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Wilson Mar


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8 questions to ask

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I’ve worked with and built several teams, including a 3-shift international 24-hour operation around the world (in US, Mexico, Israel, India, China).

When it works, it’s marvelous how much can be done at 3 times the speed.

But when it doesn’t work, it’s a frustrating mess of ill-will all around.

Here are some of the lessons learned that I thought you’d want to know, phrased in questions that help me determine the conditions for effectiveness in multi-team collaboration. (Kinda like Joel Splotsky’s questions asked of employers.

Turnover of work

1. How does turnover of shared assets occur between shifts?

When we really examine it, there is a lot of information that needs to get passed.

Like a runner who passes the baton to the next runner, it’s something that needs to be practiced.

It’s frustrating to be bumped off a machine. Sometimes people run over the allotted time frame. Sometimes a team is not ready to begin work and likely will “drop the ball”.

To ensure an “overlap” of schedules to have team-based collaboration and customer-facing engagements in the customer’s working hours, one company specifies that its employees work 8 hours a day while meeting the following constraints Monday-Friday:

2 hours between 9:00AM-11:00AM EST (US “core” hours)
2 additional hours between 8am-8pm EST (US “customer” hours)
4 additional hours in any timezone each individual desires (“flex” hours)

This provides a compromise for organizations to accommodate top talent across a wide range of time zones.


2. How do details get shared about shared environments?

Google Docs and now Microsoft Office has cloud-based software which allows several people to see the impact of each other’s changes to the same document. Such systems also track each change, which enables granular identifiecation of who changed what and also restore of items changed or deleted.

GitLab’s Handbook is about 500 pages that details all the procedures in the company. It’s open-sourced at https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/tree/master/source/handbook.

This provides a worry-free environment for people to take initiative.

Task list

3. Where is a detailed task list of what needs to be done in priority order?

This enables each individual to see what their specific contribution is, and how it fits into the overall work.

PROTIP: Work tracking that’s built into tools used for creating the work (such as GitHub) are used more than stand-alone tools that require separate input (such as Rally).


4. Does each location get treated as a equal partner with other locations?

For example, if people in the San Francisco location are seen as always dictating what needs to be done, the Bangalore team will be less likely to take inititive and be proactive, which means they are more likely to wait for the other team to come on-line for furtherinstructions. This wastes precious time that projects often don’t have.


5. Does the team devote a regular pre-scheduled block of time to identify impediements and improvements?

Opportunities to “clear the air” among the team helps to keep the focus on resolution and innovation rather than letting in-fighting and obstacles become the focus of what the team thinks about.


6. Is an individual (such as a scrum master or manager) accountable to the team for timely resolution of specific impediments outside the team?

A crucial contribution of managers is to not only track time spent and achievements by the team, but the catalyst or conduit for optimizing the conditions in which the team operates most efficiently.

An on-line board such as Trello, Jira, Monday, etc. provides transparency of task priorities.

7. How does the team evaluate trends in technologies and industry?

Changes in technology are occuring at a quicker rate.

Companies such as Uber make use of new technologies in new business models that disrupt previous industries.

Organizations need to incentivize indidivuals to think ahead. But there is a fine balance for coordinated advance.

A once-a-year hackathon may not be enough.


8. How does the team acquire all skills needed?

Adopting new tools and techniques to capture or maintain market share requires support (one-on-one tutoring).

  • Password
  • Messaging (Slack, Mattermost)
  • Video conferencing setup (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Apple Facetime)
  • Issue trackers (GitHub/GitLab Issues)
  • Suggestions (GitHub Pull Requests/GitLab Merge Requests)
  • Static websites (GitLab Pages, Confluence wikis)

PROTIP: In today’s world, achieving greater velocity and adaptability trumps predictability as key to achieving competitiveness.


9. How does the team come together?

Traditional companies make people come to the office but then leave creating social bounds to chance.

PROTIP: Team calls that focus on personal life are not a waste of time because they develop cohesion and empathy necessary for great collaboration. *


Google research found that the best teams don’t have to like each other. The most effective teams have members who speak about the same amount of time. They take turns talking. And members demonstrate ostentatious listening – they repeat when each other is saying and maintain eye contact. These two create the psychological safety necessary for teamwork.


https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Building-Great-Teams-8-Attributes-for-the-Modern-World-Learn-with-Atlassian/1328937032 Building Great Teams: 8 Attributes for the Modern World | Learn with Atlassian by Dominic Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist