This article is part of a series that deals with Real Teams
A big group of people can be, in theory, a team, but the effort required to make it is extremely big. The usual case is that such group of people will naturally divide into smaller teams.
Big groups of people have a series of problems which become obstacles when it comes to turning into a real team. For instance, they have trouble interacting effectively, they hardly ever agree on concrete actions, which adds to the difficulties to obtain a physical and temporary space for face to face interactions.
When the group is big, the members tend to consider meetings and gatherings as preestablished moments which should take place just because they should. These moments lack a purpose and they are usually enforced hierarchically.
Big groups of people have a hard time achieving a sense of common purpose, interdependence, self-organization and shared responsibility, which would make them real teams, becomes less important before achieving its goal.
There are some questions that have helped me think about this characteristic of teams. Remember the following teams:
- Your groups of friends from school.
- Your study group at university
- Your group of close friends
- The group of people with whom you would become partners to create a company
- Your group of friends from work or office
What size are or were these groups of people?
Interesting fact: the Ringelmann effect
A French engineer called Maximilian Ringelmann, who is known for a study about competing teams pulling a rope, which he called the “Ringelmann efect”. Ringelmann measured the strength of the people in a team who pulled a rope, and as more people were added to the rope, he discovered that the total force generated by the rope increased, but on average, each member of the team became less effcient. Ringelmann attributed this to what is usually called “social loafing”, a situation where the team tries to hide the lack of individual effort. According to Mueller: “When there are more than five people, each individual starts to become less effective”, shielded in the crowd.