In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos famously instituted a two-pizza rule: any team that cannot be fed by two pizzas is too big.
In many ways, small teams are better than large ones. They move faster, iterate at higher frequency, and innovate more for the company. Team members are more likely to build relationships and the bureaucratic slowdown that affects big teams does not take hold.
There are endless examples of small teams achieving amazing things. Among them:
When Facebook purchased WhatsApp, the company's 32 engineers had created a platform that was used by 450 million users.
- Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most famous hot hatchbacks in history, and it was created by a team of eight.
However massive they may seem now, many of the largest and most successful companies around started in someone’s garage with teams of fewer than 10 people.
Theoretically, it is easy to understand how smaller teams can be more effective, as communication is easier and decision-making can be accomplished more quickly.
But practically, how can you make your small team as efficient and productive as it can be?
5 ways to get things done with smaller teams
- Get everyone square on the team’s goals
The smaller your team is, the more important each member is, and the more room there is to collaborate instead of just manage. It helps to speak individually to each team member, offering clear definitions of the company's goals. It is these individual connections that help keep everybody on the same page.
- Give people freedom, and then preserve it
Unlike in a larger company, where titles reflect the tasks that employees do, smaller teams require people to take on several roles at once. For them to do well they need autonomy. Let them have this freedom rather than micromanaging.
- Automate and outsource wherever you need to
A small business can make a big impact by taking advantage of web tools that help automate tasks. That frees your employees up to tackle the more challenging, human-level stuff. Also, in order for your small team to thrive and work efficiently, build a network of freelancers to call on so your team members can stay on track and do what you hired them to do.
- Keep check-ins regular and meetings short
Under-communicating leads you into dangerous territory, largely because it is crucial that your team members are aware of their duties, responsibilities and deadlines. However, by keeping meetings brief and intimate, you are able to keep the less formal lines of communication open to offer personal encouragement and constructive feedback.
- Craft an unbeatable culture
When you have a small team and limited resources, as well as minimal health or social benefits to offer, it is important to rely on the team’s passion to keep up the momentum. It is this passion that can really push a company toward success and increase employee retention. The key is in emphasizing trust, combining the right mix of people, creating a common vision, and including heavy doses of inspiration and fun. You can read another blog on creating great company culture here.
Ever heard the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well it applies here. Don’t put an unnecessary end to any of these tactics if you see them working. Small-team performance is all about consistency. When you get into the swing of using them, these techniques can help your small team stay efficient even when the team may become, well...less small.
A final word on managing a small team
Bear in mind that the fundamentals in succeeding with managing small teams lie with the understanding that it is just as difficult to manage small teams as it is mid-sized or even large teams. Project managers often mistakenly believe that managing a small team is easier, but that is not always the case. This is due to the intimate and personal nature of small teams. However, by using the tactics listed above, you the entrepreneur can master managing a small team, leading your team members to increase their productivity and do their best work.
Don’t take our word for it! Try them on for size and implement these techniques into your management style today.
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