Productive teams: what’s the magic number?

May 18, 2017

Productive teams are the heart of any successful business.

I don’t just mean that in the sense of the bottom line, but in the sense of culture that gives a business its identity. The more heads you have in the game, the more issues can arise with management and communication. You need the right personalities, the right skill sets, and the right number of people in your team. Here are a few rules to follow to help you build a truly productive team.

No more than seven.

There is a lot of talk out there about the maximum number of people a manager can effectively manage is seven. Lucky seven. While this certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule, there is some pretty detailed evidence that shows communication and relationships tend to get strained when you are dealing with more than seven direct reports. So rule number one is that as soon as you notice communication strain, it's time to consider segmenting the team a little more. That way everyone can still maintain some direct and personal connection with other team members as well as their manager.

Clear goals. Clear roles.

Everyone needs to know what the team is trying to achieve. Everyone needs to know what value each team member brings. This is more than just so you can effectively manage the team, but so all team members respect each other and understand how integral they each are to team success. When every member of the team values each other, they can work more collaboratively and effectively. A productive team relies a lot more on these personal relationships than simply the skills of each individual.

No knee-jerk hires.

A new challenge doesn’t need to mean a new hire. Firstly, you should check with the team and see if you already have the skill sets and time to deal with the challenge. Secondly, you should consider what it would take to upskill some of your current team members to solve the problem rather than bringing in a new face. When there is no other option but to bring in a new team member, you should take it seriously. Make sure the rest of the team is aware of and involved in the process. If the team as a whole has some ownership of the process they will welcome the new hire with open arms and build a productive team relationship in no time.

Smaller is better.

The smaller team, the closer they will be. While every business wants to grow, you should never grow beyond your means. Often, rather than going through the hassle of finding the perfect new team member, it's easier and more cost-effective to outsource some tasks. In fact, when you take job advertising, interviewing, training, and the risk of a bad fit into account, a new hire can be one of the most resource heavy undertakings a small business will undergo in any given year. Having a solid relationship with some reliable third party providers can be a much more business savvy option that will save you a lot of headaches.

Light Creative is a Melbourne-based creative, content, and digital agency.