People & Teamwork

Alignment tools for every leader

| 4 min read

Have you ever felt like everybody in your team is working like free atoms? That you put effort into something, and nobody supports it? Some people do things, but when you ask them why they do it they can’t answer. It happens to all of us. Here are a few tools that can help you and your team align efforts around things that really matter.

Working Agreement

One of the easiest forms to express the hygiene of our day-to-day work. I usually start with an explanation of why we want to create such a document for our team. I start with one, or two rules that feel important and encourage the rest of the team to discuss what content we put there.

It contains behaviors that we expect from each team member; what is undeniable required in communication; what rituals we have in the team; how we treat each other.

What I recommend is to keep it simple. Add only those points that we feel are essential and avoid dreaming. The best option is to write the practices that the team is already doing. If it's a new team we suggest falling back to the Organization's practices.

A working agreement is an important tool, especially working remotely.

Here are some points that our teams include in the Working Agreement:

  • If it is possible, we have the camera turned on in daily meetings and we are fully focused on what others are saying. The daily meeting should have a short and concise form, max. 15-20 minutes.
  • We communicate on public channels, avoiding direct messages and closed groups.
  • We don't leave problems - If things don't go our way and we finish the workday, we share the status of our job.
  • I would like to put one additional point at the top of the working agreement.
  • We agree to feedback on each other if we see a violation of this agreement.

Team Purpose

Our teams live in a few dynamic environments. Things are changing quickly. We succeed and we fail daily. Sometimes we don’t have control over things that happen to us. That causes a lot of stress, especially for those who like to see the plan for the future.

One reason we prefer to build long-lasting teams in Appunite is to find a team purpose that helps them to be more resilient to unexpected things. The purpose should be the result vector of individual needs and impact the organization itself.

Purpose especially helps when you make decisions that might have a big impact on the team. I like to always ask myself and the team if this decision moves closer to the purpose or not.

We want all of our product teams to work in the spirit of getting better in building products. They twist that in their own way and those who have a firm belief in what they want to achieve develop their members faster.

Your team members should identify with the purpose, so they can support it. That’s also a good rule if someone is a good match for your team.

Find people that passionately believe in making the world a better place. Because if you don't truly believe in making the world a better place —then you may choose to make decisions that aren’t necessarily making the world a better place.

Example purpose:

We want to share our extreme ownership approach by growing our team in the spirit of the same culture.

We want to be the best mobile team in Poland.

Problems and Challenges

Powerful. An important part of fulfilling the purpose of the team. Every team member might have their own perspective on what is currently blocking the team or what is the opportunity that we focus on.

Making the team aware of its problems, opportunities and challenges is crucial, when we want to use our energy in a smart way. Having the same perspective on what is the next priority for the team allows for moving faster. We concentrate the energy of team members on the same thing.

Individual contracts

Something that I love. When a new person joins, we take a moment to express our expectations from both sides, the new joinery and the team leader. We discuss those, create some kind of contract between us and we get back to it from time to time on 1on1s. We usually have some expectations above „writing a code” or „doing quality checks”. It's good to express those even if they seem to be obvious.

I recommend sharing those expectations with the entire team. It makes it easier to understand what each member is thriving for, therefore supporting him/her.

Example: Having your seniority in mind, I would expect you can guide other members of our team in terms of X.

Side note: We recently started using a tool called Business as Usual, to synchronize the efforts across all the teams in our Organisation. We create a hypothesis in a single document - why we feel something is worth investing the effort, what effect we expect, and what needs to happen to make the initiative successful. We track all the discussions, changes, and progress there, so everyone can understand the status and why we do it at all.

I'm curious, what tools do you use in your team to build alignment in the team?