We recently had to communicate to a larger part of our organization how we work at Aftenposten, and we thought it could be interesting to share the language used to do so.
Imagine that something went well. Maybe you, the individual, implemented some highly requested new feature. You might be proud of the work you did, so want to share it with others. It’s easy to use “I” in these situations, because after all, you, the individual, did the work. But rarely you were the only person involved. There was probably designs made by a designer, or feature descriptions by product people, or input from users. So instead of using “I”, you can use “we” to signify that it was an effort made by your team. Using “we” encourages the wider audience to raise questions related to the feature to the whole team, through your typical feature request/feedback channels. Using “I” implies that you are the single point of communication for that feature, and suddenly you start getting side-channel requests, and the bus-factor goes down to 1. You, the individual, are now responsible for all those messages rather than you, the team.
That being said, sometimes there is something personal to a particular person: perhaps they have had some experience doing in a particular thing in the past. In those cases it makes sense to signify that a particular person has the knowledge. But the goal should be that if there is some knowledge that a single person has, it should be shared with the team when applicable and become collective knowledge.
Just as with things going well, when something goes wrong, the team is responsible for things breaking. Maybe a code review wasn’t as thorough as it should’ve been, maybe the designs weren’t optimized for smaller screens. No singular person should be held accountable for problems, it should be shared by the team. So when you’re writing to people outside your team, use “we”, not “I”. Particularly during incidents, it is important that you don’t focus too hard on who did something incorrectly, but rather what was done incorrectly. Not only the singular person should be learning from incidents, but the whole team.
Frodo Baggins tried to bear the most evil item in middle earth, and without his team carrying him up the mountain, or drawing the eye of Sauron, he would’ve failed. Your team is there to help you, to take you further than you could go alone, and to give you words of wisdom and courage when things go wrong. And when things go right, they’re the ones that you should be dancing on the tables with.