The Two Pizza Rule

Bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to work. According to Jeff Bezos, the ideal is the Two Pizza Team:

If a team couldn’t be fed with two pizzas, it was too big.

As group size rises, all sorts of issues spring up. Individual performance levels diminish and people start to grow less engaged. So while larger teams may be getting more done altogether, it’s happening at a rate lower than the sum of individual efforts.

More people means more of everything — more good to great, and more bad and ugly — in rallying a group of human beings to get something done. Even if more people provide a greater pool of resources, they also require greater amounts of coordination and management, to the point where size becomes an impediment.

The most important is not the number of people but the links between them that accumulate when group size increases. The coordination cost proliferates with every new addition, because management is a project of handling the links.

Look at this formula showing how the links grow at an accelerating rate:

Number of links = N(N-1) / 2
(where N is the Number of People)

Let’s put this more simply:

  • A small startup of of 7 people has 21 connection points to maintain
  • A group of 12 has 66 connection points to maintain
  • A group of 60 has 1770 connection points to maintain.

Every steep jump in links also produces a steep jump in the potential for mismanagement, misinterpretation, and miscommunication. Delays emerge from the snowballing time and effort required to keep everyone informed, coordinated, and integrated.

In small teams, everyone has to pull their weight, or else. There’s no room for favoritism, bureaucracy, or old boys’ club politics. When everyone’s collective neck is on the line, it’s in everyone’s best interests to listen to all opinions and back the best ideas, no matter the gender, race, background, sexual preference, etc. of the originator. And it’s easy to see how that benefits the whole organization.

Summing-up: Small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than more, to stay decentralized and moving fast, and encourage high autonomy and innovation. Here’s the science behind why the two-pizza team rule works.

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