I just finished an interesting article from Twitter called Deric Bownds’ MindBlog: You’ve got to have (150) friends…, and I have to admit that I use my Facebook for personal contact and to stay in touch with people that I can’t otherwise stay in face-to-face contact with. I can also agree that I have people that at one time I was in close relationships with, but that over time they have become a part of the outside ring of my 150+ friends. But even further I started to think about the idea that is pointed out in the essay referenced from Robin Dunbar: people can really only have “around 150 close, meaningful relationships both online and off.” After reading that statement I can’t help thinking to myself that even 150 would be stretching it in most cases; I’m not sure that I’m even close to that number as I sit here right now. I might have around that on my Facebook, but out of those I really only have a close relationship with about 25 of them.
So what do I propose this has to do with organizational teams? Let’s look for a moment at the average business unit, division, or team. How many people belong to that group? 200? 500? 1,500? Is there any question that with teams and groups this large that there are feelings of being ignored, detached, unheard, or separated by employees, supervisors, and managers alike? Too often managers and supervisors, and even in many cases employees are expected to build relationships and work together in an environment that is completely counterproductive to that end. By simply changing the size of teams, I would propose that we could easily improve the functionality and success of teams and groups by simply evaluating the effective size of those groups and teams. In order for people to develop the sense of closeness and relationship, and even more so caring, about a common cause it must be encouraged through the proper environment. This is why quick, irregular meetings of regional, national, or international members of teams and groups, or of the leaders of a group or organization are generally ineffective in being productive. Without regular contact and interaction (and not just by phone and email), you simply can not effectively build relationships and the necessary fight for a shared cause.
I can’t begin to say that this is something that could happen overnight, but I truly believe that this is a concept that needs to be viewed with as much urgency as sales skills and production rates. Life within business is not so much different than the rest of it elsewhere, so let’s take these lessons and use them to be more productive, successful, and happy. Along the way, maybe you can make some new close friends…just don’t try to add them all to your Facebook.