Teams change – get used to it

In my experience working with many teams over the years – the only constant when working in teams is that they change continuously. People leave as they are get offered better positions or salary, or because they just aren’t a good fit. Whatever the reason – the fact is that your business or projects need to cope with this constant change.

It sometimes can be hard to replace a valued and highly experienced professional. We have had to cope quite a few times with team change-ups. Especially on these occasions our operations sometimes suffered. And the new pros we onboarded – despite their high qualifications and experience – found it hard to step right in.

Team continuity – the game you should play

When looking up a definition on continuity I came across one on the website of Rugby Australia. It is one of the best definitions I have read so far:

Individuals can win games with sheer brillance on occassions but a team playing a strong continuity game can destroy oppositions consistently and regularly. Continuity affects not only technical elements of the game such as ball advancement and possession but also the estoerics of team morale, the spectacle of the sport and ensuing commercial impact. Continuity is the foundation of the game and the method by which you should play.

Rules that apply for sports teams are usually also golden rules for any team collaborating on a project, product or business aiming to outperform competition, striving for business excellence, and building a team that works like a well oiled machine.

How to not make daily operations suffer

Here’s 4 tips to ensure your daily operations, bottom line and customers will not suffer when there’s shifts in your team:

1. Use the right collaboration tools

To avoid start-stop-start moments the first thing that any team management should invest in is the right collaboration tools. For example we use a platform called Podio where all our operations are divided in workspaces accessible by team members. Our development team for one has access to the workspaces of the development projects we work on. It includes our complete development flow for releases and sprints, including testing. It also includes onboarding manuals.

When one developer finishes a ticket it can be passed on to the next or marked ready for production. A new developer can quickly check the status of an unfinished ticket or open issues after testing. Other well known tools are Asana or Trello.

Customer relations can suffer when a someone leaves your sales or support team. But when you use a customer support platform like Helpscout everybody on your team is ready and has the right info to step in at any time. Saving you tons of time that you’d otherwise spend on piecing together various customer-related information.

2. Maintain clear guidelines

But still even with the right collaboration tools it can be cumbersome for let’s say a new developer to onboard, when your code is messy or has built up with different signatures over the years. No matter how good the system is in which all the development tickets have been logged, when it is hard to trace back in the code – it takes valuable time you’d rather want to use for new development. Working according to clean code principles can easily solve that problem.

The same goes for guidelines for your marketing team. If a new marketer onboards they should be able to learn the brand guidelines quickly. They should not have to go through hoops to check tone of voice or brand colors. Helpscout has implemented a great brand guideline for their team you should check out.

As we know as well – the other thing you can always count on is that the moment you describe and lay out guidelines – these are obsolete or do not include a use case that is being encountered. So make sure you incorporate flexibility in all your guidelines.  Give your team the freedom to come up with a solution without feeling the constraints of these guidelines breathing down their necks.

3. Log conversations

What I have found to be particularly helpful in discussion on “why x or y should be implemented” is logging the discussions about it with your team. So when a future issue comes up – you can simply trace back the reasons why that choice was made. A chat app like Slack let’s you keep track of your team conversations and threads.

4. Visible and accessible management embracing an open team culture

The most important on these occasions is that team leads and management should be visible and ready to get their hands dirty if need to. You are part of the team and are there to provide support – guide to the right places and people. Make sure to maintain an open team culture where issues are and can be discussed among your team and with you – no matter how foolish or straightforward at first glance a question might seem to both.

Let’s face it. Even if your organization is the most awesome place to work on the planet, people will still come and go. As a team lead or an owner of the company it’s your responsibility to be ready for it and make sure it does not interfere with the success of your business.

Our software brands are built by an ace international team. Our brands often require specific skills – did you check our open positions yet? Do you think you have the skills and passion and would fit in our team?

 

Caroline Vrauwdeunt

CEO/Founder of ANDRS Projects: An innovator who believes innovation can only arise from collaboration. Her life’s motto is “Collaborate or Die”.