Designing better teamwork

Research has shown time and time again that how teams work together has more of an impact on its performance than who is on the team. A clear way to increase chances of your team’s success is to explore the habits, routines and rituals that will enable you to do better work together.

This is what I covered in a 25min talk – Designing your way to better team collaboration (video) – at Mind The Product this year. I featured practical examples of teams that had created methods and processes that made a big difference to their work.

These are the areas and some examples that I shared:

Ways to meet

Use different meeting formats to create a team rhythm and purposeful discussions.

The design team at Nordnet have different recurring meetings for specific purposes. They have weekly goalfests, design critiques, monthly problem-solving sessions and quarterly reviews.

Sharing work and ideas

Create a forum where people can share their progress and inspiration for a positive culture.

Zach Klein, CEO at DIY, created a company tradition to keep his team connected. With “Make A Compass” team members share a discovery, creative accomplishment or other achievement from their week, over breakfast on a Friday morning.

Alone time

Provide time and space for individual work, so people can achieve flow and mastery.

Asana, makers of the productivity tool, have implemented “No Meeting Wednesdays” company-wide. Workers are encouraged, but not forced, to refrain from any internal meetings on this day. They receive a gentle email reminder to keep this going each week.

Physical space

Make changes to the office environment to encourage more interaction between colleagues.

ContaAzul were able to invite more colleagues into their design process by making a few low-cost changes to their workspace. The desk layout became more open, and they started to make use of the walls to display ideas so that everyone could contribute.

Social connection

Create opportunities for people to get to know each other more personally.

In Sweden, it’s a common practice in workplaces for colleague to take a break at the same time. This is called “fika” which simply means “have coffee together”, and it can have a positive impact on productivity. It’s one of the rituals that Atlassian has implemented to create a high-functioning design team

How to design better team habits

As each team and context is unique, hold a workshop for your team to collaboratively design new ways of working together. Ask questions like: how do we do our best work? What does good teamwork look like? What do we want to achieve as a team?

Then consider what regular actions will enable this. BJ Fogg, pioneer of behaviour design, has a 3-step method: 1) be specific, 2) be easy and 3) have a trigger. It’s likely that you’ll need someone to guide or facilitate the process, at least initially. And start small. Don’t try to introduce too much at once.

Once you’ve designed a new routine, you’ll need to iterate based on how it’s working. Make it an evolving process, and regularly review processes to make sure they are still effective.

Read the full write-up from Martin Eriksson and watch the video at Mind The Product.

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