By: Natalie Trudel

Author Malcolm Gladwell recently spoke at the 2012 SHRM Conference and Expo. I have been a big fan of his for years and his visit prompted me to dust off ‘The Tipping Point’ and give it a second read.

The part of the book that stands out the most in my mind is the section dealing with The Rule of 150 in a business context. (For those unfamiliar, The Rule of 150 was coined by British Anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, and is defined as the “suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships and thus numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group”). The theory is that when companies grow to over 150 employees, cohesion between business units breaks down, hierarchy hinders communication, and company goals become diluted.  An example of this is Gore Associates, a high-tech company worth millions that operates under this rule by never allowing any one building to contain more than 150 people. The results so far suggest that because of this philosophy, Gore Associates is a well-oiled performance machine.

business growthBut what about the multitude of organizations who HAVE grown past, or aspire to grow beyond the 150 employee mark? It isn’t feasible for all companies to take a cue from Gore Associates and start sub-dividing into smaller units of 150. I do agree that things are much easier below that magic number but that isn’t to say that cohesion is an impossible feat after that point. There are plenty of organizations that have avoided chaos and successfully grown way past 150 – the question is how do larger companies do that successfully and how can larger organizations re-align to reap the benefits of a close-knit group?

To help tackle this question, I am going to suggest that companies everywhere Read More