Effective teams are deliberate about doing four things on repeat. They set goals, work without disruptions, check up on progress, and improve processes.
In short, they set a pace of progress for themselves and stick to it.
- Set goals: Given our current capabilities, what can we achieve in the given timeframe?
- Work without disruptions: Left to work as they work best, people get things done.
- Check up on progress: Did we achieve what we wanted? If not, why?
- Improve processes: What can we improve to work better and reach the (more ambitiuous) goals?
Good teams focus on each of these stages one at a time. They rinse and repeat on a predefined cadence—usually called a sprint or a cycle.
This approach has three main benefits:
- Clear goals helps people know what is expected from them, and by when
- No (pointless) disruptions makes for more effective and meaningful work
- Checkups keep people accountable. This, in turn, gives them agency to demand the best possible processes to help them reach their goals
Some good practices when going through the motions:
- Benchmark only against yourself; not against other teams or companies. You play with the cards you have
- People first, process second, tools third
- Face reality as it is: adjust expectations to reflect what is possible now. Work separately to improve processes to reach more ambitious goals
Anyone can work like this with any of the tools one currently uses. It’s all about being self-aware and trying to get a bit better with every iteration. Just do your best and take it from there.
PS. For a real life example of a thoughtful way to do this, check out Basecamp’s book Shape up.