The Power of Small Teams in the Employer-Employee Relationship: An Analysis of “The Smaller the Better”
Companies and organizations have, for the longest time, tried to expand their operations by building a larger team. This mindset has fueled beliefs such as “the more, the merrier” and “two heads are better than one.” However, this belief system may not apply in some cases, especially when it comes to the employer-employee relationship.
In an article called “The Smaller the Better,” Jeffrey Phillips emphasizes the lean and mean effects of smaller teams on projects. He pointed out that larger teams can lead to diminishing marginal returns on output, which, in turn, can lead to more communication channels between team members, complicating discussions and decreasing problem solving. For this reason, the smaller team approach may be a more effective way of managing operations.
Phillips highlights several key benefits to working with small teams, beyond just communication efficiency, that make small teams a powerful driver of productivity. A closer look at these benefits and some additional considerations can give employers and employees more insight into the effectiveness of small teams.
In smaller teams, managers can spend more time with each person on the team as necessary, which can lead to greater focus on individual tasks. Each team member can get the attention they need to complete tasks effectively, reduce inefficiencies and increase productivity.
In a smaller team, everyone has a line of sight to everyone else. This means that everyone is aware of the circumstances, successes, failures, and expectations of the other team members. Therefore, it fosters a culture of transparency and accountability, allowing teams to be more productive and successful.
Smaller teams have a greater chance of being more cohesive. Team members can build stronger bonds with each other, and the team can become more like a family. This belongingness and comradery can lead to better collaboration and creativity as they work towards a common goal. However, the corollary is that smaller teams have a better chance of tearing each other apart. Team members need to understand the importance of mutual respect and work to build trust among each other to avoid dispute and dysfunction.
Smaller teams require less recruitment, training, and the administration of the team. Instead, you can spend more time on real work, focusing on actual project deliverables, and less on the team’s administrative aspects.
Interaction between the manager and each individual team member is an important aspect that can be easily achieved in smaller teams. The manager can have more one-on-one interactions with team members and gain a sense of their commitment level, strengths and weaknesses. Feedback sessions can also be more frequent, more direct and informative, allowing individuals to take control of their career development, further motivating and empowering each team member.
In smaller teams, it is harder to “hide.” Managers can quickly weed out those who aren’t performing up to standards or aren’t bought into the project’s vision. This visibility and accountability increase team members’ sense of responsibility, improving the team’s productivity and overall success.
In addition to these six key benefits, the smaller team approach has a unique feature, namely smaller project or module leadership. This approach allows a functional group of engineers to address a particular project or module rather than discussing an idea with everyone in the organization. By binding together as a ‘functional group,’ the team reduces the need to talk to every single member and get their consensus on an idea. This approach streamlines communication and hands over more control to individuals involved in the project, leading to swifter and more effective problem-solving practices.
To conclude, smaller teams can have a powerful impact on the employer-employee relationship. They foster a culture of transparency, accountability, belongingness, and trust that can increase productivity and problem solving. Managers can provide more individualized attention to each team member, leading their career development and overall employee satisfaction. All in all, a smaller team approach could be a smart way to drive success and productivity, building stronger working relationships and job enjoyment in the process.