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The Two Pizza Rule, the Bomb Squad and Navy Seal Pods

What do Rassie Erasmus, Jeff Bezos and Paul Azinger have in common?  


One is a rugby player and coach (a team sport), the other is one of the world’s most famous businessmen, and the third is an ex-pro golfer (an individual sport) who now commentates.   


The answer: They all understand the value of small teams. Rassie created the Bomb Squad, the “team within a team”, which would become the hallmark of his tenure. Azinger split up a 12-man US Ryder Cup team into three 4-man pods in 2008 for a famous victory. His well-thought-out tactics mimicked US Navy Seal best practices. Both men understood the value of creating a smaller unit that would work more effectively, have greater trust and be more aligned. In Erasmus’ case, he needed to combat the idea that the bench was inferior and gave them their own identity as equals to the starters. For Azinger, he needed to quickly overcome the competitive individualism of his star players. By giving them ownership of their own small pods, he forged a team unity that helped the US break European dominance in the 2000s.   


Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has built a 100,000 people organisation, in part, by being brutally focused on good use of time, particularly meetings. His famous mantra? The Two Pizza Rule.   


This rule posits that meetings should be small enough that two pizzas would suffice to feed everyone in the room. The philosophy behind this rule is aimed at increasing productivity, fostering creativity, and ensuring that every voice in the room can be heard. Here’s an outline of how this approach shapes meetings and its implications for team dynamics and decision-making processes.  


The Two Pizza Rule essentially limits the size of the meeting to the number of people who can be fed with two pizzas, which typically amounts to between 5 to 8 participants. This criterion is used to avoid the common pitfalls of large meetings, including decreased engagement, diluted responsibility, and longer decision-making times.  


Smaller meetings also ensure that attendees are not just spectators but active participants. With fewer people, each member is more likely to contribute, ask questions, and share ideas. This setup is designed to maximise the diversity of thought and creativity that gets expressed in the room.  


By keeping the group size manageable, Bezos believes that meetings can be more focused and productive. The smaller number of attendees leads to more direct and efficient communication, quicker consensus, and faster decision-making.   


In a smaller group, it's easier to assign tasks and follow up on progress, ensuring that everyone knows their responsibilities and is accountable for their contributions. This clarity fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the team’s objectives.  


Side note: In addition to the Two Pizza Rule, Bezos is known for his disdain for PowerPoint presentations in meetings. Instead, he requires a six-page narratively structured memo that attendees read at the beginning of the meeting. This practice ensures that everyone has a deep understanding of the topic at hand and is prepared to engage in a meaningful discussion. 


PG’s Pro Tip: 

How do you implement small teams in your business? Try this step-by-step approach: 


Month 1: Planning and Initial Setup 

  • Define team objectives and KPIs

  • Identify team members and leaders for each pod, use CliftonStrengths finders and Enneagram to find the right mix

  • Set up necessary tools and platforms – works a treat 

Month 2: Launch and Initial Execution 

  • Formally launch the pods and communicate the new structure to the entire company

  • Begin regular team meetings and project tracking

Month 3-6: Monitoring and Iteration 

  • Conduct regular performance reviews

  • Gather feedback from team members and leaders

  • Adjust team structures and goals as needed based on feedback and performance data

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