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Because, size does not matter.
(A still from ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’)
I have a baker friend. She runs a cloud kitchen, a fancy word used for culinary businesses that are run from home, without a professional setup of a bakery, a restaurant or a cafe. Social media and food delivery apps have given way to many such small-scale businesses to run from homes and small kitchens. My friend single-handedly manages taking orders, production, delivery, and accounting of her baking business. She recently created an Instagram account for her bakery to reach an audience and to share images of her beautiful cakes and jars that she sells to local residents of her city. When I happened to go through her IG stories, I saw she was using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when she was taking orders, sharing reviews, etc. One of her stories read:
We. She delivers quality pastry, has a culinary arts diploma from a major institute in Bangalore, has been trained by the best chefs that serve in 5 and 7-star hotel establishments, and above all, has an undying passion to create a dessert that not only satisfies the sweet tooth but also the soul of the bon vivant. Why does she have to give credit to a team that doesn’t even exist?
My friend’s example is a classic case of the popular myth of bigger teams to ‘sound’ more professional, more worthy. If more employees would mean more success, Basecamp would not be a leading organization with 3.3 million accounts signed up on the software and only 50 but skilled and talented employees spread across 32 locations around the world.
A professional setting where I have seen a useless trend that comes out of this myth is in co-working spaces. A lot of organizations with smaller teams usually find it unnecessary to invest in infrastructure for their personnel. Since the team is small, they usually rent out desks and cabins at a co-working space. The trend is that usually, these companies rent a few extra seats, not because the team might need expansion someday, but to portray they have a bigger team than they actually do. This is not just wasteful use of company resources, but also a misuse of co-working infrastructure.
(Early days of Amazon.)
Do clients give projects to agencies and studios with bigger teams or a better portfolio? Do investors believe the pitch that comes from a larger team over an equally passionate pitch that comes from a smaller team?
Well, the latter actually is something that was found to be true in research.
But, imagine if you are an investor, would you invest in a company that aims for profit, or the one that aims for change? Which is the entrepreneur that you would hang out with after the pitch for a drink?
Why do organizations look at the expansion of their organization only in the size of its talent, and not the vastness of their delivery?
Of course, if my baker friend had a few more hands to handle orders, accounts, and delivery, she could focus more on developing more recipes, take up more orders, and maybe start catering to bigger events. But a team too big would be a little too much for her to manage, adding to her tasks, rather than helping with division of labor.
Obviously, NASA cannot function with 30 scientists working on campus and a few freelancers who could design satellites at the comfort of their homes.
Basically, it depends on multiple factors. There is no right formula for calculating the number of employees that an organization should ideally have. It depends on the number of projects that you have, your capacity to lead and manage the size, even with the help of a human resource professional. If you know how to delegate well and make a genuine commitment, then large teams are not needed.
Although, Jeff Bezos seems to have it all figured out. He says, “If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” But then again, this is in context with productivity, channels of communication and creativity, which is a topic for another blog.
Teams behave in a certain manner. A group behaves and the size of the members is directly proportional to the behavior. A small team can do tasks that a large team might not be able to, and a large team is necessary to get some tasks done. Both have their individual functionalities.
A Harvard Business Review analysis found a pattern. Large teams developed already existing ideas and designs, whereas smaller teams were bent towards disrupting current ways of thinking with new ideas, inventions, and opportunities.
Disruption, taking over, expansion, game-changing, all of these are not just jargon but also what business owners aspire and wrongfully consider as what success is. There is a difference between growth and expansion. In fact, expansion could be considered as a part of the larger growth of the organization. Forcing expansion by premature hiring can go wrong on many levels.
In jammed up traffic, a small bike will be able to pave its way out, whereas, a truck will only have to move overnight to avoid as much traffic as it can. Bigger the organization, harder it becomes to move forward. Asking ‘why’ matters even when you are hiring. Hire to get the job done, not to add to your ego.
Insecurity about having a small team is something we need to leave in the past. The wrong notion of bigger teams is not just misleading, it is archaic. It is the 21st century. We are a part of an era, an economy, a market where professionals can have a functioning entity out of a laptop. We live in the gig economy.
— by Manas, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio