Establishing an organizational structure is one of the first things any business should do. After all, that arrangement determines who reports to who, how departments organize, and a host of other important factors. But when forming the bones of an organization, leaders must answer difficult questions. One of those is whether to have large or small teams. Of course, a small team exhibits a different culture entirely from a large one. For example, it presents the opportunity to work closely with a core group of people. Contrastingly, large teams make it easy to shrink into the background, obscuring personal contributions. But did you know there are many other benefits to working on or managing a small team?
If you’re in the midst of determining an organizational structure, or even restructuring an existing company, consider implementing small teams. Here’s how they might help your organization grow toward achieving its goals.
11 Advantages of a Small Team
1. More Effective Communication
Search on Google for the benefits of a small team, and something you’ll find on nearly every list is better communication. That’s because it’s far simpler to communicate important information to fewer people than to many. But moreover, an advantage of this sort of communication style is that when members provide information, they can more easily discuss it together.
Even when teams don’t work in the same location, the size of the group massively impacts the ability to disseminate important points. What’s easier – a Zoom call with thirty-five people or a quick Slack message between five? Obviously, managing communication appears far easier with fewer team members. So, if you want to avoid confusion as much as possible, consider implementing a small team in your organization. Particularly if you’re the manager responsible for ensuring every team member stays up to date on important happenings.
2. Heightened Productivity
In 1913, French engineer, Maximilien Ringelmann, voiced an interesting relationship between group size and overall productivity. The Ringelmann Effect essentially notes that the larger the group, the fewer effort each member gives. Because of social loafing, group members tend to assume others will put in the work. So, in effect, nearly every member of the group does far less than expected.
Naturally, the smaller the group, the less this sort of shift in personal responsibility occurs. Because when there are fewer people to rely on to pick up the slack, members can’t get away with minimal effort. So, strangely enough, a small team often ends up being more productive than a larger one. After all, it’s easier to determine when one member fails to pull their weight in a team of four than twenty.
3. Stronger Motivation
Hand-in-hand with the idea of social loafing, members on a small team often become more motivated than those on larger ones. Of course, this might occur for a variety of reasons, some positive others negative. One member may simply want to avoid reprimand for having failed to achieve their tasks adequately. And since that’s far more visible in smaller teams, they might work harder. However, another person might be motivated by the sense of success they feel when checking a large project off their list. Ultimately, the list could run on forever with different motivations.
Generally speaking, managers have more of an opportunity to come alongside team members when only a handful of people work under them. So, they enjoy a wider range of opportunity to help meet the individuals needs of their workers. And naturally, when an employee feels respected and valued, their sense of motivation increases. Alternatively, if they feel management views them as a cog in a machine, motivation quickly wanes.
4. Deeper Trust
Many of the benefits of a small team flow naturally from fewer people interacting. And of course, you could raise objections to each point, citing examples where the opposite appeared true. But more often than not, smaller teams instill deeper trust between members. And when each member knows the others well and has confidence in them, the work environment improves.
Even on larger teams, team members might trust one another. But it likely happens on a smaller scale, where cliques form of individuals who hold together. Instead, a small team affords the chance for every member to better trust the others. Since deeper trust leads to a more “well-oiled” machine, these teams are able to work more effectively together to meet organizational goals. But more than that, deeper trust provides a sense of comfort in the workplace which relieves anxiety. So, individuals feel more comfortable with their working situation overall.
5. Sense of Ownership
Working on a small team means that every individual has an important role to play in completing projects. And the result is that each member gains a natural sense of ownership over their work. Again, in larger teams, social loafing happens often and prevents workers from seeing their responsibilities as vital. But in a small team, if one person fails to do their job to the best of their ability, the entire project suffers.
So, small teams have the advantage of creating a sense of ownership. Here, each member feels not only responsible for their tasks but also authoritative over them. And this largely feeds into more productive, higher-quality work. Resultingly, small teams might complete projects faster, better and more smoothly than large groups.
