Larger Teams, Fewer Managers Not For Everyone

Last Updated Mar 26, 2008 2:17 PM EDT

It really grabs your attention, in these lean times, when someone tells you that your company can actually "do more with fewer managers." Boards and upper management may be enticed by the potential cost savings, but this is definitely not an idea for every, or even most, corporate teams, especially those that rely more heavily on brainstorming and collaboration.

Sure, many companies have tinkered with the concept of working with a leaner org chart, and some have no doubt saved money and maintained productivity that way, and the WSJ, in fact, points to the case study of an unnamed company, glosses over some outlying research and provides some vague results from a PepsiCo-owned Mexican cookie manufacturing plant. This is hardly the type of proof that would give one confidence in this approach.

But what isn't stated in these carefully chosen case studies is that, aside from whether this approach worked for these companies, teams with familiar and repetitive tasks (like say, line workers in a cookie factory) are much more predisposed to be able to function in larger groups and with fewer managers. So before you decide to free up some mid-level salary in your company, make sure to take a look at our in-depth guide to building effective teams or Wharton's research on team size and determine whether this is an idea your company can even begin to consider.