How many cooks spoil a broth?

‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ is an adage as old as language itself. But this generalization is too vague for practical purpose. Yes, for some tasks, too many is a definitely a crowd. But for the others, the more the merrier. What we need here is a general principle that can predict the maximum number of people employed for one task without sacrificing efficiency.

So let’s begin by dividing tasks into two categories

  1. Creative tasks – tasks that need original thinking and innovation
  2. Laborious tasks – tasks that need nothing but physical power

These two categories have different requirements and hence need to be addressed differently. After discussing specific cases for each of these categories, we’ll arrive at a general principle in conclusion of this article.

Creative tasks

Creative tasks require brain power. And the brain of an individual is usually more focused than that of a group of people. If you’re able to find the right person to do the job, you won’t need another person to help him.

Small Scale

But this is only if the job at hand is small in scale – such as designing a car engine. One will usually be enough for such tasks but at times, a team will be needed to free him from menial tasks and enable him to focus on thinking out the solution. The team can be kept at a minimum of 5 or 6 people who are also a bit proficient in the required field.

One will usually be enough for such tasks but at times, a team will be needed to free him from menial tasks and enable him to focus on thinking out the solution. The team can be kept at a minimum of 5 or 6 people who are also a bit proficient in the required field.

Large Scale

But for tasks of large scale – such as planning a city – a more populated workforce will be needed. Search as you may, you’ll never find one person equipped with all the knowledge that is needed for every aspect of the project. So every major division of the project will need to be overseen by one individual – the head of that department. A project with 5 major aspects will have 5 head of departments (HODs) working under a chief officer. The Chief Officers will be to co-ordinate between the 5 HODs and ensure a smooth workflow.

So every major division of the project will need to be overseen by one individual – the head of that department. A project with 5 major aspects will have 5 head of departments (HODs) working under a chief officer. The Chief Officer’s prime duty will be to co-ordinate between the 5 HODs and ensure a smooth workflow.

The Chief Officer will be the most experienced and knowledgeable and will specifically have experience in managing large scale projects. The HODs will be experts in their field.  The HODs will decide their staff keeping in mind not to exceed beyond 5 members – out of which 1 will be the personal assistant, 2 will be persons with qualifications in the desired field and the remaining 2 will handle all field work.

Laborious tasks

Tasks that require physical power will need strong and fit individuals. Again in these tasks, numbers are decided by the scale of the task. Small scale tasks such as renovation work of a house will need around 2-4 people for a specific task such as painting or tiling.( if the painting /tiling are to be done for an entire house. If the house is big, several groups of 2-4 people might be needed to be employed depending upon renovation size.

Small Scale

Small scale tasks such as renovation work of a house will need around 2-4 people for a specific task such as painting or tiling.( if the painting /tiling are to be done for an entire house. If the house is big, several groups of 2-4 people might be needed to be employed depending upon renovation size.

And if it is a task that requires small-scale heavy lifting,  a group of 10 people will suffice for all the possible lifting work.

Large Scale

Large scale tasks such as renovating a warship will need several teams to handle each detail. The number of people employed for such scale might range from 100 to 500 depending upon the size of the ship.

Conclusion

The cases I’ve mentioned here are just examples. They’re not to be applied to every similar problem. And while I hope that the numbers in this articles keep inefficiencies at bay, I can be wrong. The answer to ‘How many cooks spoil a broth?’ is not as simple as I thought when I first started writing this article. Now that I think of it, I might need to expand my knowledge a bit more in this direction and then

As of now, it might suffice to say that creative tasks are done efficiently with fewer employed and laborious tasks are better done with more employed.

I might need to expand my knowledge a bit more in this direction and then may be give this article another go.

But why wait? While I do that, let me know anything I missed or tell me what you think is the answer. Write to me at aniketchaughule1@gmail.com or get in touch through my social profiles – links are on the right.

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