6. Attentive Engagement
You might find some benefits difficult to distinguish from others. Attentive engagement sounds quite similar to heightened productivity and, in some senses, ownership. However, it still stands apart in its own category, because it speaks to the sort of work style prevalent in small teams. It’s easy to “check out” during meetings with larger groups. And in many cases, the same happens with the work itself. But in smaller groups, each member has the ability and responsibility to hold each other person accountable in their work.
Again, when one person on a small team fails to accomplish their tasks, the results are obvious. So, team members can help come alongside others who might be struggling and do what’s necessary to provide them with the tools and motivation they need to stay focused in work. Moreover, a sense of ownership toward job tasks naturally helps one remain engaged when completing them. Because the results speak directly of that person.
7. Individual Support
Already, we’ve mentioned several times how smaller teams create a a more supportive environment. However, this is such a key aspect of a healthy workplace that it stands repeating once more. Small teams afford the opportunity for members to really get to know one another. And when that happens, and people truly care about each other’s wellbeing, they do what they can to provide support. Sometimes, this means motivating one another. Other times, when personal lives are in disarray, small teams can help share the load to alleviate one member’s burden.
Regardless, to an extent, small teams become families in and of themselves. Of course, just like biological families, that means there will be arguments and hurt feelings at times. But even those aspects, if handled properly, eventually deepen the bonds between members and help them function more effectively.
8. Specialized Roles
Part of what creates a sense of ownership in a small team is the idea that each person has a specific role to play. Essentially, each person becomes a specialist of sorts, responsible for understanding their tasks and effectively accomplishing them. In a way, this mirrors an organization as a whole. Just as there are different departments full of talented individuals, each team also has “departments”. So, because each person has an adequate grasp on the things that fall into their purview, they can take charge over them.
For example, in a team of content marketers, one person might focus on videos. Another could take responsibility for blogging and copywriting, while yet another specializes in audio engineering for podcasts and commercials. The point is, every person has a specific area to focus on, master, and excel within.
9. Easier to Manage
Now, this benefit might not apply directly to the general members of a team. However, managers responsible for overseeing them know all too well it’s easier to manage fewer people than many. More or less, every aspect discussed so far, and those following, play into this. Communication, trust, motivation, and support all make the job of the manager easier. And since these aspects generally improve with small teams, it makes them easier to lead.
10. Faster Decision Making and Movement
Now, this benefit comes with a caveat. Sometimes, decision making in smaller teams is far more expedient. Because they don’t have to sit around and wait for dozens of members to get on board. However, in cases where a single individual holds the responsibility for decision making, it may still go faster in large teams.
The difference, then, is in democratic processes. If every member of a team needs to agree or if a majority vote moves things forward, smaller teams have larger groups beat. After all, they can discuss reasonings quickly, confer together, and move forward.
Often enough, smaller teams move faster in their work as well. Again, owing to the idea that each person holds a sense of responsibility and knowledge of their job. So, not only do small teams sometimes have an easier decision making process, the work that follows also moves along at a quicker pace.
11. Chance for Mentoring
Working in a closer setting with other individuals means that there’s more of a chance for mentorship. Often, managers on small teams can take other employees under their wings. In turn, this could prep some for leadership positions themselves or simply help them better understand their work.
Without the opportunity to learn and advance, people stagnate in their abilities. Especially since the business world constantly shifts and changes with different trends. So, learning is a vital part of teamwork, and this happens more easily in smaller, closely-knit settings.
Learn More About Working On a Small Team
VTR Learning, itself, knows the benefits of a small team. Our members are specialized to their roles and have found a sense of ownership in the company. So, we can speak for the pros of working this way. However, if you’re still interested in knowing more, that’s perfect. Because our Human Resources Management course contains great information on the topic of small teams and autonomous work groups.
In fact, business professionals can even earn continuing education credit while they dive into this important subject. So, if you’re hungry for more, be sure to check them out today.
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 22, 2023