The 4 key points Harold makes are:

1. Size does matter
2. Focus on the conversations
3. Build the bond
4. Get into a cadence

Ask your question: http://www.drharoldhillman.com/ask-harold.html

YouTube link: Managing Large Teams | Ask Harold, Episode 20

Ask Harold Episode 20 Transcript:

On today’s episode I’ll answer a question from a viewer who has a team of 13 people and she wants to know if that number is too big. I definitely have some thoughts on that.

Hi everyone, Harold Hillman here. And welcome to episode 20 of Ask Harold. On today’s episode I’ll answer a question from Robyn, who wants to know if a team of 13 people is too big to be effective. Well I’ve definitely got some views to share with Robyn, so let’s dig in. Here’s what she writes:

Dear Harold,

Is there any way to determine how many people on a team is too many?

We just restructured in my company and took out a layer of management. As a result, my team just grew in size from 7 to 13 people. That feels like too many. I already feel overwhelmed after just 2 weeks.

So what is your advice on how I should adjust to lead a team this large?



Well, thanks for that question. Large teams are often the unintended consequence of a restructure to delayer the organization. It’s just more common than you may think. And there are definitely some adjustments that you should make to ensure that the team doesn’t lose traction. So here are 4 things to consider:

1. The first is: size does matter. A team of 3 is often too cozy in its own dynamic, whereas a team of 12 will take much longer to establish a cadence around how it works. Team size will vary depending on the business, the challenge, and any number of other things. But when it comes to how humans interact, the dynamic becomes a bit more bizarre when the number creeps beyond ten. That’s what my personal experience tells me.

I consider anywhere between 6 to 8 people, especially on a leadership team, to be optimal. It’s like the bell curve: you expect a more unusual dynamic with very small or very large teams. That’s why size really does matter. So if you are leading a large team, except that you will have to work harder at keeping things running smoothly.

2. Secondly: focus on the conversations. This is important. It’s harder for a team of 13 people to get on, and stay on, the same page. Not only do they have to be tightly calibrated around their own grasp of the business, but they often are dealing with other people outside the team who also need to hear a consistent story.

This is why you have to instill more discipline around HOW the team holds conversations. For high quality discussions, you may want to break the team into smaller sub-teams around particular topics to enable them to go deeper in their understanding. Rather than free-for-alls where everybody is trying to be heard but there’s no real traction.

Team members also have to recognize the need for more concise conversations, even for the extraverts, to ensure that other people can be heard. Try to separate the important stuff from the urgent and be clear upfront about what you want to accomplish in every single conversation. All of this will help to lift the quality of the team’s discussions.

3. Thirdly: build the bond. Now this is important on any team regardless of size, but especially important for large teams where the connections can quickly jail into sub teams or cliques which is just how human beings operate when put together in numbers that large.

You will have to work harder to keep the common thread flowing across the team where they are encouraged to spend some time together, formally and informally, just to make sure they have sufficient context around each-other.

That’s what is often missing on larger teams: people often don’t know enough about each-other to put their actions into proper context. As a result, it’s easier for people to jump to conclusions about each-other because they haven’t taken the time to know each-other well enough.

4. And then finally: get into a cadence. Getting into quick traction around how it operates will give a larger team more confidence that it can actually get things done. Be clear about who’s accountable for what. Use the famous RACI chart to help define how the work will get done.

Don’t try to conquer everything in the big meetings. Get the team to define a rhythm outside the big meetings where the work continues in smaller numbers with a way of connecting back up to the whole. Get the team to figure it out, with you: the best way to keep work flowing at meetings and between meetings.

Thanks for that question, Robyn, and thank you all for watching Ask Harold.

Remember: if you liked this video, tell others about it and subscribe to Sigmoid’s YouTube channel. If you would like to see my other videos and articles, go to my blog at www.drharoldhillman.com

Take good care and see you all soon.