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Unifying Distributed Teams: A Conversation About Dog Treats, Tortilla Chips, and Atlassian

Apr 20, 2016 11:00:00 AM

 

One of the things I love about my parents is that any time we get together, I can talk to them about work stuff. My brilliant parents are retired and – to be honest – bored with retirement, so it's an intellectual treat whenever I visit. Mom is a retired teacher with two master's degrees (cue awkward conversation about the whereabouts of my one master's degree), and Dad is a retired portfolio and project manager also with a master's degree (again, cue awkward conversation). During our talks, we have fun and insightful discussions about anything and everything- and we love using whatever's at hand to make a point. This time, the topic was disconnected teams, and the props at hand were dog treats and tortilla chips. Yes, you read that right: dog treats and tortilla chips. Stay with me.

We were munching on tortilla chips at the kitchen island and talking about how disconnected business organizations today could be. Mom brought up the point that it seems, for example, many c-level executives are removed from the day-to-day operations of their organizations. This is true... and necessary. Good leaders cultivate others into leaders, and c-level folks should be able to focus on delivering the mission and vision, while trusting that day-to-day operations are taken care of. The reality, however, is that this division of work usually leads to some disconnect between teams and executives.

This phenomenon is illustrated below using tortilla chips (sharp executives) and dog treats (trusted business teams). 

Note: There's no implication that one is better than the other. Both are in the same genre of deliciousness i.e. snack food. The difference is that their intended end users are different. 

Sure, both dog treats and tortilla chips are on the same countertop. In fact, they're actually only distributed across an area of two feet. But, even with a 12 megapixel camera, it's really hard to see the forest for the trees – see the granite countertop for the dog treats and tortilla chips. In other words, it's easy to get tunnel-vision into one's immediate team or project and forget about the rest of the organization. This disconnect makes it hard to get everyone on the same page... err, countertop.  

Using this groundbreaking analogy, I then proceeded to come up with one of the best explanations for what I do at Praecipio Consulting every day: getting teams on the same page

In this analogy, each of the dog treats and tortilla chips represents a team in an organization. Each of these teams may be in the same office, building, country, or, increasingly, anywhere in the world with a strong internet connection. The problem that most companies struggle with is bringing these disparate teams together – getting everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction, and towards collectively defined goals. In order to achieve this, most organizations embrace the colocated work model. They believe that, if everyone is in the same place, it's easier to get folks to collaborate and work together. Other organizations, especially technology companies, embrace the distributed work model, which allows teams to work remotely. 

The reality with collaborative work is that geography alone does not determine how effectively teams work together. Rather, the only surefire way to foster effective teams is through a clear understanding of the mission and vision and a clearly defined communication process. Instances of communication can take the form of a workflow, product requirements doc, or simply a quick conversation. Regardless of its form, communication is key, and all organizations are looking for a better way to communicate – from concept to launch. 

There's a reason Atlassian, our principal technology partner, chose TEAM as their stock ticker. They believe their products can bring teams together through improved communication regardless of location. At Praecipio Consulting, we help teams find ways to connect, plan, and execute better and support their efforts with software solutions. This is what I do day in and day out – helping companies come together to achieve more.

Mad props to Mom and Dad for bringing up the topic and prompting my creative juices. 

Note: No humans or animals were denied delicious snack food in the making of this blog post.  

 

About Amanda Babb

Amanda is Principal of Delivery at Praecipio Consulting where she brings her extensive project management and Atlassian expertise to some of our largest clients. When Amanda isn't delivering best-in-class business technology solutions, she can be found playing golf, working on cars, and spending time with her dogs, Leonard and Howard. 

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