It depends on the amount of work the team has, the environment the team is in, the available resources, the goal that needs to be achieved and the goal they would actually like to achieve. It depends on where you are now, and where you have to be in 6 months, 1 yrs, 2 yrs etc. But for arguments sake, let’s start with a natural leader, an influencer that brings ideas to the table, involves the team but does not necessarily execute on them. Someone that people will follow while that person might not have the official position for that.
Then a decision maker, the one that talks sense in the natural leader as ideas are great, but they often turn into long discussions. The decision maker looks at the team’s input, buy-in, budget, timing etc. That person is the optimal realist, weighs out the pro’s and con’s and decides what actions are to be taken.
Then the researcher/analytical person that dives into the details. That person looks at viability, ROI, what is needed to make a project achievable.
Finally you have the supporters, these are the people that are executing the actual project or work. The researcher/analytics and supporters can be multiple people depending on the project/work, scope of work, workload etc. Without these details it’s impossible the define the optimal number of people in a team.
IMHO I see a lot of leaders looking at headcount too much when they start planning. Take recruitment: We need to fill X amount of positions, so that takes X amount of recruiters. And that’s the discussion.
What I often miss is: We need to fill X amount of positions, we have Y amount of people, what are we missing to get to that number X? Is it Recruiters or do we need a lead, a manager, more people in RecOps that fix A,B and C so we don’t have to hire more recruiters and are able to scale more? Often, and I call this out a lot, people forget to build a strong foundation.
If you have a strong foundation, you’ll see that it’s easier to scale up, see where the actual challenges are and iterate. Just throwing people at problems never works. So how many people will be optimal? It depends on the challenge.