When working across teams, communication is key
In a recent post, we described a workshop between our team and one of our supporting teams. Our team left it with good spirits, but we realized after a few days that we hadn’t actually gotten back in touch with the support team to discuss next steps. That was mostly due to being busy with other things, but it left the supporting team in uncertainty. What should they be doing? What would we be doing? The solution was simple: just sync together and reiterate over the next steps we outlined in the workshop.
But that highlighted some potential behaviours we could’ve done in order to avoid uncertainty.
Firstly, we should’ve let everyone involved with the workshop know what the outcomes were in writing. A busy work day followed by an evening of socializing can start to become blurry, so a summary of what we did and what’s next would’ve helped. There is never any harm in reiterating what you’ve concluded in a meeting, and we did write the next steps down in the shared slidedeck that we used for the day, but an email or a Slack message goes pretty far too.
Secondly, as we move into collaboration mode with the supporting team, we should’ve established some routine for discussion: a Slack channel, a regular sync meeting. Something where concerns like “what should we do next?” can be raised. We do have sync meetings - but it wasn’t until when our leads met that our team figured out that they should’ve been in contact already.
Thirdly, and something we should be working on, when you have distributed teams where each is co-located in a different office, there is less room for those “so what’s next conversations” to happen. To those of us co-located in Oslo, it was obvious what we happening: we were briefing our PM, we were doing manual work required before coding, etc. But this was not obvious to the Polish team. So, we should try to have more of these conversations on Slack where everyone can see. It can feel a bit odd to write to someone who’s sitting next to you in a Slack channel, rather than poking them and saying “hey, what about x”. But in order to ensure that everyone gets a chance to particpate and contribute, we should default to Slack-first, and failing that - write a summary of a discussion on Slack. This has worked out pretty well for me in the past, so I’m advocating for it now.
Our collabration now has regular meetings, a Slack channel, some shared issue tracking. And we’re all the better for it. But always remember: don’t be afraid to over-communicate. There’s the old saying “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”. But that does not apply in a work environment with high trust. There is no need to fear looking stupid by repeating yourself. It only removes all doubt of what is happening.