We are true believers in the power, mobility and never ending ambition of small teams. Not because it’s a fancy statement around the www world, nor because we want to start a debate about imposing quotes like — Go big or go home.
What we’re trying to do is shed some light into the multitude of advantages about working in small tribes. Just like we have done for almost 5 years. During this lengthy period, we had the chance to experiment a lot and shape our own path. As a team, as a business, as a creative design boutique.
This story is written down thanks to a collective effort from the witty guys and girls who work (and have fun) @pixelgrade. We think it’s essential to make room for everyone’s opinions because they’re definitely based on their own background, lifestyle, passions and obsessions.
Feel free to skim through the following lines in order to better understand what makes a small team a strong stimulus for evolution.
By the way, 12 people shared their insights regarding the beauty of working in this kind of environment. There’s no one left behind.
In a small team, each member has the opportunity to own his work, to take pride in its impact upon the success of the whole team. But this is a double-edged sword. With such power upon the fortunes of close colleagues (and many times friends), each team member needs to commit to and live with its fair share of responsibility and accountability. This is a whole package, a take it or leave it offer. No slackers allowed.
A well-functioning small team is almost a force of nature. An organism that is both resilient but also extremely flexible and adaptable. Free from the overhead and momentum of large organizations, it can make swift changes, take risky paths, all the while being confident that it has the agility to rapidly reverse course.
A small team will naturally grow and evolve from its member’s strengths and passions. It’s a place where each individual is encouraged to bring their best to the table and ignore their weaknesses (we all have them no matter how elaborate the mask we build for ourselves). Great small teams have this magical ability of uplifting the one with the right attitude to new and surprising heights.
Do you remember the Whiplash movie? For those who don’t have a clue about Damien Chazelle’s drama, the story is centered around an ambitious jazz student who aims for perfection.
Well, I still have in mind an eloquent line from the main character:
”It’s not my tempo.”
I truly believe, it’s essential to find your tempo, your rhythm and stick to it in order to create your own path. So, in terms of teams, I’m definitely a fan of the small ones, and I have a bunch of arguments to write down.
First thing’s first: small teams have a tremendous curiosity to dig deeper and to find better solutions. They don’t apply procedures, they create solutions. Second of all, they have the guts to dream as big (sometimes even more so) as the top industry players and to work really hard to make it happen. On top of that, even though it might sound naive, it’s a big deal to keep searching for meaning in everything you do, and small teams can achieve that brilliantly.
To sum up, it’s not my tempo to mingle with 200+ folks in one big office room, but I love to swing and cook guacamole for 12 amazing folks who are happy to gather around the same table.
Let’s suppose you would get a table that perfectly fits your small team, everyone is at a fair distance and they have enough space to do their job. Now cover the table with some canvas and get your team working.
Sometimes you will take a look at someone else’s part, even if they’re on the other side of the table (because, hey, they can’t be very far), throw in some suggestions, receive some advice, get some inspiration from Jane, even if she doesn’t do the same thing you do, inspire other people, watch the progress, adapt to what’s going on on the canvas, get curious about what Dave has been doing, start a discussion, all this while everybody is there. So you get 100% of everything, passive or active. Are you not that type? Oh, you will be when the wave starts rolling.
All in all, you have an overview of the whole canvas, the strengths, weaknesses, passions, and needs of your teammates, all this because you have a smaller table than big teams can afford, whose members will take a walk just to get a pencil from diametrically-opposed-Jessica. And yet again, big teams learn how to drill holes into the table to fit more people or buy more tables, but:
- Aren’t you going back to small tables?
- Aren’t you losing focus (buying the tables, drilling the holes)?
This would be enough you might say, but the charm of all this is in hanging the canvas on the wall and the first thing that would pop into mind would be “WE did this!”.
Being part of a small team means having a better connection to each one of its members. Having this contact, things are flowing smoothly and creative solutions come naturally.
We’re getting a better-coordinated system through much less traditional management. Anyone can do what he knows best, and we all get the most out of each member.
In contrast with a large company (or a team), a small one has the advantage of collaborating quicker and better, diluting the lack of rules for the sake of bureaucracy, and, most importantly, you have the freedom to choose your own path and make the most out of your strengths.
