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10 March, 2011 / Karl Maier

How Big Before the Culture Breaks?

One of the questions that companies face is “How large can we grow before the culture Business peoplebreaks down and we become a ‘big’ company?”

While the type of culture that management creates can certainly impact the answer, there is also a fundamental limit to a group size.  Most of the estimates for a single group or tribe top out around 100 to 125 people.

Does that mean that the culture must break down at that point? If the culture is solely based on the personality of one person, probably so.

However, to the extent that the culture is based on the goals and values of the group, then the “small company” culture can remain in place even as the number of people grow into the hundreds or thousands.  The tribes become groups of tribes in that case.  A couple of examples of companies that have grown well beyond a single tribe and maintained their culture include Amgen and Netflix.

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