Size Always Matters

There is probably few sentences out there which could be more controversial and heat more after dinner discussion than the famous “Size Matters”. I came to this point after spending more thought on the post of Vijay regarding Talent. I was very kindly reminded that Talent is one thing and the continuos provocation is yet another, I do agree. Still there were quite a few points which I found very interesting which relate back to my title, Size Always Matters.

The typical idea one might have is that bigger is always better. I can immediately think of a few reasons why this is not the default case. I would consider that a big car for the neighbourhood where my parents live in Madrid is clearly not a good idea. It will make it hard to turn on corners and even worse to find a parking spot. Yes, you can be safer in a bigger car but that was not the point of focus on this one.

For teams it can be the exact same example. A large team has the advantage of offering a fall back in case a member drops out, and offer a lot more joint power (concept of Unions for example). Yet it is almost inevitable that in a large team the synchronisation of the team members is lost. This can happen because:

  • Members are not of the same quality
  • Members are not having the same goals / values
  • Natural friction between members
  • Why should I do this if there is xyz to do it
  • Individual effort diluted in Team effort
  • etc

This reminds me of a friend of mine from the University who was actually on the German Olympic Team 8+ for Rowing.

Picture Curtesy of Wikipedia: Harvard Rowing Crew at Henley 2004

Rowing is a very touch sport. I remember doing some cycling with my friend. By that time I was in very good shape but like after 15 minutes he said “I will see you later I will push it a bit more in order to sweat”. I was about to collapse already. When an Olympic Boat with 8 Rowers is being composed it is very important that all of the members of the team are pretty much in line with strength, endurance, weight in order to have a very balanced boat. In the example taken you can see a person with a red jacket called “cox”. I bet that most of you think that probably the best spot in the boat is the one with the red jacket. If it is regarding the physical effort for sure you are right but this probably the hottest seat in the entire boat. Not only does he/she have to set the rhythm, which is task in itself since you have to win the race but you cannot simply burn the crew by getting everything out of them already at the beginning (they would probably not reach the target). This person also must make sure that the 8 individuals have all the same beat and pull with the same strength in order to get maximum performance. With 8 this might still be possible but with 16 I would at least put doubt on it. Probably this would not be manageable anymore.

Could the example of the Eight Rowboat be applied to corporate life? Probably with some modifications, yes. The “Cox” would be either the C-Level or any sort of manager who sets the rhythm for the team. Yet the Manager has not always the chance to make sure the team is balanced as in a competition boat. Still he/she has to make sure that all “pull” in the same direction and towards the same target. Sound like the most common sense? It should but that does not mean that the individual goals are aligned to the common one. This is probably the hardest part in management, at least imho. Further the  not balanced team is most likely causing that some members feel they are doing more than others. Coming back to the points I have mentioned above. Therefore imho smaller teams are better. They can still be grouped back into a larger whole. Still there should be full control of the “cox” over the team in order to make sure that the common coal supersedes the individual one. Everybody can work on something he/she is really good and it is assured that the best value is achieved. This leads me back to my post “Inspired by True Believe“.

I feel that this is still not the last post on this subject.


About cnitschke

This blog is purely personal and reflects only my personal opinion. None of the content can be related in any way to my employer or former employers.
This entry was posted in Management, Motivation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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