“It’s better to have a great team than a team of greats.” – Simon Sinek
As a leader, you can go a long creating clarity, generating energy, and driving results when you boil down the essence of a team’s values, principles, and practices.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “it takes teamwork to make the dream work.”
But what is the glue or the backbone that helps a team execute better together?
While the mission and the vision establishes the team charter, it’s the values, principles, and practices, that establish the foundation for effective teamwork and collaboration.
While it may sound simple, your measure of effectiveness is how well the team actually lives and breathes the values, the principles, and the practices.
Here is an example of the original framework we used to guide our team…
Example of the patterns & practices Way
There are so many ways I can share how we did what we did on the patterns & practices team at Microsoft, but I think the simplest approach is to share the values, guiding principles, and practices.
When our group changed leaders, one of the first things our new leader did was build consensus around what patterns & practices was all about. I suggested using the values, principles, and practices frame because it was a proven model.
The values, principles, and practices on a page set up the framework and the context in which we operated, which in turn, guided everything else.
In all of my experience, this is perhaps the best example I look back on where the leader really articulated the firm foundation for the team on a page.
Here on a page are the values, principles, and practices that guided our team:
In patterns & practices we value:
- Continuous learning, innovation and improvement – we have a bias toward action (over more planning) and customer engagement and feedback (over more analysis)
- Collaboration — Open, collaborative, relationships with customers, field, partners and product teams
- Execution – we will take strategic bets, but we will hold ourselves accountable for creating value, shipping early and often, and delivering results that have impact with customers.
- Transparency — Explicit, transparent, and direct communication with customers and with our team and others in our company.
- Quality over scope — no guidance is better than bad guidance
Our Guiding Principles
We use the following principles to guide our work:
- Start with end in mind — think about end to end scenarios, and how the products we produced fit in the solution architecture and into the patterns & practices “catalog”.
- Focus on the goal — Help the customer succeed with their intent – the results they want to achieve, not just what they are trying to do.
- “Satisfice” and Ship it — Find the minimal solution required for a good result and ship it.
- Use the right tool for the job — Our tools platforms are assets that expand the types of guidance we can express – use all of what they provide where it naturally fits the scenario.
- Create constructive tension — Constructive tension between customer needs, technical strategy, and business strategy is expected – when we do our job well this tension is healthy.
Execution Processes, Practices, and Tools
- We decide which scenarios and technical challenges we will focus on and what we will deliver using a portfolio planning process.
- We organize to do our work in small teams, typically made up of a core teams and a variety of experts and specialized contributors.
- We run development using a baseline process and team dashboard that teams tailor to the unique scope and needs of an individual project. The common baseline process gives us a common view of the, velocity, and plans of each of the projects and project teams.
- Our projects run three to nine months with checkpoints at key milestones.
- We review and drive execution in our team using monthly, quarterly and semiannual reviews and checkpoints. Many of these are driven by or tied to the company’s processes for Strategy Planning, People Management and Development, and Operational Execution.
There you have it.
One a page, a simple balcony view of how the team collaborated using a simple framework of shared values, principles, and practices.
It wasn’t easy to get to this level of clarity, but I remember how once we did, we used the language to help shape our decisions and guide our behavior (and thoughts are behaviors, too).
Looking back, it ultimately created a language for sharing and shaping how we worked.
As a thought exercise, see if you can put down on paper your team’s values, principles, and practices.
It gets easier with practice, and simply by trying to do it, you force yourself to really get curious about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to great teaming.
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