One of our fundamental beliefs is that teams are the instruments of
change in an organisation. Companies are comprised of big and small
teams. However, in today's COVID-19 world, flexible team sizes are a
must. Small teams are how companies will be able to climb the resilience
Teams change culture
At Friday Pulse, this belief has its roots in post-war Britain.
Founder Nic Marks' father was the CEO of a 3,000-person business that
manufactured sweets and candies, a well-known brand in the UK known as
Trebor. At the time, Trebor was a family-owned business. Because of
this, he was thrown into the deep end at a young age and appointed a
manager of a large factory at 25. He quickly figured out that he knew
very little compared to the employees that had been working there for as
long as he'd been alive. This experience turned him into a
‘facilitative leader’ – he brought out the best in people, rather than
told them what to do.
It was this life lesson that shaped how Nic thought about designing
measurement tools to promote wellbeing and positivity at work.
"Whatever you do, make it work at the team level," is, ultimately, a
fundamental design feature of how Friday Pulse works.
What Nic's father learned by intuition can now be confirmed by data
— local team culture is over eight times more influential on our
experience of work than the overall organisational culture.
How do microcultures impact performance?
At Friday Pulse, we talk extensively about identifying and understanding
the different microcultures within your company to change the overall
culture of your organisation. Long-term, lasting success ultimately
depends on happy, high-performing teams.
||Burnt out teams
Let's take a look at football (soccer for our American friends) to
illustrate the point.
A typical team has ten outfield players and one goalkeeper. These
players form smaller groups — backs, midfielders and forwards — with
specific roles and responsibilities. We all know a great team when we
see it in action. They enjoy playing together. They consistently create
scoring opportunities. They win.
We use terms like “chemistry” to talk about their ability to execute.
The chemistry between the forwards and a striker leads to prolific
scoring and offensive dominance. Chemistry can be defined as its own
microculture — their personalities, interactions and rituals. In turn,
their attitudes affect other positional players and the overall team
The reverse is also true. As the bond between teammates breaks down, so
too does their level of success. Sports fans can point to any number of
teams that have fallen apart after a winning streak comes to an end, or
unhappy players that underperform.
In business, we form teams because we expect that the benefits of
teamwork in the workplace will produce better results. High-performing
teams are very similar to successful sports teams — they communicate
well, get along with each other, and are generally happier. Because
there are nearly as many microcultures as there are teams, winning the
hearts and minds of your teams will ultimately shape your company's
Is there an ideal team size?
Sports team sizes range from anywhere between 4-12 people. However, is
this the right size for teams in the workplace? Amazon’s Jeff Bezos
once said, "If you can't feed a team with two pizzas, it's too
A study of a 2015 Nobel prize-winning team found that small and large teams both had
their benefits. Small teams were great at disrupting the status quo with
new ideas, inventions and opportunities. Large teams were suited for
solving problems, executing and building on ideas. They are fantastic
for working on the logistics of big projects but also have more
communication issues and are typically risk-averse.
The truth is, we need both. But, we believe that smaller teams of four
or five people are ideal. Psychologists talk about a skill known as
‘mentalising’ — an essential building block for empathy. We can only
really pay attention to three or four other people at any one time. This
is why, when we are chatting in a small group and more people join the
conversation tends to split into two groups. We cannot keep all the
people "in mind" at the same time. Thus, small teams allow for easier
collaboration and communication, especially with the tech and pandemic
work restrictions currently in place.
We will always need large teams to tackle large problems. However, these
large teams should be made up of smaller teams for better communication
and collaboration. It's essential to make sure that teams interact, so
that cross-fertilisation occurs — shared ideas across teams — and silos
How do you support your teams?
Great teams communicate well, collaborate and challenge each other. You
can support your remote teams by having smaller calls, encourage team
leaders to be more facilitative, incorporating sprint workshops, and
remembering to laugh a little.
It's easier to focus on people and have more participation in a small
group. Larger calls will also have people that don't actively
participate — social loafers. Use smaller groups so that teams and
team leaders can connect with everyone effectively.
Encourage team leaders to be more facilitative
With increased remote working and smaller groups, team leaders should
devote more time to their teams. Encourage team leaders to become more
facilitative and more intentional in their interactions and
interventions. Delegating more will free up their own time and help them
identify synergies between team members better.
Laugh a little
Maybe it's not always about business first. Generate some fun
laughter in your meetings to relax your team and improve their bond.
Laughter sparks laughter, and real laughter is one of the best ways to
keep your teams emotionally connected.
Try tackling work together live in small teams — virtual meeting
software can be used to complete work in small groups. By using
functions like screen share, teams can be more collaborative, commenting
on live documents and even annotating as discussions develop.
How can Friday Pulse support your teams?
Friday Pulse tracks employee wellbeing. During this pandemic period, we
are committed to helping businesses bounce back and improve their team
morale. That's why we are continuing to offer companies and teams (50
– 1,000 employees) free access to our Friday Pulse people platform for 12 weeks.
For more information on how we can help your organization weather the
crisis please contact our Head of Helping People, Clive Steer