5 Secrets of Successful Teamwork

Teamwork is a separate kind of art. You hire the best talent, provide them with everything they ask, learn all existing models of team effectiveness to follow them in your company, but the work process is at a standstill anyway. Something is missing. There is no guarantee of success, as just knowledge of performance criteria alone doesn't do the trick and says nothing about the ways to achieve them. It is possible to get good results through live practices that can improve the effectiveness of teamwork and prevent frequent mistakes.

Successful Teamwork

1. Organize the workflow with general awareness

You need a tool that allows you to see the actual state of the project at any time. What is this or that developer working on, which part of the tasks is already done, how much time is still required?.. These and numerous other questions will bother you throughout the workflow, which will force you either distract your team members from work or keep your customers in suspense. None of this will affect the results positively. It would be much greater if you and all other interested party (investors, neighboring departments of testers, account managers, etc.) could take a look the the latest project updates and current progress. They need not become involved in any of the details, enough to see that they are interested in. To this end, you project management tool should be able to:

  • update project data in real time;
  • show scheduled work, future plans and estimates;
  • provide a list of tasks differed by readiness status;
  • demonstrate the current employment of each team member;
  • gather statistics and reports on done work.

Don't try to reinvent the wheel – there are many existing solutions that can provide you with such a complete environment. There's no need to complicate the workflow with many tools and services when everything may be done with the only good one. Talk to colleagues, look for suitable tools, do not forget to consult the team when choosing such a software. Give everyone the right to vote, encourage constructive criticism and the exchange of new ideas in the team. The abundance of opinions and contradictions can sometimes be annoying, but one day it might come in handy. "Do you see a new trend, a new interesting solution that can improve your workflow? - Tell your team about it".

2. Team communication and solution to conflicts

If you are lucky, or just experienced enough in your business, you will be able to hire excellent team players who will fit in right away. But even in this case, you need to organize communication in the team in such a way to avoid possible conflicts both among developers and their confrontation with managers. Bureaucratic costs, adherence to methodologies, a combination of flexibility and discipline, an individual approach to each employee and many other controversial points will arise regularly. Don't forget, that managing a remote team requires even more attention to communication process. Many project management tools provide capabilities for task discussion but, though they're useful for some particular goals, these tools are not a complete substitute for existing means of communication, such as email or messengers, which are widely used by development teams. Both using emails and instant messaging serves the common purpose, although in different ways. The success of your work depends on which of them you will use in a particular situation.

3. Discuss work in the same environment where it is performed

Yes, email and instant messaging are still necessary, but there're situations when their usage can harm you. First of all, keep all related to the project discussion together. Have a question to somebody on a task? Let the rest of the team see it on the task page – maybe somebody else has the same issue or can give your the answer instead. In addition, in such a way you show developers or managers what you are currently working on and which problems are solving. Of course, you can use any messenger to this end, however, it'll be harder to find the discussion later if necessary. Distinguish your work space from other fields and keep it clean and complete. Collaborative task management reduces number of meetings and boost your team productivity. So, a good project management solution should include:

  • The ability to comment on tasks. Here you can specify the work done, make some useful for you and other employees notes not to keep everything in mind, or discuss a task before performing to clarify all details.

  • Discussions are visible and available to all users. Let team members find out what you are doing even if they are nor assigned to the task. Maybe they have something useful to add to your discussions or just need more details on your task for their own part of work. Due to this principle of accessibility, they won't distract you from work for this.

  • The ability to attract attention to an issue with a task. Perhaps not all the developers involved will continuously monitor the comments so as not to be distracted from their own work. So it would be great to separate the usual comments on tasks and more urgent, requiring help or attention. Seeking help in case of a problem is not bad. It's bad to keep silent about existing problems.

Discussion on project tasks

4. Keep all project data together

The above rule is also relevant for all project data. You need a single space for storing and organizing all information on the project. First of all, it refers to documents, images, tables, reports and so on. Don't use emails or messengers to send such data – among hundreds of contacts, dialogs, common chat rooms and different instant messengers it will be hard enough to find a certain file. If it is related to a particular task – use task comments or description instead to attach all necessary data. Then all team members will be able to find it quickly without your help and huge effort. And your task description will always stay clear and full. Screenshots of a new design, step-by-step reproduction of the bug as a gif, new documentation or tutorial you have used, etc. have be helpful and save your team time.

This also applies to other data on the project. Time estimates of a task, statistics, time intervals spent on work with a short description, assigned users, tags, simple todos for a complete task and all other related information which can improve the understanding of the task by the rest of the team. Don't use paper notes and keep in mind something if you're not the only one who need (a may need in future) this data.

5. Do not complicate things. Keep everything systematized

Do not make things more complicated than they are. A simple task should not require documentation at the level of the whole project. The bureaucracy should not take more time than working on real problems. If you use the project management tool, it should simplify your work and adapt to it, and not vice versa. A new development, which appeared in the team, should immediately intuitively understand how and what is arranged in your workflow. Look at your environment with a fresh look - is it so?

Easy-to-interact environment, convenient navigation and flexibility – these are things you can not neglect. For instance, do you use tags (topics or labels) for tasks? On the one hand, they allow you to systematize tasks, simplify their search and identification. On the other hand, they also introduce ambiguity and the need to remember tag names to avoid duplication. In Riter, we solve this problem by creating topic aliases. Due to them, each developer can use any topic name to which he is accustomed, while within a task, one common name for all synonyms will always be displayed. At the same time, search and filter by tasks will work for any alias. This is just one of many examples of how to improve the teamwork. Remember, all employees are different, and it's not so easy to adapt to work with each other. From your side, you can simplify a number of tasks in this way, and also eliminate a possible conflict on the basis of terminology.

Topic aliases

Riter development team