We’ll say it straight out: ‘right-sizing’ is a horrible term. At Holborn Assets we’re not fans of using euphemisms or buzz words to cover up what is essentially the unhappy job of having to get rid of people from your business. But, in some ways, the term does make us think about the fundamental issues around what constitutes the right size for your team. Is there a ‘right size’, and how do you know when you’ve hit it? Here are our thoughts on the dynamics of team in the abstract.

Don’t lose sight of the mission

For us, one of the most fundamentally important points here is around your sense of mission. Why are you all in business in the first place? What are you trying to achieve together, and what transformation are you trying to bring about?

This aspiration – the mission you have for your business – is far more powerful than any other driver or motivator you have at your disposal. People go to work at Tesla because they understand that the business is obsessed with the idea of accelerating “the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market”. This is something tangible, and exciting for people to get behind.

Why are we all here?

So, one of the most critical aspects of team size is being able to judge at what point (if any) your shared sense of mission is becoming diluted. Are too many people doing too many things in too many different places for your company to still stay focused on its powerful, original goals?

Even so, it may still not be the time to ‘right-size’ by letting people go – but rather it could simply be a question of restructuring your business along fresh lines or adapting your original mission statement for the new reality.

Getting this right is crucial – as Fred W. Crans, Nick Gaich and Ed Hisscock said in their research in 2009: “For the truly committed, the mission becomes a mantra that is imprinted on his or her heart, against which every possible course of action is weighed and measured. It becomes the litmus test for future actions.” A sense of mission directly drives right actions.

Thinking about roles

Understanding exactly what all of your team members are trying to achieve is clearly important – but it’s incredible how many businesses lose this focus. So, look again at the goals of all of the individual parts of the business and then have a very clear idea of how many unique roles are practically required to achieve these. Then, identify where your people’s talents are best employed – for example if you have someone who is a great team leader constantly having to step in and sort out technical IT problems, then your team mix isn’t quite right and you’ll need to look again at your organisational structure.

Finding the right mix

Have a broad range of skills across the company, but also identify those areas where tasks can be moved – even all the way out to external partners if necessary. Outsourcing can sometimes create the breathing space your growing business needs to recapture some of that old start-up magic it may have lost as it grew.

Technology has had an interesting impact on team size too – allowing us to run ever larger systems and operations with small teams that would have been impossible a few years ago. But it also presents a challenge – our companies can grow quickly today, fuelled by the communications and service delivery system revolutions we’re seeing, but it means that the way we build our teams needs to adapt to this changing environment too.

So, look closely at your team as it grows, and let technology drive the expansion of your business. Pay close attention to identifying the optimum number of passionate people you need to run it – and then try and do all of this without losing sight of why you created the business in the first place.