Why “Two Large Pizza” team is the best team ever.
In my past 5 year experience, I worked with many people and teams. Some of them were college students, some entrepreneurs, some new startups and many industry professionals. In short terms, I worked with almost every team size and maturity level in many roles like as an intern, as a team leader, as partners, as a freelancer and also as an employee.
In this past 5 year experience, I got so many life-changing experiences and learned so many skills from different types of peoples in different aspects. But one of the most meaningful things I learned from my experience is what should be the perfect size for the team?
And about the perfect team size, I totally agreed with Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon) that the Two Large Pizza team is a perfect size for the team.
But wait, what is a Two Large Pizza team?
The term “Two Large Pizza” for a team came from the statement of Jeff Bezos:
“If you can’t feed a team with two large pizzas, it’s too large.” -Jeff Bezos
He beautifully defined the size for a perfect team. From his statement, he made clear that if your team size is more than the servings of Two Large Pizzas, you have already made it too large.
In this way, it is concluded that the “Two Large Pizza” team is the team with the size of not more than 8 or 9 people.
What’s wrong with the teams with big size?
1. Communication gets terrible as team size grows :
The issue with larger teams isn’t quite the team size itself. As organizational psychologist and expert on team dynamics J. Richard Hackman would point out, it’s the number of links between people that is the problem. Take a look at the formula for determining the number of links between members in a group: n(n-1)/2.
As group size increases, the links start to get unwieldy.
- If you take a basic two-pizza team size of, say, 6. That’s 15 links between everyone.
- Double that group for a team of 12. That shoots up to 66 links.
- A small business of 50 people has an incredible 1225 links to manage.
The cost of coordinating, communicating, and relating to each other snowballs to such a degree that it lowers individual and team productivity. Hackman explained, “The larger a group, the more process problems members encounter in carrying out their collective work …. Worse, the vulnerability of a group to such difficulties increases sharply as size increases.”
2. Underestimation of any work :
Many managers and leaders fall into the mental trap that adding more people to a team is always good. People are your best assets, so adding more assets to a project should power up progress.Right?
The fact is, larger team size makes people overconfident. This is the tendency for people “to increasingly underestimate task completion time as team size grows,” as researchers Bradley Staats, Katherine Milkman, and Craig Fox explain. In one of their experiments, they discovered that when tasked to build the same Lego figure, two-person teams took 36 minutes while four-person teams took 52 minutes to finish — over 44% longer.
Yet the larger teams were almost twice as overoptimistic about how long they’d take.
When a project is running behind, you want to get something done faster, or there’s an ambitious milestone at stake, it seems reasonable to add more people power. Sticking to a max number of a two-pizza team will balance a natural tendency to underestimate the costs and friction of dealing with those extra links.
How to optimize things if you have a very large or massive team?
It’s totally normal for any organization to have a team with the size of more than one digit number. but the most important part is how I can you improve your big team so that its efficiency is as good as a two large pizza team’s efficiency.
And the trick is simple, break your big teams into small teams or sub-teams of small groups of people. By breaking your large team into smaller teams, you ensure that the communication gap is filled properly between them and the tasks are being accomplished by the sub-teams.