A large team on a team building event.There have been various studies into team sizes. What constitutes a team and what is the ideal size? A widely accepted definition of a team is; ‘a group of people linked to a common purpose who are in some way interdependent’.

Small teams tend to consist of up to 15 people who are orientated around a team goal or set of goals. When groups exceed this size they are likely to be split into further teams. These teams may have their own independent goals but all teams within the group will also be working to higher organisational goals. In a small team the relationship needs are based around bonding between the individual members. When more than one team exists there may be a need for bridging between the teams as well as that bonding between individuals.

As organisations increase in size and team numbers further structural organisation will be required. An interesting theory in this area comes from anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the originator of Dunbar’s Number. He suggests that there is a cognitive limit of around 150 people at which individuals can effectively manage their network. He studied companies, human settlements (i.e. villages) and military units.  There have been examples of companies who have taken Dunbar’s number very seriously, structuring their offices based on maximum 150 employees. Gore-Tex, for example, have a non-hierarchical management structure and break business units in two when they exceed 150 employees. In 2007 the Swedish tax authority reorganised their employees in this way.

Team size and team building events

The Crystal Challenge is a task based team building activity in which a group is broken up into smaller teams and these teams rotate around various tasks in turn, completing them as a team. Each task is designed to last for around 30 minutes. The ideal team size is around 5. If there are less than that number then the full team building benefits don’t seem as strong and if there are more than 7 the activity seems ‘crowded’. The Crystal Challenge is primarily fun and competitive, although it can be themed to broad business objectives such as leadership and teamwork.

Our Together We Can event is much closer to the dynamic of a business. There are four tasks; Film Making, Rollercoaster Challenge (in which teams build a Rollercoaster using basic equipment), Team Art (painting a picture collaboratively) and Lego Build. Larger teams can be accommodated because the tasks increase in scale as teams increase in size. For example a team of 12 will often make a more intricate film than a team of 6. One of the features of this event is that each team carries on with the task from the previous team. Some team members stay with the task for a time to communicate what they have done and their vision to the incoming team. This creates the ‘bridging’ effect which is important in organisations as they start to consist of more teams.

We have activities which are even closer in terms of business simulation and we can bring in facilitators to help to make the link between the activity and work. In some cases team size is a question of practicality; what is the optimum size for people to enjoy the experience. In other cases activities can grow and evolve with larger group sizes.

There is no single answer to the question of optimal team size; it depends on the activity. However, we have a team of experts on hand to advise you so give us a call with your team size and objectives and we will make sure that you get the best possible event for you.