Healing The Work Environment – Part VII: How a team can work better

10 minutes read
crafted by , on 7 July, 2015, in

Where all in this together!

In previous articles, I jabbered about the team leader and the team members, and on what each of them should focus on. But when all these individuals are put together under the same roof, how could they collaborate in an efficient way and how the work process can be sustained?

Before going any further…

…as promised and showed in my previous Work Environment articles (part I, part II, part III, part IV, part V, part VI) here are some opinions from the Monitive Awesomenauts.

Question: In unity lies strength, some say… How important is the team for you ?

Luci: No boat can sail without a team, no building can be raised without a team, no empire has ever grown without a team. A team is the one thing required to make great things. Any business is as strong as the team behind it.

Marcy: I would say, pretty important, even if sometimes we need some time alone with ourselves. In a team … team members should be one for another like water and sun are for a flower.

Alina: My team should be like the Italian mob. You only enter the group after you are properly checked, then you receive a clear role and several tasks. You are directly responsible for your results but you also have to help the others when they need you. Every information stays within the group. Of course, all the criminal aspects of the mob stay out of the question, but for me it’s fun to think this way about any team I am part of. It certainly reflects the idea of unity.

Read the full interview. They’re a wild bunch!

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Oh, silly me, almost forgot…

At first, when I started this serie of articles, I’ve planned to talk about the concept of Work 2.0, about having fun at work, about the future of the Internet, about the work process and about teams – but doesn’t it feel like something it’s left outside of the picture ? There’s one main character who didn’t made his presence felt on the stage (yet) and without it everything would be in vain: the client. With him included in this story, the circle will be complete and I’ll be able to have a good night sleep.

So, getting back on track, how a team can work better? There are a set of magic words which, when put together, will enlighten your mind: organize team buildings, go in workations, adopt agile methodologies and last, but not least, have fun along the way.

Aha! Sweet enlightenment! Not quite yet. What… are you in a hurry?

Communicate with your client, and not just inform him, deliver work and wait for feedback – it’s a tough task, but it should be done – educate your client. The only way through which we can move on, improve the way we work, the way we do business is by sharing knowledge, by improving ourselves and we must include the clients in this process.

You can’t recite a poem or sing a song to a monkey and wait to be appreciated. Oh, you think I’m being harsh? Well, it’s the truth, there’s no gentle way to put it and I can’t figure out a subtle phrase to express the feeling of frustration about those damn clients from hell.

There are so, so many people who are waking up in the morning with a blunt idea and after a maximum of two seconds they dive right into it, investing their money, hiring people, realizing they’re not on track with the project, becoming frustrated, putting a lot of stress on everyone else’s shoulders, failing, not knowing how to recover, blaming the wrong person, and then… the night comes. What’s the point?

So we should all help them. We once were monkeys too, we all are at some point in life, but somebody else helped us, gave us a chance. Wouldn’t it be fair to pay it forward ?

At the foundation of every business should be planted one very important factor – the beneficiary – think about it as being your professional life’s kernel, because without it everything would be in vain. So communicate, even over-communicate, educate, respect…

Well, what do you know!? This advices seem to resemble a lot with those given in the “team member” article. You know why? Because you should consider the client as being part of your team – not as a team member with responsibilities, but more as a team member who supervises the development of the entire process. To not be confused with something similar to a team leader.

The difference between the client and the team leader is that the team leader has skills and abilities, has knowledge, and knows how things can be done, while the client doesn’t necessarily have them – he only knows what he needs to be accomplished. Yes, in a perfect scenario, the client knows what must be achieved, but from my experience, in 90% of the cases, the client doesn’t know exactly what stands for a finish line. You must offer guidance, include him in the communication loop, and offer him support in order to understand everything that followed after his raw idea.

Ok, hopefully, there’s no mystery anymore about how you should treat your client and how this could improve the efficiency of the entire work process! But what about more specific paths on which a team can adventure in order to achieve its full potential?

There are so very many! Unfortunately I’m not an authority in this “department”, I can only speak from my past experiences and from what experts are preaching about. So here’s what worked for me, and maybe it can work for you also:

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Work methodology

There are many methodologies out there and many more will appear, since already we’re seeing hybrids “on the market” – Scrum and Kanban met, fell in love and had a baby called Scrumban.

I for one, I’m an adept of the Scrum methodology, part of Agile – a software development method that marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. This methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.

