by Dominic Monkhouse, CEO and Founder of Monkhouse and Company and author of “Mind Your F**king Business

A smaller team has a common purpose and level of intimacy that often leads them to come in early or stay late to get the job done. There’s a deeper level of accountability, which means the manager or coach has less managing or coaching to do. When that small team helps with hiring, the results are always better. They don’t want to hire anyone who will disturb the camaraderie and trust of the group. A small team will give you vital input because they want to protect their ‘family’. And if I ask this team to write their processes, they will always be better than diktats from corporate because the procedures will be specific to a particular group and not some generic idea that may not apply to other departments or teams. They’re not trying to boil the ocean, so the result will be better than some document handed down from on high.

When companies listen to my advice, they’ll often decentralise departments. They’ll have central marketing focus on branding, but they move lead generation to smaller teams in regions and take it out of the hands of central marketing.

More importantly, small teams are better for the customer. When customers ring up, most of the time they’ll speak with the same person. The customers then have a more personal relationship with the company, and the employees know what our customers need and how best to interact with them because they have built a rapport with them.

Even though the company may be large, when customers call in, they feel like they’ve just gone down to the village shop and the owner is there ready with their usual order. The employee can say, ‘How are you doing, Bob? Last time we spoke, your daughter was going into surgery. How is she doing? I also wanted to ask you how things were going with your new printer since we installed it two weeks ago.’ The employee knows the customer so well that they know what to say and what not to say. There’s also another benefit: as you measure how various teams are succeeding, you can dive in and pull out best practices that may help struggling teams.

The power of culture

Never underestimate the power of culture. It tells people what we value, what’s expected, and what behaviours won’t be tolerated. When we create culture in a company, people are formed in their thinking and actions. And the culture that is created can be more effective than the best leader in the world.

For instance, Professor Moira Clark, from Henley Business School, carried out a project with a high-street bank in Sheffield. She took the manager from the best branch and put them in the worst branch. This manager was unable to make any substantial changes.

Professor Clark found that a tipping point was only reached when 30% of people from the best branch were transplanted into the worst branch to make any positive changes.1

My view is that the power of bad is about four times more powerful than the power of good. One bad apple can spoil the bunch. One good apple doesn’t fix the bad ones. That said, when the bad apples in the business see a strong leader plus experience a culture that’s developed by good workers, they eventually either get on board or leave.

How to identify the health of your teams

As the CEO of your company or a leader of a team, how do you really know what is and isn’t working? I recommend simply surveying each of your departments (e.g. marketing, sales, finance, R&D, customer support). Consider asking certain employees the following questions:

  • How good do you think your department is at delivering to your customers (or to other departments in the company)?
  • How good do you think you are at delivering service to your team?
  • How good are your colleagues at delivering service to you?
  • How good do you think other departments in your company are at delivering to their customers (or to you and other departments)?

If there’s a perception gap in your business, the above questions will uncover it. The perception gap can sometimes be summarised as an ‘it’s not me, it’s them’ mentality. In other words, people incorrectly think that they’re doing a great job and everyone else is doing a poor job.

Then ask the same employees the following questions:

  • In the past, when you worked on an efficient and effective team, what did it look like?
  • Tell me about the best team you were on. It could be a sports team, a team at work, a team that did charitable work or activism, or some other team.
  • What were some of its characteristics?

Answers to the previous questions will reveal how inefficient and ineffective large departments are (with no teams) and will remind people what efficient and effective small teams are like.

Typically, answers will include gems such as the following:

  • ‘We were connected.’
  • ‘There was a clear sense of mission and purpose.’
  • ‘We worked so well together.’
  • ‘There were consequences for non-compliance.’
  • ‘Nobody was slacking off, there was a high level of commitment, and people kept their promises.’
  • ‘We were aligned around a core purpose.’

From well-managed to self-managed

In many cases, well-managed teams become self-managing, and end up needing very little over- sight. This is how Spotify organises things, for example. Their small teams self-manage.

The Spotify organisational model was first introduced in 2012 when Henrik Kniberg and Anders Ivarsson published the white paper ‘Scaling Agile @ Spotify’. This introduced the world to the radically simple way Spotify approached organisational agility at scale. Unsurprisingly, Spotify doesn’t leverage the original implementation of the Spotify Agile model anymore; they evolved and adapted an updated model to fit their changing organisation.

In essence, we’re taking lessons we’ve learned from software development and the agile revolution and bringing it to general business. In my years as a consultant, I have seen incredible results when companies stop building large departments and start building small teams.

*extracted from Mind Your F**king Business by Dominic Monkhouse


Dominic Monkhouse

Dominic Monkhouse is CEO and Founder of Monkhouse and Company and author of “Mind Your F**king Business“. he is committed to helping entrepreneurs take their businesses from good to great, focusing on fast growth, people-first approaches and strong purpose.