December 5, 2013 Tony Morgan

The Rule of Eight

You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. There are people crowded into a room trying to have a discussion and make decisions. The only problem is that there are too many people.

I remember one particular meeting where there were at least 20 people in the room trying to process logistical details for an upcoming event. Here’s what happened.

Some people checked out because they really couldn’t participate in the discussion.

Many got frustrated because they didn’t need to be there. They had other work to do, but they were stuck.

The loudest people processed out loud while the more introverted, systems-thinkers–the people who should have been making the decisions–were left out of the conversation.

The meeting dragged on and on because we were trying to get to consensus with a relatively large number of people.

You may not have been in that meeting, but you’ve been in that meeting.

“The Rule of Eight”

That’s why I’m a firm proponent of “The Rule of Eight.” Here’s how it works. If decisions are required, the team meeting should be limited to no more than eight people. When there are more than eight people:

  • It becomes difficult for everyone to share their ideas.
  • People don’t ask the questions that need to be asked.
  • Decision-making slows down.
  • It becomes hard to assign ownership to action items.
  • People are less likely to fully embrace decisions because they haven’t had a chance to provide input.

Does that mean you shouldn’t have team meetings with more than eight people? Of course not. There’s a place for pulling the entire team together for all-staff gathering. But don’t make them decision meetings. Use these larger gatherings to share stories, train, cast vision, share key information, etc. But, as soon as someone tries to shift into decision mode, call a timeout, and take that conversation offline with the people who need to be involved in the decision.

Tomorrow I’ll share two critical transitions that churches go through related to “The Rule of Eight.”

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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