How small teams can do big things

Read Time: 5 minutes

Bobby Rae

Bobby Rae

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Group in corridor (RS)

Have you ever had that feeling of being at a game, sheer joy building as your team goes from strength to strength? There’s nothing quite like it. That’s because teams working together do amazing things.   

Former NBA player and coach, Phil Jackson, described teamwork as: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." Just like your favorite basketball team, you don’t need a lot of people to achieve your goals. In fact, fewer people can often help improve productivity - with important decisions made quickly. Small teams can do big things. Let’s find out how.

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Understand the small team advantage 

It’s often said that too many cooks spoil the broth and sometimes when it comes to working in a team this can be true. Working in a small group can make this much easier, but how? 

Well, first of all, they're nimble and agile. With a small number of stakeholders, there are fewer rounds of bureaucracy and decision-making can happen quickly. Changes can happen on the fly and plans can pivot as needed with little consequence. Things like scheduling a quick catch-up are also much easier.

Small teams mean working closely with colleagues, so a tight-knit culture usually develops. Strong relationships are easier to build when you can spend more time with the same people. Everyone has a clearer understanding of what's going on, so are more invested in making the team successful. This leads to higher levels of trust and a shared sense of purpose. Just don’t forget to check in regularly with everyone to make sure things are on track. 

Compare this to a large team. Rounds of bureaucracy to get the simplest things done, office politics, constant scheduling conflicts and the endless cycle of trying to track down that one person who can help you finish a project. It’s easy to see how small teams get more done.

Build an effective team

You’re building your team and you know it’s going to be small, but where do you start? How do you make sure you have the right people, doing the right things to achieve success? 

Before you have anyone join, you need to plan everyone’s roles and responsibilities. They need to know their scope and have clear expectations of what's expected of them and who they working with.

Once you've got that figured out, think about hiring. Fewer people mean each individual will have a greater impact - each hire is really going to count. Don't be afraid to be selective. Spend time and find the right people and make sure you know how to retain them. Think about scheduling some time with each of them to talk through expectations before you make an offer. 

With the team in place, be sure to welcome feedback. Encourage open communication, celebrate successes and make sure everyone feels valued.

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Agile, agile, agile

Small teams make agile work so much easier. They’re designed for it. However, what does it mean to be “agile”? Top athletes have agility, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. 

In a nutshell, it’s about adopting a methodology that enables your team to work efficiently and prioritize flexibility so sudden changes can be responded to and not throw the team off course. 

With that explanation, it’s probably easy to see how small teams thrive in agile environments. By nature, they are more flexible with members often doing multiple tasks. Small changes are easy to adopt into a workflow that is likely often changing as projects develop. For example, take a sales team. If a product suddenly becomes unavailable it’s easy for them to tell customers and offer an alternative quickly compared to a large team that needs a more detailed plan.

Being specific with the agile practices your team adopts, you take that flexibility to the next level. For instance, daily stand-up meetings and sprint planning, help small teams stay on top of what's happening, identify and solve problems quickly and make sure they're always working on the most important tasks.

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Stay resilient

You have your team and it’s agile, but how do you ensure it always performs the best it can? How do you stay relevant? 

You'll get nowhere in today's business world if you don’t embrace technology. Using the right tools is how small teams can punch above their weight. Whether it’s a scheduling app for business to streamline meeting planning or a project management app to track progress, the right tech will have small teams outperforming those double their size. 

Take the time to do your research to find out what your team needs. Ask for recommendations from the team, other small business owners and even try out a few different options to see what works best. Think about logical questions to help you make a decision. Is one digital calendar going to fit into your workplace better than another? Is it a tool that’s easy for everyone on the team to learn? Will externals understand how to use it if they need to?

Be sure not to rest on your laurels. Technology is constantly changing so make sure what you have is doing what you need it to and change if it's not working. This will help you stay competitive and ensure you're staying adaptable in a fast-moving environment.

Just like your favorite sports team, with the right people and attitude, you can also achieve big things. 

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