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New courses provide an immersive, analytical look into some of today’s most pressing global business issues.

New courses provide an immersive, analytical look into some of today’s most pressing global business issues.

Senior associate dean to lead business school as search for permanent dean continues

Summit brings together more than 800 alumnae, faculty and students for robust discussion on challenges women face.

Dean Sally Blount ’92 honored Roslyn M. Brock ’99, Ann M. Drake ’84 and Richard H. Lenny ’77

News & Events

Does your team measure down? As a guiding principle, teams should only be as large as they need to be to accomplish the goal.

BMI Measurement

What's your team BMI?

Right-size your team in order to maximize its efficiency and effectiveness

By Prof. Leigh Thompson

Just like the American waistline, the size of teams is increasing — at an alarming rate. At Kellogg, we've tracked over 1,200 managers and leaders in business and government covering large and small organizations and they have one unenviable common denominator: their teams are too darn big.

In our data, the average team size prior to 2003 (a little more than 10 years ago) was 12.49 people. However, between 2009-2012, the average team size rose to 15.21 people! In other words, team size increased by nearly three people in less than a decade!

By overstocking the team, you open a Pandora's Box of problems. Free riders are more likely to emerge as teams grow in size. Communication problems increase exponentially. (When recently attempting to schedule a meeting, for example, a Northwestern University task force team discovered that there was no time or day of the week that all members had free.)

As a general guiding principle, teams should contain the fewest number of people necessary to accomplish the goal. So how to build a leaner team? Follow these principles:

Teams should be the exception, not the rule. Don't create a team when you or somebody else can accomplish the goal single-handedly. If you (or another expert) can accomplish the goal, use the "benign dictator" model — let the talented member do the work. Save teamwork for challenges that cannot be solved through the brains and effort of a single individual. Then, the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Build the team one member at a time. Recruit members on an individual basis and candidly ask what that person is adding above and beyond the existing membership. We often are too quick to be inclusive for social-political reasons, and this is not serving our goals. Teams should not be composed of personalities, but of competencies. By building the team one member at a time, we think carefully about the added value of the next member, and it sets the stage for maximizing diversity.

Follow the visiting relative model. Think of your team as a nuclear-family unit that may occasionally bring in relatives for information, expertise and insight. Then, send those relatives away after they have stayed a day or two. In my research on teams that change composition, we've found that outsiders can often jump-start creative thinking even when it is clear to all that this is not a permanent assignment.

Have an oddball. Literally. Research by Tanya Menon and Kathy Phillips in Organization Science reveals that odd-numbered teams are more harmonious than even-numbered teams. Why? Odd-numbered teams often lack stable, permanent coalitions, means they have to argue and articulate their differences.

For more on right-sizing your team, see Prof. Leigh Thompson's Creative Conspiracy (Chapter 3) and Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Chapter 2).
Making the Team