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Updated: Jan 3, 2023

Les chiffres magiques pour les gestionnaires

Some useful numbers to remember when we are managing people at work.

As managers we frequently have to remember and use some complex numbers and formulas to plan, organize and execute our projects. However, there are a few very easy-to-remember numbers that can make our life much simpler. Here are some that can make our life much simpler.


A lot of research has shown that managers often feel that they have to justify their positions by always doing something, but that actually doing nothing is frequently the best course of action. For example, when I was a junior manager in a large corporation many years ago, around budget time, I and my colleagues regularly “padded” our budget projections knowing that they would be cut by our bosses. It was a yearly game: our bosses needed to demonstrate to their bosses that they were “contributing” something to the process, so we junior managers set up our optimum dollar scenario and added 10% or so. As regular as clockwork, 10% was lopped off and we had the scenario we really wanted. The lesson is trust your individual contributors. If they make a recommendation, by all means question it to ensure the best overall quality, but don’t be afraid to decide not to change it one iota. You build long-term trust with your team members – and they learn that they are accountable for the actions they propose.

1, One

This is the optimum number of bosses employees should have. It makes for clear communications and much less confusion about who is responsible for what. Many organizations necessarily have a matrix reporting structure. If this is the case, the key to avoid confusion is to have one functional boss who is responsible for giving performance feedback to her/his employees.

3, Three

A very useful number. People can easily get their heads around the number three. That’s why North American telephone numbers are based around blocks of three. The most effective presentations group their information into three blocks, and sometimes for complex presentations, each of the blocks will also be subdivided into three sub-blocks. For example, subconsciously we tend to view a presentation with just two recommendations as not well enough researched and lacking in substance. Four or more recommendations tend to be viewed as overkill.

10, Ten

Research into team size indicates that ten is the largest number of people for effective in-person team decision-making. If the subject permits, five is optimum. In fact five is the absolute maximum for virtual teams in order for an effective analysis and decision-making process.

150, One hundred and fifty

Robin Dunbar, a researcher at Oxford university in the UK, first postulated that 150 is the maximum number of stable social connections most people can effectively manage. This has important ramifications when an organization expands or restructures. Once an organization, or a division of an organization, grows biggen 150 members, the management practices and reporting structure has to revisited. For example, previously informal communications need to become more structured and systematized.

Zero, 1, 3, 10 and 150: five magic numbers to add to a manager’s tool box.

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