Small Teams, Better Results

MARCO NESPECA

Build then scale

Resources are certainly a necessary ingredient to getting things done. When a product is in the build & scale phase, excellence in hiring and on-boarding quality talent faster than others is a potential competitive advantage.

A small team just big enough to ship and iterate the minimum viable product, has it’s advantages at the earliest phase of a product, in the pre-product/market fit.

Communication hang

The cost of communication increases exponentially as the team grows due to the nature of cross-functional team structure which requires everyone to be up-to-date on the plans, designs, strategy, etc in order to ensure success.

Increasing team size early therefore increases the effort to communicate as things are moving and learning quickly with the new information flooding the team that needs to be appropriately communicated. Therefore the smaller your team size, the lower the communication overhead that you experience. While there are various techniques to reduce communication overhead, ignoring it and allowing poor communication on the team will effect the quality and velocity of work.

Keeping your teams small can help you guarantee communication velocity and limit overall overhead, allowing the teams to move quickly when change happens.

Faster decision making 

Decision making also tends to slow down on larger teams. This is because stakeholders end up involved in decisions, more people and their input is often needed to make decisions, and more socialization of the decision needs to happen.

With a very small team decisions can be made fast. There are usually very clear decision makers and far fewer people to convince and get buy-in from. When an organization has very clear decision rights on who owns a decision, they can often scale decision-making in larger teams. But while this works in theory, in practice it can be very difficult to truly manifest. Especially at the earliest stages when project members often want to feel they have strong input into the direction of the company.

Therefore the smaller the team the more naturally quick decisions can happen. Decisions on product features, decisions on target customer, decisions on acquisition strategy, monetization strategy, and maybe ultimately even the decision to pivot. There are a million decisions to be made and the speed of your decision making can make all the difference.

Alignment

After decisions are made, you need to ensure that the team is aligned on them in order to keep them motivated and working at their highest level of performance. To do this you end up spending significant effort building buy-in for the decision or for your team and capabilities to make such decisions in the first place.  With smaller teams it is easier to find that alignment since there are just far fewer stakeholders that need to be bought off on the decision for directions to change.