Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Individuals In Larger Teams Perform Worse

The University of Pennsylvania's Jennifer Mueller has published an interesting new study regarding team effectiveness.  She examines why individuals in larger teams tend to perform worse than individuals in smaller teams.  For many years, scholars have argued that motivation and coordination problems tend to worsen performance in larger teams.  Mueller does not dispute that these effects exist.  However, she demonstrates another factor that may play an important role.  Mueller's work shows that intra-group relationships may not be as strong in larger groups, and that may decrease individual performance.  She writes:

"Specifically, there may be process losses due to relational losses- individuals in larger teams perceive that support is less available in the team. Hence, the current paper expands the theory of group size and performance by identifying that individuals in larger teams also experience relational loss, and this additional source of process loss contributes uniquely to poor individual performance."

What's the implication for team leaders?  Based on this research, leaders ought to spend more time with larger groups focused on making sure that helping and supporting relationships exist among team members.  They need to identify key team members who may play a role in facilitating support for their fellow team members.  Moreover, they need to encourage team members to reach out if they need support from peers. 

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