June 18, 2021

Small Teams Are Special

“He who knows how to use both large and small forces will be victorious.”
― Sun Tzu (孫武)

Small teams get big things done. They have vision and purpose, and they have people who take ownership. Collaboration happens naturally, and communication is simple and effective.

Small teams have shared energy. They take advantage of their size and embrace the constraints and pressure they constantly face.

On small teams, people hold each other accountable, but also hold each other up. It’s easy to see the people who are unable or unwilling to perform and help them or remove them.

But small teams also have big challenges. There’s not a lot of room for mistakes. Time constraints are always present. Prioritization is critical.

If you’re on a small team, here are some ways to step up your game.

  1. Be a leader. You don’t need a title to lead the people around you. Lead through words and actions.
  2. Communicate constantly. If you’re behind, if you need help, let the team know as soon as possible.
  3. Look out for your teammates. If someone on the team is struggling, or distracted, or having a bad day, pick up the slack.
  4. Never question intent or effort, but be ready to question strategy.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them and share the learning.
  6. Prioritize what matters. If it doesn’t matter to the mission, find something else to do.
  7. Wear multiple hats. Saying, “It’s not my job,” doesn’t help the team.
  8. Stay positive. When things are going wrong, stay calm, slow down, and fix the problem.