

  • This is very broad. In some call centres, some teams have 20 staff to one team leader. In other offices, one man bands are common. – user27483 Jun 16 '17 at 9:11
  • I shared that the teams are a mixture of web development & digital marketing to give an indication of the level of working - so its not a team where everyone does the same job to a process, it's very dynamic. – amelvin Jun 16 '17 at 9:14
  • @amelvin It's all up to you to decide what suits best your company. Everything can be great as long as it's adapted to the situation. If it's working well for you then keep it this way , but be open minded about suggestions , or maybe forget about the 4-5 max rule and try to set the teams regarding the job they have to do. Sometimes you may have a team of 15ppl , and next time 5 teams of 3. – Rolexel Jun 16 '17 at 9:17
  • @AlexandreAudin I was wondering if there was research on the subject - HLGEM comment on the answer is an interesting insight. I think 4 or 5 people feels mostly right most of the time - as you can say it can always be changed! – amelvin Jun 16 '17 at 16:05

Team sizes over 7 result in significantly lower productivity

There is research referenced [1] in the Scrum Guide (obviously more relevant for software development teams) that smaller teams are more efficient.

Another book, Leading Teams indicates that the average team size of 4.5 is most productive.

Part of this is down to Reed's Law, that the number of potential connections between people grows exponentially as you add additional people.

1: Jones, Capers. Applied Software Measurement, Second Edition. McGraw Hill, 1996.

  • 2
    Minor correction: The number of potential connections grows quadratically. – Thern Jun 16 '17 at 9:37
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    Does that team size of 7 include the manager/leads/etc? Last I checked Scrum suggests up to 7 developers, plus a SM/PO, for a time size of 9 as max; which would be a logical cap if the 7 is for the dev team only. – Erik Jun 16 '17 at 9:40
  • Unless you consider multi-person connections. The number of different subsets of a set of size N is 2^N, which does increase exponentially. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 16 '17 at 9:40
  • @PatriciaShanahan Yes, you are right. Then the link should be changed, it does not point to Reed's Law but to Metcalfe's Law, which is definitely quadratic. – Thern Jun 16 '17 at 10:57
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    When I did manpower studies for the Navy, one of our assumptions was that if the number of people at the working level exceeded eight, it was required to split it up into multiple groups. And that was for all professional specialties. That was based on around 70 years of industrial engineering studies at the time (late 1970's early 1980s). Fewer than that might be better, but more than that was considered unmanageable for for the leader just in terms of managing daily work, leave requests, deadlines, etc. – HLGEM Jun 16 '17 at 15:20

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