Scrum emphasizes the idea of “empirical process control.” That is, Scrum uses the real-world progress of a project — not a best guess or uninformed forecast — to plan and schedule releases.

In Scrum, projects are divided into succinct work cadences, known as sprints, which are typically one week, two weeks, or three weeks in duration. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders and team members meet to assess the progress of a project and plan its next steps. This allows a project’s direction to be adjusted or reoriented based on completed work, not speculation or predictions.

Just give it a quick search on Google if you don’t know what I’m talking about or consider purchasing some books about it, like the Top 5 Scrum Project Management Books. I promise you, you’ll be amazed and won’t have enough of it.

There’s a slight chance that this methodology won’t work for you, in which case you should pick another, but just be sure you’ll pick one, don’t force your team to wander around in a chaotic development process.

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Team building

Team building is an ongoing process that helps a work group evolve into a cohesive unit.

The team members not only share expectations for accomplishing group tasks, but trust and support one another and respect one another’s individual differences. Your role as a team builder is to lead your team toward cohesiveness and productivity. A team takes on a life of its own and you have to regularly nurture it and maintain it, just as you do for every individual.

Mainly you should figure out what challenges your team faces. Based on those identified issues you can come up with efficient solutions in helping your team members. Create a list of your team’s strengths and weaknesses and assign them the proper exercises. There are literally hundreds of team-building activities that address a wide range of issues.

I think you should try some of the existing exercises, but also start thinking outside the box.

Find alternatives like:

  • talk with a local theater group – creating an improvisation session for your team can be both useful and entertaining
  • plan a bike trip – physical exercises burn the negative tension, and outdoor activities relax the mind and the spirit
  • play games – board games are amazing for developing new skills (like distributed attention), stimulating the creativity and having a lovely evening

After every team building (and even during) be sure to gather as much as possible feedback from your team members. Learn from their opinions, come up with new ways for them to become a singular entity – one mind, one spirit.

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Workation

The concept of “workation” has been around for quite a while now. For a long time, it had one connotation alone – the least pleasant one – having to take work with you on a planned vacation. Lately people placed it in a brand new context – a trip or a vacation with the purpose of doing work. Very similar right ? And if you can’t quite spot the difference let me tell you more.

The old-school workation: you’re working over 10 hours per day, 6 days every week, 4 weeks every month, 11 months every year and finally you get 1 month during which you can travel to a beautiful place on this earth, with the purpose of relaxing and enjoying the company of your beloved one. You get all enthusiastic about this vacation, you pack your stuff (3 times, to make sure you didn’t forget anything), get on the plane, destination Wonderland! Once arrived there all is dandy when, suddenly, you get an email from your boss saying that some urgent tasks need your attention and you must chip in on helping the team to meet the deadline. What a disappointment!

The old-school workation has only disadvantages: petulant work, almost zero productivity, shattered relaxation.

The new, improved workation: if in the past, vacations were spoiled by unexpected work, today, new generations of professionals gave it an entire different meaning. Why not just plan a vacation with the purpose of doing more work. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t replacing the real vacations, but it’s just a way of disconnecting the entire team from its daily routine. If you’re individual with no team, you can still plan workations. Imagine that real-life situations when you’re fed up with the stressing surroundings, the disruptive environment, and you need a break but can’t afford to skip work. Plan a vacation with the purpose of working in a relaxing manner and afterwards having some fun. If we’re talking about companies, the workations are sponsored, just like team-buildings are.

The new, improved workation only advantages: expected and planned work, almost full productivity, provided relaxation as a bonus.

Have fun

Just like a vacation, having fun at work has its perks. Throughout a day we need small breaks that can provide us with some extra power. We disconnect and reboot after a good laugh or an enjoyable activity. The results of working in a relaxed mood are visible in productivity. Don’t neglect the need of relaxation, our brain works at full capacity only as much as we allow it to.

You could designate a Morale Ambassador, a different one every month, who can propose various activities for the entire team. People will appreciate your care for them, will get relaxed, and the entire team will connect on so many levels which is only good for the business.

There you have it!

A glimpse into the world of “Working Differently”.

Maybe you have a different strategy, one that you think works better for you, but ask yourself – is it working better for everybody? In the end a team is a family and you do care about your family members. Just be sure to include the client, once in a while, in the educational loop and even in the fun one.

United we thrive!

About Ciprian Irimies

Ciprian is an UX Ninja, but what really makes him stand out of a crowd is the desire to venture into the unknown, to boldly face new challenges and the lack of hair on his head.