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  • Writer's pictureTristan Wilson

The Two Pizza Rule

I sat in the boardroom and surveyed my surroundings. We were at a fancy downtown hotel, it was early in the morning, and folks were dressed up mostly in suits and ties. The quarterly board meeting for the construction company where I worked was about to commence. I counted the folks in the room including outside directors, company owners, and management team members. There were 26 of us. A few years before, the group was less than half the size and somehow it had ballooned even though the company had not grown over that time. I pondered why these meetings had suddenly become less crisp, engaging, and productive? Surely, I thought, we should benefit from all this added brainpower and experience in the room, right? Nope. How did we get there? Desire for inclusivity led to a bloated group. The reality is that most teams are too big, get less done, and are less ineffective due to their size.


Let’s take Amazon for example. Jeff Bezos instituted a simple rule for meetings:


No meeting unless two pizzas will feed the entire group.



Photo Credit: Aden University


It turns out that the “Two Pizza Rule” can be applied to teams too.


I favor keeping teams as small as possible. Why are small teams so great?

  • Simple decisions can be made quickly and efficiently.

  • Folks naturally feel safer letting their guard down, leading to enhanced cohesion.

  • More freedom exists to think and act boldly.

  • There tends to be a better distribution of work.

  • It is easy to get everyone in one place or on a call. This translates to less meeting scheduling, traveling, consensus building, jockeying, and dead time.

  • Team members are more like to take ownership of preparation, problem solving, and doing their job. Like it or not, peer pressure is real. There is less assumption that “someone else will handle that”. It astonishes me how often we blindly accept loafing even from people in leadership. It should not be this way.

  • Radical candor and confrontation of real problems increases in a smaller group.

  • Group lunch orders are easy!


Management expert Leigh Thompson notes that in a sample of over 1,200 managers in both the public and private sectors that the average team size is 13.18 due to an “Overstaffing Bias”. Thompson highlights that the amount of individual effort expected by a team member decreases as team size grows:


Photo Credit: Leigh Thompson, Author, “Making The Team


Sometimes, major announcements or special events require large groups to gather. This is inevitable and often a good thing. Still, when people are tasked to work together on a team towards a common goal and held accountable for the results, less is often more. Studies show that teams of 3 to 7 members are most effective. We must combat our natural desire of perceived inclusion with essentialism, and this is tough to do because it is so counterintuitive. Both tech and construction teams alike cherish those tight bonds forged on efficient, small teams.


Thanks for reading. And a special thank you to Leigh Thompson for her generous collaboration on this post. Her 1-minute best practice videos may be accessed here.


At Edgevanta, our proprietary SaaS platform enables highway contractors to track and forecast critical market dynamics and increase the predictability of the project acquisition process.


Sincerely,



Tristan Wilson

CEO and Founder

Edgevanta, LLC






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