Teams at Work

The Ringelmann Effect

We want to explore the link between The Ringelman Effect and Team Effectiveness. First let’s define what The Ringelmann Effect is. The Ringelmann Effect is the group phenomenon discovered by Maximillian Ringelmann. It is the group phenomenon where group members become less productive as the size of the group increases (Mueller, 2006). The Ringelmann studies involved people pulling a rope and measuring the effort. The studies found that individual effort diminished with increase of people to the pulling effort. The reduced individual effort was due to social loafing and free rider tendencies.

The Ringelmann Effect and Team Effectiveness

Teams bigger than 5 members reduce productivity due to process losses (Mueller, 2006). The process losses include errors, delays and losses from increased communication links and breakdown. Considering the above summation, one can infer that big teams have complex social dynamics which increase time spent in dealing with social issues than goal focus. Research seems to suggest that dysfunctional team behavior increases with group size. Notable such behaviors are social loafing, personality conflicts, lack of motivation, unidentifiability, lack of coordination and task conflicts.

Lack of motivation can arise when members feel unidentifiable within the team, and their contribution unnoticed. They thus engage in social loafing and free rider behaviors, leading to loss of team productivity, hence the conclusion of the connection between The Ringelmann Effect and team effectiveness. 

The Ringelmann Effect has led some theorists to look for a magical team size, however research findings suggest the multi-variable nature of group phenomenon make it difficult to arrive at such a number. So how can we improve team effectiveness?

Join us at Rock Lilly for our next Building Highly Effective Teams Course to explore this topic further.

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