Team Size: Get Shit Done

John Cousins
March 4, 2023
2 min read

The Optimal Number is 5.

Small is beautiful. A key to management and leadership is creating teams that are sized in the sweet spot. Consensus research says that number is five, plus or minus two. That goes for boards, development teams, meetings, and decision making bodies.

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

When too many people are involved in a task, it will not be done well.

If you want to get shit done, keep the amount of people directly involved around five.

Steve Jobs was known to kick people out of meetings if the size got too big.

This is a rule of thumb and obviously doesn’t apply in every situation. Allow self-organization to work its magic.


Thought leaders in the agile movement mention a preferred team size of 7 plus or minus 2 for software development Scrum teams.


In Jewish tradition the sweet spot number is ten. This is called a Minyan and is considered the optimal size for prayer and scripture reading.

Develop Disagreement

Develop diversity of opinion and experience in groups. Don’t let consensus arrive to easily.

Be aware to avoid “groupthink” and sycophants. Good managerial decisions require vigorous debate among a team of rivals. Alfred Sloan was the long-time president, chairman and CEO of General Motors. This quote is Sloan speaking at a GM board meeting and is from the board minutes.

Keep these ideas in mind as you witness teams flourish or flounder.

By keeping the optimal 5 in mind we have a benchmark to work off of in right-sizing our teams.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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