Two-pizza team rule by Jeff Bezos

Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is well known for his “two-pizza team rule”. This is a concept that firmly believes that there is indeed something as “Too big teams” that actually reduce productivity. It says that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed, which is ideally 6-7 people. 

This idea is based in several reasons. 

As group size grows, you  can’t have a meaningful conversation with every person, which is why people start clumping off into smaller clusters to chat. Hence, small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than more in quantity. It plays an important part in staying decentralized and moving fast, and encouraging high autonomy and innovation.Another issue with larger teams isn’t quite the team size itself. But rather, it’s the number of links between people that is the problem. Richard Hackman came up with a formula for determining the number of links between members in a group: n(n-1)/2. The number of links increase disproportionately with the number of people. The cost of coordinating, communicating, and relating with each other snowballs to such a degree that it lowers individual and team productivity.

Moreover, larger team size makes people overconfident. This is the tendency for people “to increasingly underestimate task completion time as team size grows”. On average, if two-person teams take 36 minutes to complete a task, four-person teams take 52 minutes to finish — over 44% longer.

People in larger teams also seemed to be more stressed. This might be due to something called “relational loss” which also affects the performance. Relational loss is the perception that you’re unable to get support by your peers. In these larger teams, people tend to be lost. They don’t know who to call for help because they didn’t know the other members well enough. Even if they did reach out, they didn’t feel the other members were as committed to helping or had the time to help. And they couldn’t tell their team leader because it might look like they had failed.

Hence, as links increase in a growing team, you start losing that close-knit feeling of support. There are a few tips to effectively avoid that.

1. What’s the magic number?
Bezos’s two-pizza rule sums up to teams of at most 6 or 7 members. Hackman however recommends 5 and fervently warns against going above 10.

2. Follow the “Cheers” rule of effective teams.
Relational loss can be avoided by bring your teammates together to remove the perception of helplessness.

3. Make teamwork easier through transparency.
Providing self-service transparency through systems, processes, and tools help distribute information and power so individuals can get aligned and move forward together as a team.

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