Kathleen Shrimpton Team : Web Production Tags : Web Development Business SEO Sydney

There’s no i in teamwork

Kathleen Shrimpton Team : Web Production Tags : Web Development Business SEO Sydney

Today I attended the Web Directions conference and went to a talk by Jonny Mack on Building Trust. I first thought this would be on ideas and examples of eCommerce sites creating trusts for their users, but actually this talk was on building trust with your fellow peers.

Now I am of course writing this from a Production perspective. Whilst I note that it is important to have everyone involved we do still have budgets and timelines to adhere to. This is why this process has to happen at the start when ideas are formulated and approved.

Producers never want to be in a position when designers have some ideas on a ‘re-design’ when close to design sign off. And designers themselves don’t want to see us clenching our teeth saying “I might have to see if we can fit that in the current timeline”. Getting everyone involved at the start of the project will minimise risks like this.

Mack identified the main elements of working in a team:

  • Conflict - this is where teams should have passionate debates without any form of attacking. There should be no stubbornness as good ideas should be acknowledged as good ideas, whether or not it’s what you came up with.
  • Connection – this is where your team members need to see themselves on a common ground where you can relate to each other.
  • Organisation – approvals from stakeholders are essential for a project to make sure everyone is on the same page, but it’s important to make sure that everyone involved feels like a stakeholder.
  • Communication – product decisions are usually made behind closed doors which creates a level of distrust between the man behind the curtain and the people on the floor. Even interpersonal things should be discussed openly.
  • Teamwork – it’s important to feel like you’re making something together.

The last point on teamwork is the most important, especially with the diverse departments in design agencies which leads to different ideas and priorities.

Countless times I have had to show a design concept to a developer only to have them roll their eyes and say something along the lines of “for F#%@CKS SAKE!” when I explain how the designer wanted to make the concept slightly different from the prototype in terms of transitions and animation.

Optimal teamwork is not impossible, though it can be more difficult to achieve via the waterfall approach. If a project is so structured to the point of Designers don’t know about the project until IA is fully approved and if Developers aren’t across the scope until it’s signed off and prototyped and designed then this can lead to issues in the latter stages of the project when it’s more essential than ever that the project runs smoothly (as Producers know).

But it’s not just about reducing risk, it’s also about making everyone feel like they are trusted, part of the project and that they have their ideas heard. Listening to more ideas doesn’t necessarily mean that the original idea has to be changed, it’s about taking note of what everyone says and building upon the original idea.

Mack quoted Bruce Tuckerman from 1984 who summed up the four elements of teamwork: forming, storming, norming and performing.

  1. Forming

At the start, everyone wants to fit in. We think to ourselves ‘How do these people think of me?’, ‘I want to be accepted’ and mainly we avoid discussing anything controversial. This is the comfortable stage where we set high level goals and have no debate. Not a lot gets done in this stage.

  1. Storming

After the team is established and after we have built up enough trust to express different points of view this is where we discover good ideas vs bad ideas. This is a difficult period especially for people averse to conflict HOWEVER this is where growth happens. Growth of ideas! It is this debate and differing opinion which leads us to create the best product possible for the client. We need to be mindful that debate must involve constructive critique and not the opposite. Unfortunately not a lot of people get past this stage. It’s important to note that while disagreeing is good for growth, we all need patience and the ability to listen.

  1. Norming

Once we have figured out how and what to agree on the project, the team’s identity is revealed. This is where you decide how you will interact with each other. High level goals start to become more clear. You need to disagree and then commit. Commit is a buzz word for Producers because whilst creative discussion is beneficial it needs to result in a group commitment. We’re not forgetting about those timelines!

  1. Performing

This is when team members get to the point where they can work without the oversight of managers. Through group commitment everyone is trusted. This stage is rare, but this is where the best work happens – and it only happens if the prep work has been laid out at the start.  

I did say there is no i in teamwork, but an important part is YOU! You need to trust yourself and your judgement in order for other people to trust you. The tricky part is that you have to be humble. You may have good ideas. But so do other people. Better ideas even.

So many of us think we are always right, but the best teamwork is based on our ability to respond to that. We all have a common goal – to make the best product possible.

I will leave you by saying that you know a project is successful when we feel like we are making something together. Something that you couldn’t do on your own.