Two pizzas: the perfect team size

Original author: Janet Choi
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One day, Amazon managers voiced a perfectly reasonable suggestion that employees should more often communicate with each other. To everyone’s surprise, the founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, stood up and announced: “No, no more communication!”

This position is explained by his famous rule - “two pizza team”. According to Bezos, an ideal team should not include more people than can be satiated with two pizzas.

Increased communication between employees does not necessarily solve the problems of communication - they just do that usually. Compare conversation at a dinner with a narrow circle of friends and at a party with a large number of guests. When there are a lot of people, it is impossible to conduct a meaningful conversation with each guest, so people begin to gather in small groups.

Bezos believes that smaller teams are easier: communicate more efficiently (and not more), remain decentralized, develop faster and encourage full independence and innovation. Here is the scientific rationale for why the “two pizza team” rule really works.

As the team grows, communication worsens.

The problem of numerous teams is not so much in their size. Psychologist and team development expert J. Richard Hackman notes that the real problem is the number of connections between people . Take a look at the formula:

As the group of connections between people grows, they become too much.

  • If you take as a basis the size of a “two-pizza team”, for example, consisting of 6 people, then the number of connections between them will be 15.
  • Increase the team to 12 people and get 66 connections.
  • A small business of 50 people has 1225 connections.

The costs of coordinating and communicating with each other are growing so fast that they reduce the productivity of the team and each employee individually. Hackman explains: “The larger the group, the more difficulties its participants face in the process of performing teamwork. Even worse, as a group grows, its vulnerability to such difficulties increases dramatically. ”

Two Pizza Team Protects Against Growth Mistakes

Many managers and team leaders mistakenly believe that adding people to a team is always good. People are the best assets, so adding assets should help progress, right?

The fact is that the large team size makes employees presumptuous . People tend to “underestimate the time it takes to complete a task when a team grows larger,” researchers Bradley Staats, Katherine Milkman, and Craig Fox explain. In one experiment, they found that a team of two people took 36 minutes to assemble the same Lego construct, and a team of four participants spent 52 minutes on it, which is 44% more. However, a team with a large number of participants was more confident in victory.

When the launch of a project is delayed, and you want to speed up this process, or an important task is at stake, it seems reasonable to include additional employees. Following the “two pizza team” rule will eliminate the tendency to underestimate the costs of additional connections.

Protection from stress and frustration

When the psychologist Jennifer Muller looked through the working journals of a research project, she noticed that people in numerous teams are more susceptible to stress . After talking with 200 employees working in teams ranging in size from three to nineteen people, she found that in large companies people feel worse because of the so-called “loss of relationship”.

Losing relationships is a feeling that you cannot get support: there is no one to lend a helping hand, solve a problem or listen carefully when necessary. Muller states:

“In numerous teams, people are confused. They do not know who to call for help, as they are not well acquainted with colleagues. Even if one employee reached out to another, he does not feel that the latter wants and has time to help. You also cannot tell the leader, because it will be a recognition of failure. ”

As connections grow in a growing team, team cohesion is lost, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get help. Careless addition of people to the team destroys the protective barrier of labor relations from stress.

In other words, big companies run the risk of ruining what I call the “goodwill” rule of productive teams. It is more difficult to be in an environment where everyone knows your name and understands what you are. This positively affects day-to-day productivity and motivation.


Want to find your magical “two pizza team”? Here are 3 tips to help you with this.

1) What is the magic number?

The Bezos Two Pizza Team rule works for groups of up to 6-7 people. Teamwork expert Hackman insists that the magic number is 5, and seriously warns against going beyond 10. Management expert Bob Sutton, quoting American fur seals, says that "the optimal size of a combat team" is 4 people.

It is safe to say that a small team corresponds to a single digit, so think about dividing your team into subgroups if there are more than 10 people in it.

2) Follow the “goodwill” rule

The loss of relationships occurs precisely at the level of perception, so the stronger you pull the team together, the better your team will be.

Zappos, with several thousand employees, devotes a lot of time to developing a corporate culture and creating a family atmosphere. They even came up with a “face game” - when an employee is registered in the system, the face of another employee appears on the screen with brief information, whose name must be guessed.

A small startup Karma, following the rule of "goodwill", organizes family dinners every day together with the whole team.

3) Facilitate teamwork with transparency

According to Hackman, one of the most important structures of effective teams is "an information system that provides participants with data and predicts their needs."

The increased ties between the group members are introducing more misunderstanding and misinformation. Transparency through systems, processes and tools solves this problem: information is distributed evenly, colleagues are on the same wavelength and move forward together as a single team.

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