A small team will appreciate you and your passions, it will encourage you to constantly improve yourself and, consequentially, your work.
Not just because they care about you, but mainly because it’s an internal need. The team needs your career to grow because your work has a big impact on their results. Your growth is their win.
A small team won’t let you be bad or weak, they will need innovative and creative work, and if the team does that, inertially, you will follow.
Being on a small team gives you the chance to keep in touch with all your colleagues. I’ve worked (for a short time) in a big company but during the break, you always knew that the buddies that will come with you were “the boy from the left corner” and “the one across the hall”. It was a real challenge to try and plan a team game of football or basketball. Not cool.
In contrast, a small team fosters and treasures good communication and deep understanding. The inevitable and actually an awesome part of the job is that it’s not just a place where you communicate and work together with others, but also, whether you want or not, “sooner or later”, a little (or more) friendship will be involved. I think that this is the whole point – knowing and evolving along other, right?
What is a small team? A small team may seem like it’s less but in fact, it’s more.
In a small team, everything is based on trust. Trust that one must first give but also receive.
Every team member should be as important as any other in the decision-making process, thus rejecting opaqueness and embracing transparency.
Another great thing is the feeling of knowing the ones you work with. Why? Because you get to consider them as friends, not only coworkers. People are everything in a small team and they can create a laid-back atmosphere that would lead you into an “I’m doing my best at creating stuff with my friends and enjoying myself” mindset, not in an “I am working” mindset.
Being part of a small team with no real managerial hierarchy is definitely a good place to find yourself at any given point in space and time. It’s not the fact that you know all of your colleagues’ names, but the fact that you know their strengths, their needs, when to give a helping hand or, the other way around – when and who to ask for help.
I don’t think one’s sense of responsibility has anything to do with the size of the agency or the team they are involved in. But there’s a helpful lot of freedom for every individual in the development process and a nice and fulfilling sense of ownership when the product gets shipped.
Nonetheless, let’s not forget that small teams don’t need Team Leads, Project Managers, no status updates, no meetings, no useless conferences, and mainly no one else to please other than yourself. This way each member of the team can have total control of his time, focus and effort management.
There’s no “Hey you, the guy over there!” in a small team. Here, everybody knows your name, and more importantly, who you really are.
You have a better sense of affiliation, and the decisions aren’t taken by some BIG BOSS, but rather by you and your guys, the one, and only crew.
In a small team you have that genuine sense of growing, the feeling of walking on a shared path towards a common goal.
At the same time, you develop your other sides as well: you learn to listen, what it takes to be a good mentor, you learn to be responsible.
The joy of working in a small team can’t be replaced by a corporate environment, that’s obvious, but what is more important, is that in a small team, you feel that everybody cares, and they’re always willing to help you.
The thing I appreciate most about working in a small team is the feeling of belonging. With this comes a good deal of responsibility because everything you do, influences the entire team, balanced by the intrinsic motivation to do your best for the good of the unit.
In a small team, you can not hide behind the wall. Everybody knows you as you are — they know your strengths, your passions but also your weaknesses. You are encouraged to act where you are the best.
Lastly, a small team can not lose precious time with protocols or pointless internal rules. Communication is straight and transparent, so everyone can focus on productivity and continuous improvement.
When it comes to small teams, in my mind the term “small” goes hand in hand with “easy”. It is easier to communicate with other team members, easier to understand each other and most importantly to help each other. I believe a small team is more like a small car, which feels pretty handy and comfortable in traffic, without causing much inconvenience to others.
But like a car, pretty much every component in that car is important in order to make the ride smooth and enjoyable.
You wonder what a small team is? Let’s follow this path: imagine a small team as two wolves. The first is a big bad wolf, which represents the fear of trial, failure and all the bad habits, we, as people, manifest without the right mentor. The second wolf is the bright one, which represents success, trial by error, teamwork and the most important, confidence. Wondering why we strive every time for success? We feed the right wolf.
That’s us. From head to toe. This is the engine that provides us power, energy and a lot of drive. This is why we succeed at improving our skills. This is how we have the guts to build and spread amazing WordPress themes into the world.
Keep in mind at least some of the keyword pieces from this puzzle, and ask yourself if you’re on the right track. Allow yourself to find the tribe that fits your values and makes you a better person both at an intimate and professional level.