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Ever feel like you’re doing all the work in your team? Perhaps you are.
Popular wisdom has convinced us the best work methods are inclusive and participative, and indeed this is true. But, it’s also possible we’ve taken this too far—and we should be more selective about how we bring people together in teams. Less may be more.
In particular, a new research demonstrates smaller teams tend to produce more disruptive and innovative results. Specifically, the study included a meta-analysis of 65 million papers produced between the years of 1954 and 2014 and found that smaller teams tend to come up with new ideas and opportunities to a greater extent than larger teams. This isn’t to say that large teams are bad. According to the research, larger teams helped develop existing ideas and extend current knowledge, they just didn’t innovate as well.
We can also take lessons from nature. In another study, researchers found too many ants working at the same time actually clogged tunnels and got in the way of effective digging which was fundamental for survival. In addition, they found just 30 percent of ants were doing 70 percent of the work.
How often have you heard human teammates complain that just a few colleagues are doing the majority of the work? In fact, this is a fairly common concern, and the perception of inequity has even been linked to negative effects on physical health.
It turns out that inequality of work may be the result of having a too-big team. And, the fix may be as simple as limiting the number of team members.
But, how does a great leader minimize membership on the team without alienating people? Here are five steps:
Keep People in the Loop. Recognize that all the people who need to be informed about the team’s work don’t necessarily have to be on the team. Find ways to keep people updated about their colleagues’ progress without requiring them to be full members of the group.
Tap into Diverse Thought. Along the same lines, while the team needs broad diversity of thought, all diverse thinkers may not need to be full members of the team. Consider scheduling time with people who can provide diverse perspectives on an episodic basis rather than including all of them as ongoing group members.
Identify Key Skills. Assess the skills of those who will join the team and find people who can wear multiple hats. If you have a great planner who also brings a unique perspective, leverage that person’s skills so the team doesn’t need two people to fulfill those needs. This isn’t about making people do double work. It’s about leveraging those with the skill sets that are the most ideal fit for the team’s needs.
Hold People Accountable. In large teams, it is possible for a few people to do most of the work, while others may not carry their weight. On the other hand, in a small team, there is no room to hide. Be clear with people about what you need from them and make friends with a tool like a responsibility assignment matrix (aka RACI) which allows you to map the responsibilities of team members and stakeholders. Hold people accountable and recognize great work. People will appreciate the opportunity to contribute and the recognition that comes from rolling up their sleeves and digging in.
Let the Team Evolve. As the team’s work evolves, consider swapping team members. For example, at the beginning of the project, you may have needed the person with the wildly innovative ideas. As the team’s work evolves, you may need the person who can bring a rigorous level of project management. It is perfectly fair to substitute team members so their skills are being used to the fullest extent when the team needs them most. The team members and the team as a whole will appreciate you aligning individuals’ skills with the needs of the group.
When it comes to teams, bigger isn’t always better. Ensuring a team has the right team members and the right number of team members will go a long way toward its success. Perhaps even more importantly, it will allow team members to distribute work so that everyone contributes and no one feels like they’re carrying a heavier burden than anyone else.
March 10, 2019 at 06:30PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs